Rep. Aaron Regunberg joined more than 500 local officials from around the United States in signing an open letter condemning bigotry and pledging to support Muslims and immigrants who have come under attack in their communities. The letter marks the start of a coordinated campaign in cities across the country to push back against increasing attacks on immigrants and Muslims, which have reached levels unseen since September 11, 2001.
“We vow to use our positions as elected leaders to stand up against anti-Muslim bigotry, against xenophobia, against hatred, and against oppression,” the lawmakers write in the letter. “We vow to promote local laws and policies that advance equity and value diversity. We vow never to use fear as a political tactic and never to succumb to fear as political pressure. We vow to work to fulfill the aspiration of our nation’s founding, in partnership with you, and against all those who would demonize or silence you.”
Representative Regunberg is a member of Young Elected Officials Network Action, which helped coordinate the issuance of the letter along with Local Progress, a network of progressive local elected officials. He is the only signatory from Rhode Island.
He and others who signed the letter plan to introduce and push for action on local and state resolutions pledging to stand against hate in the community by fighting bigotry and xenophobia.
“Religious, cultural and racial diversity enriches our country and makes our communities better places to live. But the political and public discourse in recent months have created an atmosphere that emboldens those who would use immigrants, Muslims and people of color as scapegoats. We must not stand for the acts of violence that have been committed, nor allow racism, xenophobia or bigotry to continue creeping toward the mainstream in America,” said Representative Regunberg. “We must reaffirm the America that was founded with religious liberty, justice and acceptance for all. The politics of fear have been very loud, and those of us who believe that diversity is a strength of our nation must raise our voices to make it known that we will not tolerate efforts to move our nation in the wrong direction and hurt our friends and neighbors. Here in Rhode Island, which began when Roger Williams founded Providence as a haven for those escaping religious persecution, we have a particular responsibility to defend against any infringement on the right of each person to practice his or her own religion freely and without harassment.”
The open letter condemns acts of violence and persecution that have been becoming more frequent in recent months, and the incendiary rhetoric that has encouraged such hateful acts.
“The recent sharp rise in hateful rhetoric directed at Muslims by political leaders has serious consequences. Over the last year, there has been a shocking increase in harassment and hate crimes directed at Muslims and those who are perceived to be Muslim. People wearing ethnic or religious attire are being harassed; children bullied at school; community members attacked; and mosques firebombed. The details are horrific: from the Pittsburgh taxi driver who was shot in the back by his passenger on Thanksgiving to the pregnant San Diego woman who was assaulted while pushing her child in a stroller. Children hear the threats of politicians and ask their parents if their families will be rounded up; parents are heartbroken to hear their children’s anxieties and worry for their safety. These attacks create fear and anxiety across Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian communities, whose members now feel unsafe going about their daily lives,” said the letter, which was signed by 530 local leaders from every part of the country.