Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said Friday that people who believed that racism no longer existed had their ears and eyes closed.
In a telephone conference, Fischer announced that he had joined an effort by the Anti Defamation League and a bipartisan group of more than 200 mayors from 40 states to combat hate, extremism and discrimination.
The 10-point Mayors’ Compact calls for the cities’ leaders to reject all forms of bigotry, denounce all acts of hate and ensure public safety while protecting free speech and other rights.
Fischer said that cities exist as platforms to enable humans’ potential to flourish. Some people feel threatened by that notion, he said, and act out, as they did in Charlottesville, Va. But citizens across the country, including in Louisville, have responded with counter protests, he said.
Neo-Nazis and anti-fascists clashed in the Virginia city Saturday over the removal of Confederate monuments. After National Guard members and police dispersed the crowd, a motorist plowed into a group of anti-fascists, killing a 32-year-old.
Fischer said that his administration was using the events to step up education about history, civil rRights and hate groups, to expand people’s consciousness — and to inventory public works of art to determine whether they can be interpreted to honor bigotry, racism or slavery. The city removed a controversial Confederate monument last year.
According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, half of the group’s members had signed the compact, and more than a quarter were Republicans.
President Donald Trump, a Republican, has faced criticism — including from within his party — for his response to the Charlottesville riots, because he blamed the violence on both sides.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler acknowledged that there were two sides to the story, though he didn’t quite agree with Trump: “There’s the right side of history, and the wrong side of history.”
And in reference to the neo-Nazis carrying torches, he said, “The only one who should be carrying a torch is the Statue of Liberty.”
Adler also warned, however, that Charlottesville is not unique in its battle against extremism.
“What happened in Charlottesville can happen anywhere, and does,” he said.
Fischer had to leave the call right after he made his remarks. Louisville’s leader has had a busy week, appearing on “CBS This Morning,” “Charlie Rose” and launching a podcast.