The violence in Charlottesville on Saturday and the tragic death of a peaceful protestor once again raises questions for some about the ACLU’s role in defending the First Amendment rights of those with whom we vigorously and vehemently disagree. We know that these questions often are most pronounced for those that we stand with in working to advance women’s rights, racial justice, police reform and LGBTQ rights – because these allies (as well as many members of our staff and Board) are most often directly targeted and threatened by loud voices of hate in our society. The ACLU understands this pain and will not flinch in our work to build a more inclusive and fairer society. 

The ACLU of Illinois rejects the hate on display in Charlottesville and remains committed to building a state and a nation that reflects inclusion and fairness for each of us, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, country of origin or level of ability. That is the work that we do each day. It is more important now than ever. 

At the same time, the ACLU of Illinois continues to believe that protecting the rights of the most detestable voices to be heard protects the rights of all of us. And, by protecting those rights, we preserve the ability of those we support to speak out in the future. We see this in the way that protecting the rights of Neo-Nazis to demonstrate in Skokie in the 1970s directly led to the ability of protestors at the NATO conference in Chicago to make their voices heard. At the same time, it is clear that the First Amendment protections of speech and expression do not extend to violence. All this is difficult to keep in focus, especially in the pain and glare of a moment such as this. 

We express our deep sorrow to the family and friends of Ms. Heyer. Their loss is tragic and unnecessary.