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After Charlottesville, ACLU Revises a Long-Held Stance

It won't defend groups who come armed to protests
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2017 10:06 AM CDT
ACLU: We Won't Defend Groups Who Come Armed to Protests
In this photo taken Aug. 11, 2017, multiple white nationalist groups march with torches through the UVA campus in Charlottesville, Va.   (Mykal McEldowney/The Indianapolis Star via AP)

If you're a hate group, you may be able to acquire a permit to hold a protest, but if you come packing firearms, don't expect the American Civil Liberties Union to come to your defense. Per the Wall Street Journal, that's the ACLU's new official position after last weekend's violence in Charlottesville. The New York Times notes this is a big philosophical break for the ACLU, which has long insisted that protecting the First Amendment for all groups, even odious ones, is better for everyone. (The Los Angeles Times documents how the ACLU has struggled with this stance.) In fact, the group's Virginia branch went to court and successfully argued that the "Unite the Right" rally should be held in the Charlottesville park organizers had chosen for the event; the city had tried to change the location.

The group came under new fire for the move. One member on the Virginia branch's board even resigned, tweeting: "I won't be a fig leaf for Nazis." ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero says the policy has been revamped to align more closely with the organization's decision in 2015 to support "reasonable" firearm regulation. "If a protest group insists, 'No, we want to be able to carry loaded firearms,' well, we don't have to represent them," Romero says, per the WSJ. "They can find someone else." He adds it's not "a blanket no or a blanket yes" overall for hate groups; rather, the ACLU will proceed on a case-by-case basis. (More ACLU stories.)

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