People’s Organization for Progress rallies in wake of Charlottesville

Photo by Chris Sykes
People’s Organization for Protest Chairman Larry Hamm, center, leads a protest rally in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in downtown Newark on Sunday, Aug. 13. Hamm and likeminded individuals gathered to speak out against the violence that occurred at an Alt-Right white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Va., a day earlier on Saturday, Aug. 12, that left a woman and two police officers dead.

NEWARK, NJ — The adage “no rest for the weary” certainly seems to apply to People’s Organization for Progress Chairman Larry Hamm and his members, who take to the streets in protest against acts of social injustice in the country, in addition to their weekly “Justice Monday” protests outside the Peter W. Rodino Federal Building in downtown Newark.

Hamm organized a rally on Sunday, Aug. 13, to speak out against the “racist terrorism” at the “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally that occurred in Charlottesville, Va., a day earlier on Saturday, Aug. 12, that left one woman dead.

Authorities have arrested James A. Fields, 20, of Maumee, Ohio, for allegedly driving his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer, 32, of Charlottesville. The white supremacist groups were rallying in Charlottesville to protest plans by that city’s leaders to tear down a Confederate statue in their city.

Two Charlottesville police officers were also killed during the incident when their helicopter crashed and exploded nearby.

Hamm said that even one death due to racism is one too many. He joined Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and other elected officials in denouncing white supremacists and the so-called “alt-right,” a white nationalist movement.

“We had to come out today because of the awful, heinous crime that took place in Charlottesville, Va., yesterday, that someone would, in a premeditated fashion, step on the accelerator and plow into a group of people crossing the street. It just did something to me inside and it did something to a lot of people because there are events going on all over the state and all over the country because people are outraged — not just about this incident but the rise of this fascist movement in our country, that people would be out somewhere mimicking Nazi rallies with torches and chanting ‘blood and soil’ like they’re in Germany circa 1935,” Hamm said Sunday, Aug. 13, at the P.O.P. rally held outside the Essex County Courthouse on MLK Boulevard in Newark.

“We should call what happened in Charlottesville ‘racist terrorism.’ It was not simply an act of prejudice, an act of bigotry, an act of bias. It was racist terrorism and the federal government needs to take whatever measures necessary. But I’m not confident because the person that’s in the White House, I believe, is in league with these people.”

Baraka issued a statement Aug. 13, saying he agrees with Hamm and the People’s Organization for Progress.

“The people of Newark stand in solidarity with the People’s Organization for Progress ad all Americans concerned about the future of our democracy,” said Baraka in the statement. “We abhor the racist violence that has terrorized millions in this country for centuries. It is shameful that this violent and racist fascism has been given permission to rear its ugly head again by the man that occupies the most powerful elected position in our nation.”

Baraka said Trump’s initial response to the violence in Charlottesville was “tepid” and “fell short of calling the enemy by name.” Vauss agreed.

“Racism still exists here in America and anyone who believes it doesn’t is kidding themselves, and you have to call right ‘right’ and wrong ‘wrong,’ but we’ve got to call it. We’ve got to make sure our voices are heard and that’s what it’s all about,” Vauss said Aug. 13. “It’s how we deal with the racism. It’s how we get people to work together and bond together. Some people are not going to work with you no matter what you do or what you say. I think the thing is to identify that, have people in leadership that are more into uniting us than dividing us.”

“I hate to be the one who said: ‘I told you so,’ but the People’s Organization for Progress have been talking about racist violence and armed racist groups in this country almost from the time that we were formed,” said Hamm on Aug. 13. “They have a term for this race war that they want to happen. … They want to provoke such a thing and we the people have to be smarter than them and not let their actions divide us,” he added.