To the Times:
This is an open letter to Ridley Township Board of Commissioner President Robert Willert:
When I watched the commissioners’ meeting of Aug. 26, I was proud of the statements read into the record on behalf of many of our neighbors, who took a stand against hatred and violence and raised their voices in support of the Black Lives Matter demonstration on Aug. 1. I looked to you to demonstrate a similar sentiment in your response. To say that I was disappointed does not begin to cover it.
I will be blunt: We are in danger. Our families are in danger. Our entire community is in danger. When a white supremacist mob can form on our streets and attack peaceful marchers – including children! – we are not safe. We need your leadership in a time like this. You need to address this situation immediately and definitively.
The statement you issued on Aug. 26 was woeful. We don’t need to hear that there were “peaceful people on both sides,” a sentiment that echoes perhaps the most infamous words spoken by a U.S. president in living memory. We don’t need to hear you dismiss the well-documented assaults committed by the counter-protestors on the grounds that you didn’t happen to see them with your own eyes. We don’t need to hear that the police did a great job, when in fact there were serious problems with their actions that day, and they need to do better in the future. And we certainly don’t need to hear you say that this demonstration didn’t “shine a good light on anybody” – as though the correct way to behave is to simply accept the status quo, and avoid suffering violence at the hands of a hateful mob by not daring to stand up for what is right.
What we do need from you is simple: We need you and the rest of the commissioners to stand in solidarity with those who believe in equality and justice and denounce those who stand up for hate. We need you to do it unequivocally, because there is no equivalence between people asking that they be treated as simply human and people who seek to deny them that humanity at all cost. We need you to do it firmly and in direct, plain words, because we can’t afford to leave anything open to interpretation in this matter. And we need you to do it now, because whether you realize it or not, this is an emergency. This is going to happen again, and if things remain as they are today, the white supremacists will be even more aggressive next time, emboldened by the warm reception they’ve received over the past weeks.
If we want to keep our community safe, we need to send a clear message to these white supremacists that their hateful words and actions are not welcome here. For all our sakes, I urge you to do what you can to protect this town.
Geoff Matteson, Folsom