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Decrying the racism & deadly violence in Charlottesville – Supporting the 1st & 5th Amendments

Virginia criminal defense lawyer on the horrific violence & racism in Charlottesville

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So much has been posted about the racism and deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend that I have little to add except for the following:

– I send prayers to Heather Heyer, her family, and everyone else who was injured by James Alex Fields, Jr.

– Fields and all criminal defendants, in court, are entitled to the presumption of innocence (under the Fifth Amendment) in all phases of his prosecution, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

– I have been to the location where this killing occurred. Before now, I always saw it as a peaceful, pleasant place to stroll. And now this.

– The First Amendment right peacefully to protest must be robustly defended and protected, regardless of viewpoint. To do otherwise will mean the government’s making content-based decisions on regulating speech, which inevitably will weaken everyone’s free expression rights.

– Virginia’s ugly, racist past is in our faces through multiple confederate monuments, and memorials to soldiers that separate white and “colored” soldiers, at courthouses, along Richmond’s Monument Avenue and beyond, in northern Virginia as well.

After the Charleston massacre by Dylann Roof, finally action is being taken by numerous people in power in Virginia to remove some of the confederate monuments and to rename schools (for instance J.E.B. Stuart H.S. in Falls Church) and streets named for confederate leaders (at least with Jefferson David Hwy./Route 1 in Alexandria, but [Robert E.] Lee Hwy./Rt. 29 remains). One impediment is the state statute protecting war memorials from removal. That statute needs to be repealed.

In the meantime, I do not need to venture more than an hour from my Fairfax County, Virginia, home to see confederate flags proudly displayed on homes and trucks. This is the state I chose to live in. The stars and bars are not flown in my name, and the racism displayed in Charlottesville and beyond is antithetical to who I am.