The Simon family is on our annual beach vacation this week.
Before I left for vacation, I had my Falls Church News-Press column all ready to go: a back to school column on education issues, student debt and Fairfax County’s school board special election on August 29 (absentee voting is underway, and don’t forget to vote Tuesday after next!).
Every year since I started my own business, we’ve rented a house in Rehoboth or Lewes Delaware, because it’s the beach closest to home. Midweek or middle of the night I can usually make the trip in about two hours forty minutes. As a small business owner, I needed to be able to buzz back to Falls Church on short notice to deal with an emergency, or to handle a case for a really important client.
The business has grown since then, to the point that I can take a week off without interruption. I have very capable partners and associates who can handle just about anything, and the phone in my pocket is more powerful than the laptop I used to tote around back then. Legislative work is rarely an emergency this time of year, so I don’t worry about it too much.
Then Saturday came. On the drive east I couldn’t tear myself away from my Twitter feed. It was full of news and images from Charlottesville. (I had Rachel drive.)
The first clue that this would be no ordinary demonstration came Friday night, when a group of tiki torch-bearing marchers paraded through the university town chanting white supremacist slogans.
On Saturday, a coalition of neo-Nazi white supremacists and neo-confederates gathered in Charlottesville under the guise of a “Unite the Right” rally, ostensibly organized to protest the potential removal of a confederate monument. Counter demonstrations were also planned.
By now you’ve probably all read the news accounts of the violent clashes that seemed to continue to escalate all morning, until a white supremacist from Ohio drove his car through a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Virginia State Police Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates also died when their helicopter crashed while they were attempting to monitor the rallies from the air.
I was glad to see Virginia Republican leaders, unlike the President, have condemned the overt displays of racism and white supremacy on display in Charlottesville last weekend. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. These demonstrators obviously got the idea somewhere that such displays are now acceptable. They feel comfortable enough to chant “Jews will not replace us” unmasked in front of video cameras.
It is time that the same leaders who denounced the waving of Nazi swastika flags recognize the racism inherent in many of the policies and proposals we’ve seen during the first months of the Trump administration. Policies we’ve seen advocated for in Virginia for years before that.
The president’s Muslim travel ban. Proposals to monitor and track immigrants who settle in Virginia. Virginia’s voter suppression laws (passed under the guise of voter fraud prevention) that disproportionately disenfranchise communities of color. Redistricting bills that courts have found were drawn to deliberately limit African Americans’ voice in Congress and the state legislature.
In the past few days, I have received over 1,000 emails from every corner of Virginia, unequivocally condemning these hateful acts and calling for legislation to track hate crimes and a state task force designed to promote policies welcoming everyone regardless of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, marital status or citizenship. I know my Republican colleagues are getting the same emails. I hope they are listening.
Since my very first session, I’ve introduced or sponsored legislation to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, to promote fair housing, uphold marriage equality, and prohibit discrimination based on religious beliefs. To make voting easier for everyone. To reform Virginia’s criminal justice system to end practices that resulted in the labeling of one in four African American men in Virginia felons depriving them of their civil rights.
These are the issues I am passionate about because it is the right thing to do and because I believe these are the issues that you, my constituents, want me to be passionate about. As your Delegate I’ll continue to work for what’s right, to work for you, to work for all of us.
Delegate Simon represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at DelMSimon@house.virginia.gov