American Civil Liberties Union director Anthony Romero says the group will screen clients more closely for the potential of violence at their rallies. The ACLU’s Virginia branch defended the right of white nationalists to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville.
The American Civil Liberties Union, taking a tougher stance on armed protests, will no longer defend hate groups seeking to march with firearms, the Wall Street Journal reports. After clashes in Charlottesville, Va., the civil-rights group also will screen clients more closely for the potential of violence at their rallies, said director Anthony Romero. The ACLU’s Virginia branch defended the right of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other groups under the banner “Unite the Right” to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a Charlottesville park.
“The events of Charlottesville require any judge, any police chief and any legal group to look at the facts of any white-supremacy protests with a much finer comb,” Romero said. The revised policy reconciles the 97-year-old civil-rights group’s First Amendment work with the organization’s stance on firearms, which aligns with many municipalities and states that bar protesters from carrying weapons. “If a protest group insists, ‘No, we want to be able to carry loaded firearms,’ well, we don’t have to represent them. They can find someone else,” Romero said. He said the practice is in keeping with a 2015 policy adopted by the ACLU’s national board in support of “reasonable” firearm regulation. Romero said the ACLU would continue to deal with requests by white-supremacist groups and others for legal help on a case-by-case basis. The ACLU’s move is likely to temper criticism from members who blame the ACLU in part for clashes between white supremacists protesting the removal of a Confederate statue and counterprotesters.