As president of the Pikes Peak Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a chapter of the national SCLC that was co-founded and led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I was asked to issue a statement concerning the violence that occurred between white nationalists and counter-protesters this past weekend in Charlottesville, Va.
Then I discovered that one of these groups had booked a conference next year at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort. I am now pleased to report that the resort apparently has canceled the conference.
As American citizens, we saw again the faces of hate and bigotry in Charlottesville. We watched as white supremacists, brandishing torches, swastikas and Confederate flags, marched angrily through that charming Southern city of some 40,000 people. We saw the violence when far-left protesters moved into the fray, too.
Thanks to our own officials and the Cheyenne Mountain Resort management, the hate and bigotry that we fought against 50 years ago, and that reared its ugly head in Charlottesville, will not be visited upon the city we love so well. But we must not give up - the violence that occurred in Charlottesville can occur in any American city where citizens allow it and where elected officials put politics ahead of public safety.
In Charlottesville, we saw how the white supremacy organization VDARE obtained a permit to demonstrate and protect a Confederate statue. Such a demonstration is allowed under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
This demonstration, however, attracted a counterprotest from leftists, the result of which left one person dead when she was run down by a car. Nineteen others were injured, and two state police officers, supporting law enforcement on the ground, lost their lives when the helicopter they were flying crashed.
So who or what is the VDARE? According to its website, the organization focuses on opposition to immigration to the United States. It is associated with an alt-right white nationalist group based in Litchfield, Conn. Established in 1999, the website's editor is Peter Brimelow, who believes that "whites built American culture" and that "(the culture) is at risk from non-whites who would seek to change it."
As Dr. King said many years ago, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
On behalf of the Pikes Peak Southern Christian Leadership Conference, I want to say that our hearts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives or were injured. We grieve for the Charlottesville community. But have no doubt: Such a tragedy can occur wherever citizens stand idly by and allow it.
The Pikes Peak community must speak out in one unified voice. We must do everything we can to stop this climate of division and hate. We as a community must not lose sight of the philosophies of the SCLC and Dr. King's movement that advocated a nonviolent response to injustice.
These philosophies have been successful around the world during periods of racial, ethnic, religious and political unrest, and they will be successful here. Dr. King stated more than 50 years ago that "(W)hen you eradicate racism and violence in America, it will impact the entire world. The divisiveness in America is not only racism but an economic injustice."
Let us thank Mayor John Suthers and the Cheyenne Mountain Resort for their response. But let us also heal from the events of last weekend and work together so hate does not consume us here or anywhere. Let us show the rest of the world how we live as Americans.
We are not Republicans or Democrats. We are not blacks, whites, Asians or Hispanics. We are one people, one nation, under God, here in Colorado Springs, and we want to keep it that way.
Henry D. Allen Jr. is president of the Pikes Peak Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Readers may email Allen at President@PikesPeaksclc.org.