By Jim Hagerty
CITY HALL — Joining federal, state and local agencies across the country, the Rockford City Council on Monday approved a resolution condemning hate groups and white supremacy.
The resolution comes on the heels of a violent-filled weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, where chaos broke out at a Unite the Right rally as members of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi groups and other white nationalists clashed with anti-protesters. A 32-year-old woman named Heather Heyer was killed and more than a dozen others injured after an alleged white supremacy supporter drove a car into a crowd.
"As we look across the country and then we look back here in Rockford I want to unequivocally say there is no place in the city of Rockford for hate," Mayor Tom McNamara said.
Alderman Jonathan Logemann, D-4, read the resolution before the council unanimously approved it.
"The House of Representatives of the One Hundredth General Assembly of the State of Illinois has passed House Resolution HRO569, repudiating and condemning white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and any other group that espouses hate and seeks to undermine the very ideals of who we are as Americans," Logemann read. "[The] City Council condemns those individuals and groups that seek to spread hate and division while attacking the foundational values of our City, State, and nation."
White nationalists organized the rally, which began Friday, Aug. 11, to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from a Charlottesville park. Several civic organizations and faith-based groups resisted the protest as white nationalists waved lit tiki torches, anti-Semitic signs, swastikas and rifles.
White nationalists were met with heavier resistance when members of Black Lives Matter, Workers World Party, and Antifa, among others, joined the demonstration.
Two Virginia State Police officers on their way to assist law enforcement in Charlottesville last Saturday were killed when the helicopter they were in crashed seven miles from the city. The crash is under investigation.
McNamara localized the Charlottesville aftermath even further, telling the council that efforts to tend to city business would be moot without tackling social issues sparked by discrimination and hate.
"One person stated to me you should just focus on the budget and not worry about race politics," the mayor said Monday. "Some of those things really bug, me because if we don't unify our community, the budget's going to be the least of our concerns."
The mayor Friday also signed the Mayors’ Compact to Combat Hate, Extremism and Bigotry, a joint effort between the Anti-Defamation League and the United States Conference of Mayors.
“As Americans, we value our First Amendments rights,” said McNamara. “However, we know the challenges that come with those rights, especially when those rights are used to encourage hatred, violence and division."
• In other city business, aldermen approved a residential loan program to help residents improve their properties. Qualifying homeowners will receive up to $1,500 to remove dead and diseased trees, funds that will be repaid over time via city water bills.
Aldermen also recognized a new law that requires Illinois police academies to train new police offers how to recognize depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The law honors longtime Rockford Police official who took his own life in 2015. The legislation was passed by Illinois Rep. John Cabello with the help of the Greg Lindmark Foundation.
The Rockford City Council meets on the first and third Monday of every month. R.