ACLU Will No Longer Represent White Supremacist Groups Who Protest With Guns After Charlottesville Violence

White nationalists are met by a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

The American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday it would no longer represent white supremacist groups who demonstrate with guns.

After the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned deadly, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero told The Wall Street Journal that the group will review legal requests from white supremacist groups on a case-by-case basis, assessing more closely whether their protests would have the potential to be violent.

“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 told the Journal. “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,” he added.

Charlottesville officials originally denied organizer Jason Kessler a permit for a march protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee Confederate statue from a local park. In response, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the city, citing the national organization’s long-held belief to uphold the rights of free speech for all.

The city of Charlottesville would ultimately grant the permit for the rally, where violence broke out between armed white nationalist groups and counter-protesters. It ended with a car attack that injured 19 and killed counter-protester Heather Heyer, 32, whose funeral was held earlier this week.

The ACLU faced backlash over the decision to defend the white supremacist groups, including from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe who told NPR that Charlottesville officials “asked for [the rally] to be moved out of downtown Charlottesville to a park about a mile and a half away — a lot of open fields. That was the place that it should’ve been. We were, unfortunately, sued by the ACLU. And the judge ruled against us.”

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SOURCE: PBS, Joshua Barajas