DC Transit Wanted to Give Special Transport for White Supremacists. This Union Said Hell No.

Michael Arria August 7, 2018

A Metro Red Line Metro train pulls into Metro Center in Washington on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Wash­ing­ton, D.C. metro sys­tem ditched a poten­tial plan to pro­vide sep­a­rate trains for white nation­al­ists attend­ing a Unite the Right” ral­ly in Lafayette Square after its largest union refused to par­tic­i­pate. That ral­ly is sched­uled for August 12 and is orga­nized by the same racist group behind last summer’s Char­lottesville protest, an event where dozens were injured and Heather Hey­er, a 32-year-old para­le­gal, was killed after pur­pose­ly being run over by a car.

The Metro’s alleged plans were exposed by Amal­ga­mat­ed Tran­sit Union Local 689 (ATU 689) after sources informed the union that an idea was being float­ed to pro­vide three pri­vate rail cars and a police escort to the white nation­al­ists. More than 80 per­cent of Local 689’s mem­ber­ship is peo­ple of col­or, the very peo­ple that the Ku Klux Klan and oth­er white nation­al­ist groups have killed, harassed and vio­lat­ed,” said union pres­i­dent Jack­ie Jeter in an August 3 state­ment. The union has declared that it will not play a role in their spe­cial accommodation.”

Jeter also point­ed out that the union had glad­ly pro­vid­ed trans­porta­tion to oth­er polit­i­cal events in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., like the Women’s March and the March for Life, but viewed the Unite the Right” ral­ly as a dis­tinct case. We draw the line at giv­ing spe­cial accom­mo­da­tion to hate groups and hate speech,” reads the statement.

In response to the union’s dec­la­ra­tion, Metro Board Chair­man Jack Evans put out his own state­ment, insist­ing that the plans weren’t offi­cial. As we do for all events of this nature, Metro is work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly with law enforce­ment to ensure safe trav­el for our cus­tomers and employ­ees,” said Evans. While details of the plan are secu­ri­ty sen­si­tive at this stage, I can tell you that it has *not* been finalized.”

But just one day lat­er, on August 4, Evans said the plan was dead and pushed back against the impli­ca­tion that the Metro had ever con­tem­plat­ed pro­tect­ing racists. Metro will not be pro­vid­ing a spe­cial train or spe­cial car for any­one next Sun­day,” Evans said, adding: We’re not try­ing to give any­one spe­cial treat­ment. We’re just try­ing to avoid scuf­fles and things of that nature.”

The con­tro­ver­sy comes at a crit­i­cal time for the labor move­ment. This year has seen suc­cess­ful rank-and-file-led teacher strikes through­out some of the red states that deliv­ered the White House to Trump, while the AFL-CIO has come out in sup­port of some of the president’s trade poli­cies. Asked recent­ly if the AFL-CIO would con­sid­er endors­ing Trump in 2020, the federation’s pres­i­dent Richard Trum­ka didn’t rule the pos­si­bil­i­ty out. We will con­sid­er every can­di­date,” he said.

A spokesper­son for ATU 689 told In These Times that the union was not mak­ing any fur­ther com­ment beyond its August 3rd state­ment, but admit­ted that they viewed the Metro’s deci­sion as a victory.

A num­ber of counter-protests are planned for August 12 in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. to con­front the white suprema­cists, includ­ing a large demon­stra­tion in Free­dom Plaza which is just a few blocks from Lafayette Square. All of their ral­lies are resis­tance to our progress. They are not sim­ply debates,” Black Lives Mat­ter orga­niz­er Makia Green told USA Today. White suprema­cist ral­lies have left a trail of blood in D.C.”

Michael Arria is the U.S. cor­re­spon­dent for Mon­doweiss. Fol­low him on Twit­ter: @michaelarria.
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