August 18, 2017, Laguna Beach, California – Heeding a call by the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of community groups and grassroots organizers are organizing a national day of action in solidarity on Saturday, August 19, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. at the Main Beach in Laguna Beach. Laguna Beach Mayor Toni Iseman will attend and speak at the “Unity Rally,” which is intended to give the community an opportunity to oppose bigotry, in solidarity with the anti-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville, and to peaceably counter-protest the white supremacist rally planned for Sunday at Main Beach.
In an attempt to capitalize on the national attention garnered by the appalling events in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, white supremacists organizing under the banner of America First are planning what they call an “electric vigil for victims of illegals and refugees.” Local anti-hate groups are organizing the counter-protest the day before to send a message that hate has no place in our communities. “Southern California has historically been one of the most diverse regions of the country. The neo-Nazi, white supremacist message that is feeding on the Trump presidency has no place in our community--a place that is made up of immigrants, refugees and a broad swath of the human tapestry,” said Joseph Baechtold of Laguna Beach Democratic Club.
Organizers have chosen to hold our Unity Rally at a different day and time so as not to legitimize the existence of this hate group. Aaron McCall, chairman of Indivisible CA-48, said that “As we’re constantly reminded to act and not react, we’re also reminded not to serve the racists’ purpose and provide them with a platform to spread their hatred. We stand for our values of equality and push for the world we want to live in.” However, rally organizers just learned yesterday evening that white supremacists have called for a protest at the Saturday rally and have circulated an anti-semitic meme targeting Laguna Beach mayor Toni Iseman. The Unity Rally organizers are attempting to work the local police to ensure public safety.
In addition to the Unity Rally, organizers have developed a campaign designed to turn the America First! rally into a fundraiser for immigrant rights' work. For every America First! protestor that attends the rally on Sunday evening, donors pledge a certain dollar amount to be donated to the Public Law Center and Resilience OC, two local non-profits working for justice for immigrants, refugees, and protecting civil liberties. The link to the Pledge-A-Protestor is https://go.rallyup.com/ocunity/. The fundraiser already has generated thousands of dollars in pledges in less than one hour.
“The Sunday hate rally targets immigrants. But professing sympathy for ‘victims of immigrants’ is simply a thinly veiled attempt to instill fear and hatred of immigrants and people of color. The facts are in: immigrants commit crime at lower rates than native-born citizens. That’s true around the world. And it is more than a little ironic that white supremacists are condemning violence by immigrants when white settlers stole the land of Native Americans and committed horrible atrocities against them,” says Stephanie Hammerwold, Executive Director of Pacific Reentry Career Services.
Aaron McCall added, “Racism is a systemic problem in our country. It did not begin with and will not end with Donald Trump, though he has encouraged its more virulent elements to crawl out from the shadows. The rally will bring concerned members of the community together to send a strong message that hate is not welcome here. The ‘immigrant crime’ message echoes the ‘Jewish crime’ propaganda of Nazi Germany. The targeting of Iseman for being Jewish highlights that all groups under attack, black people, Jews, Hispanics, LGBTQ, Muslims, must unite in common support and defense.”
Organizers welcome everyone at this event and aim to make it family-friendly with a message of peace and inclusiveness.