MAPLEWOOD / SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The U.S. Conference of Mayors and The Anti-Defamation League recently announced a new joint plan to fight extremism and bigotry and promote justice and equality in response to the hate and violence seen in Charlottesville, Va. More than 200 mayors from across the country so far have pledged to implement the plan, including South Orange President Sheena Collum and Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca.
USCM partnered with ADL to develop the 10-point Mayors’ Compact to Combat Hate, Extremism and Bigotry. Under the compact, mayors commit to vigorously speak out against all acts of hate; punish bias-motivated violence to the fullest extent of the law; encourage more anti-bias and anti-hate education in schools and police forces, using ADL experts and resources for both; encourage community activities that celebrate their population’s cultural and ethnic diversity; and ensure civil rights laws are aggressively enforced and hate crimes laws are as strong as possible.
“Terrorism by white supremacists, like what took place in Charlottesville, is a clear and present danger to America’s cities,” Mayor Steve Adler of Austin, Texas, one of the founding mayors of the compact, said in a recent statement. “Mayors are eager to join with the Anti-Defamation League to fight hate, and I’m honored that Mayor (Mitch) Landrieu (of New Orleans, La., and president of the USCM) asked me to help lead a coordinated campaign across this country to promote the Mayors’ Compact to Combat Hate, Extremism and Bigotry. Only the Statue of Liberty should be carrying a torch these days, and her message of respect must echo in America’s cities where this battle is being fought.”
According to Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director and CEO of the ADL, there is no time to spare in the ongoing fight to end hate in this country.
“Charlottesville made clear that we have a lot more work to do in our communities and we can’t wait a minute longer to step up our efforts,” Greenblatt said in a recent statement. “The U.S. Conference of Mayors deserves credit for their leadership. Mayors have always been strong supporters of civil rights and counterweights to those who discriminate. ADL could not have found a better partner to work with against hate.”
According to DeLuca, it is vital for locally elected officials to band together to stand against hate.
“It is important for local elected officials to stand together in support of the principles of our country and against those who seek to divide us with hateful, racist and anti-Semitic language and actions,” DeLuca told the News-Record in an Aug. 28 email. “This is not the time to be silent. That is why I joined with more than 270 other American mayors in speaking out against white supremacy and bigotry.”
Collum agreed that it is essential that mayors combat the hatred that is rampant in this country.
“I’ve been growing increasingly frustrated, angry and saddened by the direction of our country under the leadership of President Trump and his administration and will take advantage of any and every opportunity that exists for local government leaders to harness their collective strength to combat any type of discrimination,” Collum said in an Aug. 28 email.
With so many mayors choosing to sign the compact, Collum said she hopes “that we continue the momentum and that all of us, elected leaders and residents, don’t become numb to the racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant sentiment and any form of discrimination that’s being promulgated whether directly or by silence. South Orange is a proud Sanctuary City. Every year we participate in Pride Month and most recently were the first N.J. community to raise the transgender flag.
“We believe that Black Lives Matter. Our residents orchestrated dozens of buses to attend the Women’s March and People’s Climate March. Most recently, residents of South Orange and Maplewood joined together in solidarity in response to the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. We live in an activist town and our residents have come to expect an activist village president and local government guided by moral leadership and we fully intend to collectively and cooperatively deliver on that.”
According to DeLuca, in addition to the many points Collum enumerated, the compact is also an opportunity to fill a gap that he feels is being felt from the executive branch of the federal government.
“President Trump’s unwillingness to provide words of healing and his inability to be a leader that unites us as Americans makes the action of the mayors even more necessary,” DeLuca said.
And, most importantly, Collum said that she signed the compact for future generations.
“The fights today will define the world we leave to our children and we have a moral imperative as adults to build the right future for all of them,” Collum said.
Other Essex County mayors who have signed the compact include Robert Parisi of West Orange and Robert Jackson of Montclair.