The following statement was issued by Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, constitutional rights attorney with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), on the recently announced proposal to provide private Metro cars for “Unite the Right” rally participants in Washington, D.C.
Police Chief Peter Newsham, Councilman Jack Evans, and Metro GM Paul J. Wiedefeld cannot condition Metro access, or any portion of Metro, on ascribing to Nazi and white supremacist beliefs and bar those who reject racism. The First Amendment prohibits such viewpoint based discrimination and filtering for access.
And what will they require in screening for entry, a sieg heil at the door or a hood?
The government must not take action to curtail First Amendment rights nor may it use taxpayer dollars to provide services conditioned on viewpoint. And the suggestion that the fascists should be protected from counter-protesters turns reality on its head. It is these fascists who marched with torches and threatened the Black community in Charlottesville, threatened Jewish people, beat anti-racists, and who contained in their ranks a racist murderer who killed Heather Heyer.
Neither Metro nor the police should act as private security or escorts for white supremacists who choose to come to Washington, D.C.. ATU Local 689 members and Metro workers should not be required to act as their chauffeurs.
The Partnership for Civil Justice fund is providing legal support to demonstrators planning to protest against the message of the white supremacists on August 12 and has assisted in securing permitted space in Lafayette Park in front of the White House for the anti-racist assembly.
Verheyden-Hilliard is executive director of the PCJF, which was class counsel in the Pershing Park mass arrest and other litigation resulting in major changes to laws and policies regarding protests.