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Haywood officials condemn Charlottesville violence

Elected officials from across Haywood County and from across party lines were quick to speak out in the wake of the violent riots, deaths and domestic terrorism connected to a white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, last week.

Universal condemnation came from Haywood’s leading political figures, who were asked to comment via email Aug. 13; below appear their statements, edited gently for formatting considerations, but otherwise printed verbatim as submitted.

Rep. Michele Presnell, R-Burnsville

My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and injured in the tragic events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia. Violence and hate have no place in our society. We must treat each other with respect and have the courage to stand firm against those that wish to divide our great nation.

Rep. Kevin Corbin, R-Franklin

There is no place for racism of any kind in today’s America. People from the far left and far right all acted with racial attitudes, and no good can come of that. We should all respect that we are God’s children and treat each other accordingly.

Mike Sorrells, Haywood County Commissioner

It is so sad that our country has regressed to the point that we have hate groups thriving in our society. The political environment that we are experiencing right now is so disheartening. The rhetoric of this past election and that continues on seems to have emboldened these hate groups. I pray for this country and the city of Charlottesville along with the lives lost. My hopes are that our citizens have had enough and will work to stamp out this cancer in our society.

Gavin A. Brown, Waynesville Mayor

Wrapping hatred and racism in the cloak of “free speech” doesn’t do anything to elevate the speaker’s words from the cistern of evil from which they originated. Our constitution allows the speaker an opportunity and nothing more. Likewise, we must avail ourselves of every opportunity to rebuke such “speech.”

Dr. Janet Banks, Maggie Valley Mayor Pro Tem

I am intimately connected to this event. My brother, a retired general surgeon in his home town of Charlottesville, Virginia, who has taught the Emergency Medical Training Course for the medical residents, along with my nephew — also a surgeon — were, I imagine, in the thick of things yesterday, because it was, in medical terminology, “all hands on deck” to treat the wounded.

That being said, all of us have the right, as American citizens, to protest anything without fear of being attacked, wounded, or even killed in these endeavors. Our American independence started with the throwing of tea into the Boston Harbor, a singular protest that resulted in the creation of the great nation that we live in today. Protest is an honorable tradition and we should all respect that tradition.

Zeb Smathers, Canton Alderman

This weekend as I watched men proudly wearing swastikas, I could not help but think of my grandfathers who fought overseas in World War II against fascism — a fight that has resurfaced in this time on our own soil.

This fight once again demands we stand up to the bullies and thugs that aim to rip us apart. Domestic terrorism, like what occurred in Charlottesville, by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, has no place on our shores. The ideology of this movement should be given no quarter, as it is repugnant to the very spirit of America. We must speak up against hate of every type, wherever it may exist, to whomever it is directed. 

We are in debt to the “Greatest Generation” and must rededicate ourselves to pursue a country that is worthy of their sacrifice — a country that pursues hope over hatred, education over ignorance, and courage over cowardice. This is a fight that we cannot pull back from and one we must win.

Dr. Ralph Hamlett, Canton Alderman

As elected officials we have a responsibility — a mandate from and to the people, and to ourselves — to speak out immediately against bigotry in its many forms.

Acts of domestic terrorism in Charlottesville are against the people of the United States whom the nation’s flag symbolizes and the Constitution protects. We are committed to equality by the pledge we give and the oaths of office we take. We must condemn immediately, not hiding behind the sanitized words of expediency to placate for political advantage individuals and groups who participate and promote acts of domestic terrorism.

Their acts are the antithesis of the American experience. We cannot legitimize the actions of people who hate, and consider them as giving voice for one side of a many-sided political debate. Only one right side exists — the American value of inclusion regardless of color of skin, sex, sexual orientation or faith. 

We must fight to see that attempts to keep people from the polling place, from places of employment, and for service to country are neither denied nor abridged. Individuals who would deprive others of these rights have no place in government albeit in the American experiment.

Gail Mull, Canton Alderwoman

I watched as events unfolded over the weekend and have seen similar events occur within the United States. Some leaders spoke out condemning the hate inspired carnage. Others, including the President, were hesitant. While they spoke forcefully against terrorism in other parts of the globe, such as in England and France, they were timid in their response about what happened and is happening here. They did not use the words “domestic terrorism,” which is what it was. Why?

This domestic terrorism exists and is as egregious here as it is internationally. We must fight for people’s rights and dignity. And if it causes us to lose votes or an election, then we can sleep well knowing that we did what is in America’s interest, rather than in the segregated interests of the white supremacists, the KKK, neo-Nazis, and the alt right and their skewed, imagined dark history of falsified heritage.

We can either be on the right side of history, or be a part of a history that has been discredited and dismissed as wrong.

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