After watching in horror the catastrophic events that took place in Charlottesville this weekend, I believe it is imperative to state with conviction that hate has no home in Camden County.
I want to take the opportunity to say what President Donald Trump could not bring himself to say on Saturday - this nation will not accept this immoral and abhorrent behavior steeped in hatred and terrorism. In 21st century America we will not stand for this behavior and we must recognize that our community is stronger together than divided.
What we saw in Virginia was the resurgence and confidence of white supremacists and fascists who no longer feel the need to wear a hood or hide their identities. They have found a new patriarch through the despicable campaigning and governing propaganda of Donald Trump and his aide Steve Bannon. This is not “Alt-right,” this is not “uniting the right,” this is domestic terrorism no different than that of the Klan during Reconstruction. In addition, this is not “hate from many sides” as was the president’s response this weekend. This is hate that is spewed by torch-bearing racist, xenophobic, bigots from groups like the Klu Klux Klan and neo-Nazis.
Unfortunately, in our great state of New Jersey we are far from insulated from these white supremacists and fascists, in fact, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, six of these groups reside right here in the Garden State. What is more disconcerting is how embolden these extremist groups have become with the SPLC tracking more than 900 bias assaults in just ten days after Trump’s election and an 86 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the first quarter of 2017.
This brings the issue home to our community making it even more important that we engage our neighbors and have a real dialogue about what makes our community great. It is the conversation that gets 300 people out on the streets at the drop of a hat at Cuthbert and Haddon Avenues to stand in solidarity for our core principles of tolerance and love. And more importantly, it is the process of not parsing words when we reject hate, intolerance and terrorism.
That said, I also write this to speak on the level of public debate in our society, and the profound importance of engaging in a dialogue about hate and race not only in our county, but throughout the nation. My goal as an elected official is to raise that level of debate, so that as a community we may thrive and never allow white supremacists, Nazis and bigots to have the public square or to undermine the ideals of freedom and tolerance ingrained in our nation.
I believe we live in the greatest nation on earth, with a government that has ensured, and goes out of its way, to protect citizens that try to destroy it, much like we saw in Charlottestville. Masses of individuals that have pledged allegiance to a Nazi agenda or a fascist ideology on a college campus in the 21st century were allowed to express their first amendment right- as heinous as is was.
I also believe that democracy, in its purest form will allow us to overcome this hate, no matter how flawed the practice. To see the triumphs of democracy over Jim Crow and segregation, to see this nation’s historic struggle over Nazism in Europe where so many Americans sacrificed their lives, democracy is the key to closing the door to these Neanderthals. Democracy has allowed us as a society to pushback and defeat the policies of racism before and now it will help us unite as a community and defeat the evil forces of racism and fascism again.
Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. joined the freeholder board in 2003 and has since sought to transform county government by focusing on economic development and an expanding local workforce. He was the architect of the Camden County Police Department and was named Freeholder of the Year in 2011 by the New Jersey Conference of Mayors.