Connect with us

National

Duncan Hunter, Charlottesville and ubiquitous white supremacy

Published

on

Rep. Duncan Hunter, third from left, stands next to Kris Wyrick flashing the “OK” sign at a Fourth of July event. (Screenshot from Hunter’s Twitter feed, via CQ Roll Call)

White supremacy is becoming publicly more ubiquitous under the reign of Donald Trump, thanks in part to the permission he gave two years ago this week to consider violent white supremacists, Neo-Nazis and white nationalists the moral equivalent of civilized demonstrators advocating for peace, for equality and human rights at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Now, like Trump, longtime LGBTQ-hater Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter also appears to be trying to appeal to both sides of the racist divide while leaning into xenophobia in California’s 50th Congressional District.

Around 1:45 p.m. on Aug. 12, 2017, white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr. rammed his car into unaware counter-protesters on the second day of the infamous “Unite the Right” rally,  killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Fields was subsequently convicted of first degree murder and other crimes in a Virginia state court and pleaded guilty to 29 federal crimes in a deal to avoid the death penalty.

But while Fields may be gone, Trump’s amoral comments linger on. Two hours after the murder, as much of America held their collective breath—aghast at the images of a car plowing full speed into a crowd, tossing bodies in the air before retreating, former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke saying the rally would help “take our country back,” tiki torch-bearing white supremacists yelling “Jews will not replace us” and Neo-Nazis violently beating counter-demonstrators— Trump said “we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

After intense criticism of his anointing victimhood status on Neo Nazis, two days later, reportedly with reluctance, Trump called racism “evil’ and slammed white supremacy. After still more criticism, on Aug. 15, Trump said: “you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

This was not the first time Trump incorrectly and unabashedly espoused moral equivalency on “both sides.” Last June 18, April Ryan, White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Networks, asked Trump if he would apologize to the Central Park Five, whom he had publicly blamed for the 1989 rape of a white jogger in a full-page pre-trial ad demanding the death penalty. Ryan’s question was tied to director Ava DuVernay’s acclaimed Netflix documentary “When They See Us” showing how police coerced confessions from one Latino and four black teenagers. Years later, a convicted rapist confessed to the crime, backed up by DNA evidence, resulting in the five being totally exonerated in 2002.

“Why do you bring that question up now? It’s an interesting time to bring it up. You have people on both sides of that,” Trump told Ryan on the White House lawn. “They admitted their guilt. If you look at [prosecutor] Linda Fairstein and you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case, so we’ll leave it at that.”

Many have become numb to Trump’s racist hutzpah. But others are trying to emulate him. Rep. Duncan Hunter, who helped launch the ban against transgender people serving in the military, has the audacity to run for reelection despite facing federal felony charges for campaign finance violations. Now he’s been caught by CQ Roll Call changing answers on a white supremacist connection he first tried to dodge.

A Hunter staffer defended a photo of the Republican member of Congress posing with a man flashing the “OK” sign symbolizing white power at a Fourth of July event, identified by The Times of San Diego as Kristopher Wyrick.

“Congressman Hunter does not know this person, or what his views may be, but to ensure there is no confusion, we are in the process of taking that particular picture off his social media pages,” district office director Michael Harrison told Roll Call in an email.

“Congressman Hunter has never supported or been accused of supporting white supremacy and if anyone were to espouse any such beliefs in a photo with Congressman Hunter they did so without his knowledge or consent, particularly a stranger in the a parade who wanted to be in a picture with Congressman Hunter,” he added.

The photo was deleted from Hunter’s official Facebook and Twitter pages. But Wyrick and his bigotry were not unknown to Hunter’s community after Wyrick appeared before the San Diego Unified School District wearing a Nazi Iron Cross tee shirt arguing against an initiative to protect Muslim students. Specifically, according to a San Diego Union Tribune article, he was blasting the renowned Council on American-Islamic Relations, which right wing extremists such as Frank Gaffney Jr. defame as “national security threats” who want to introduce Sharia law into public schools.

Like Wyrick’s diatribe, Hunter’s 2018 campaign ads against his Democratic opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar, who is a devout Christian of Palestinian-Mexican American heritage, feature similar bigotry.

“Given that Hunter has a history of Islamophobia, including the way he shared his deadly actions in Iraq that claimed civilian lives, I think it’s clear this individual is making a white supremacist hand sign in the presence of a congressman, who shared it proudly,” Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s communications director,  says of the July Fourth photo.

But sharing an anti-Muslim ideology doesn’t mean the two men posing together knew each other – until a 2017 video surfaced indicating that they do.

“I know him personally. And I know his family personally. And he’s a great man,” Wyrick says in the video.

Wyrick also expresses pride in his white identity. “People can call me a white supremacist all they want, I wear that label as soon as I wake up in the morning,” he says in the video.

Roll Call confronted Harrison with the video and Hunter’s deputy chief of staff backtracked, saying the Republican member of Congress had seen Wyrick at some local community events.

“Alpine is a small community. It’s not unusual for the congressman to frequent different places around his district,” Harrison said in July. “Congressman Hunter is not friends with this individual and does not socialize with him.”

However, “Harrison conceded that Hunter’s father and predecessor in Congress, former Rep. Duncan L. Hunter, ‘has mentioned [Wyrick] a couple of times,’” Roll Call reported.

Before Campa Najjar, a young businessman and former Obama administration official, mounted a serious challenge in 2018, losing only by four points in the ruby red Orange County congressional district, Hunter expected an easy reelection in the seat he and his father have held the seat since 1981.

 

However, Hunter now faces several primary challengers, including gay Republican Carl DeMaio, and the indicted congressman may need supporters like Wyrick, as indicated by his resurrecting his ugly, inflammatory 2018 attacks on Campa-Najjar for the 2020 race.

“At this point, it’s pretty clear that Congressman Hunter has lost all ability to tell the difference between right and wrong. It’s one scandal after another, one embarrassing news story after another, one potential crime after another, one courtroom appearance after another,” Campa-Najjar said about the July Fourth photo.

Carlos Algara, a political scientist at the University of California, Davis, thinks xenophobia and racism will play a “vital role” in the race for the 50th CD.

“Our research suggests that Hunter is laying the groundwork in a campaign filled with blatant appeals at mobilizing whites with high degrees of racial resentment to rescue his bid,” Algara told Roll Call in an email.

In a July 8 interview with CBS 8 San Diego, Wyrick creates his own “both sides” argument—confirming he made the “OK” sign but calling it a “giant joke against the left.”

“It is just the OK symbol,” Wyrick says, denying he’s a white supremacist. “It means nothing else.”

But another photo posted to Facebook in 2018 shows Wyrick wearing the logo of the American Guard, which the Anti-Defamation League calls “hardcore white supremacists.”

There are other photos suggesting Wyrick jokes around with that “OK” sign often. One photo provided by progressive activist William Johnson, shows Wyrick and several others posing with the “OK” salute in an undated photo on the United Patriot National Front Facebook page. Also in the photo is Antonio Foreman, who Johnson says participated in the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Other photos show Wyrick “pummeling” protesters.

In an interview with freelance reporter Alexander Zaitchik for his 2016 book “The Gilded Rage: A Wild Ride Through Donald Trump’s America,”  Wyrick describes Hunter as a friend and a customer at his Alpine ATV and motorcycle repair shop.

“It was clear it was more than just a handshake kind of thing,” says Zaitchik.

Wyrick tells Zaitchik that his decision to move to Alpine was “because the majority of people out here are white people. … There wasn’t many of us in the neighborhoods where we grew up, around Santa Ana or Anaheim.”

Wyrick echoes another old racist sentiment Trump recently revived when he told three US-born and one naturalized congresswomen of color to “go back” to their countries.

“Why don’t you go back to Mexico and make it great? Don’t bring a s—hole over here,” Zaitchik quotes Wyrick as saying, noting that the repairman also patrols the Mexican border as a civilian.

Though Facebook deleted the United Patriot National Front page, there is no indication that the group—or any of the other hate groups with which Wyrick has apparently been associated—has dissipated.

Between Hunter’s renewed inflammatory attacks on Campa-Najjar and Trump’s habit of stoking hatred, racism and lies—on August 12, the Washington Post calculated Trump has made 12,019 false or misleading claims over 928 days— the reelection races of these two white supremacist Republicans could get very, very ugly.

 

Continue Reading
Advertisement

U.S. Federal Courts

On 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade- is it the last? Biden & others weigh in

The whole country is waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on one of the most serious challenges to abortion rights since the Roe v. Wade

Published

on

Abortion opponents gathered Friday for the annual March for Life March and Rally (Screenshot via WUSA CBS9)

WASHINGTON – As thousands gathered on the National Mall in D.C. Friday for the annual anti-abortion ‘March for Life March and Rally 2022,’ there were signs among the speakers and the participants gathered of a renewed sense of optimism that with a pending Supreme Court case, this year maybe the last annual gathering as the court looks poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“We are hoping and praying that this year, 2022, will bring a historic change for life,” Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said at the event, The Associated Press reported.

A large portion of the crowd during the March for Life rally on Friday was made up of young people, with some holding signs saying they were the “pro-life generation.”

The whole country is waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on one of the most serious challenges to abortion protections that the institution heard since the Roe v. Wade decision 49 years ago, which gave women the constitutional right to abortion.

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this past December, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case involving a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, passed in 2018 but has been blocked by two lower federal courts, allows abortion after 15 weeks “only in medical emergencies or for severe fetal abnormality” and has no exception for rape or incest. If doctors perform abortions outside the parameters of the law, they will have their medical licenses suspended or revoked and may be subject to additional penalties and fines.

The lack of access is felt most heavily by marginalized people, says Kari White, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin and researcher with the Mississippi Reproductive Health Access Project. She was the lead author of a study published last month in the journal Contraception that found that Mississippians were more likely to wait longer for an abortion if they were low-income or Black, NPR reported.

In an analysis published by SCOTUS blogAmy Howe noted;

If the justices overturn Roe and Casey, the Guttmacher Institute estimates that 26 states (including Mississippi) will implement complete bans on abortion. Although the stakes in the case are thus obviously high, Mississippi takes pains to assure the justices that overruling Roe and Casey would not have ripple effects beyond abortion rights. It distinguishes abortion from other constitutionalized privacy interests, such as interracial marriage and same-sex marriage, saying that those interests – unlike abortion – do not involve the “purposeful termination of a potential life.”

In a statement to the Los Angeles Blade after the oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization last December had concluded, Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) warned;

“[Today’s] arguments should be a wakeup call for LGBTQ people. We must face the reality of a Supreme Court packed by one of the most reactionary presidents of our time, and we must get serious about passing a federal law that protects basic rights and liberties for our community. If you care about LGBTQ equality, it is essential as never before to do everything within your power to elect fair-minded local, state, and federal officials and to engage in real dialogue with those who do not yet fully understand or support LGBTQ people. We do not have the luxury of disengagement or passivity. If you are not actively involved in supporting a federal civil rights law for LGBTQ people, you are part of the problem.”

Minter further cautioned;

“While restrictions on abortion primarily harm women, they also compound the challenges that trans men and nonbinary people already face in accessing gynecological and reproductive health care. Being a trans man or a nonbinary individual who needs an abortion is often a nightmare even in jurisdictions that support reproductive freedom. In places like Texas, which are making abortions inaccessible to anyone, it is terrifying,”

“My heart goes out to the trans and nonbinary people who are living in fear, praying they never need this care, and that if they do, they can find a way out of the state. And for those who know they can’t afford to travel or pay for out-of-state care, there is no hope,” he added.

Graphic via NBC News

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris released a joint statement Saturday commemorating the 49th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade;

The constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago today is under assault as never before. It is a right we believe should be codified into law, and we pledge to defend it with every tool we possess. We are deeply committed to protecting access to health care, including reproductive health care—and to ensuring that this country is not pushed backwards on women’s equality.

In recent years, we have seen efforts to restrict access to reproductive health care increase at an alarming rate. In Texas, Mississippi, and many other states around the country, access to reproductive health care is under attack. These state restrictions constrain the freedom of all women. And they are particularly devastating for those who have fewer options and fewer resources, such as those in underserved communities, including communities of color and many in rural areas.

The Biden-Harris Administration strongly supports efforts to codify Roe, and we will continue to work with Congress on the Women’s Health Protection Act. All people deserve access to reproductive health care regardless of their gender, income, race, zip code, health insurance status, immigration status, disability, or sexual orientation. And the continued defense of this constitutional right is essential to our health, safety, and progress as a nation.

We must ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have the same fundamental rights that their mothers and grandmothers fought for and won on this day, 49 years ago—including leaders like the late Sarah Weddington, whose successful arguments before the Supreme Court led to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

At this pivotal moment, we recommit to strengthening access to critical reproductive health care, defending the constitutional right established by Roe, and protecting the freedom of all people to build their own future.

A recent poll conducted by CNN found that a large majority of Americans — almost 70 percent — said that they oppose overturning Roe v. Wade. Thirty percent of respondents said that they supported the move. 

Continue Reading

Pennsylvania

New GOP majority city council to repeal LGBTQ+ law in Pennsylvania

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move […] This issue should not be politicized”

Published

on

Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Borough of Chambersburg)

CHAMBERSBURG – The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) will meet on Monday, January 24 for a likely vote to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

Opposition to the ordinance is led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. In an interview with media outlet Penn Live Saturday, Coffman said, “All of us that ran in this election to be on council we think we got a mandate from the people,” he said. “People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all. I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”

The political makeup of the council changed with the November municipal election, which ushered in a 7-3 Republican majority.

The ordinance, which extends protections against discrimination to gay, transgender or genderqueer people in employment, housing and public accommodations, was passed in October by the then-Democratic majority council, Penn Live reported.

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move,” said Alice Elia, a Democrat and the former Chambersburg borough council president. “This issue should not be politicized. It’s an issue of justice and having equal protection for everybody in our community. It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue. This should be something we are all concerned about.”

Coffman told Penn Live that the ordinance serves no purpose and is redundant. He points out that Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission handles discrimination complaints from residents across the state.

“There are no penalties, no fines,” he said. “There’s nothing that the ordinance can make someone do. The most they can hope for is that the committee request the two parties to sit down with a counselor or mediator and talk about it. Quite frankly there is nothing that compels them to. There’s no teeth in this.”

Penn Live’s Ivey DeJesus noted if Chambersburg succeeds in repealing the ordinance, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ inclusive law is revoked in Pennsylvania. To date, 70 municipalities have ratified such ordinances.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of the 27 states in the nation that have no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Continue Reading

Virginia

Virginia Republican lawmaker introduces anti-Trans youth sports bill

Under the bill, male students are not permitted to participate on any school athletic team or squad designated for ‘females’

Published

on

Virginia State Capitol building (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

RICHMOND – A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on Friday, would require “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.’”

“Under the bill, male students are not permitted to participate on any school athletic team or squad designated for ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; however, this provision does not apply to physical education classes at schools,” adds the bill. “The bill provides civil penalties for students and schools that suffer harm as a result of a violation of the bill. Such civil actions are required to be initiated within two years after the harm occurred.”

Kiggans introduced her bill less than a week after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office.

Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, has been named the Virginia Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the state House of Delegates. Democrats still control the state Senate, and they have pledged to thwart any anti-LGBTQ bills.

“Let’s be clear: This is part of an ongoing, nationwide effort to exclude trans people from enjoying the benefits of sports like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Friday after Kiggans introduced SB 766. “We won’t tolerate this.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular