The National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York condemns the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley spoke the leader of the organization who is calling on Western New Yorkers to stand together against racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry.
“Horrified. Very, very sad and fearful of what we've come to in our country,” said Lana Benatovich is president of the NFJC.
Benatovich was reacting to this past weekend's white nationalists protests in Charlottesville where a man, identified as a neo-Nazi, plowed a car through a counter protest, killing one woman and injuring several others.
Benatovich tells WBFO News the work her organization conducts is more necessary than ever.
“We said during the Holocaust – never again – well then when you see people wearing Nazi signs on them in your own country, in one of our university towns – it’s pretty horrifying. It is many years later and if we’re saying never again, we have walk the talk, but in our case we have to shout the talk,” Benatovich described.
President Trump, on Monday, stated 'racism evil' and denounced the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, but it was 48-hours after he was highly criticized for his first response issued over the weekend. Benatovich tells us it was difficult to wait for the President’s proper response.
“This is not a political situation. This is a matter of humanity and I would have been a lot more comfortable if the President of the United States came out immediately and said this was not acceptable,” responded Benatovich.
Benatovich noted they work to be very vocal about what is tolerated and very thoughtful in creating programs that bring people together.
“We, as a community in Western New York, are very fortunate in that we talk about these things now and we become advocates for each other,” Benatovich explained.
WBFO News asked Benatovich if she believes the situation would fuel local white nationalist groups.
“Interesting questions because several years ago Karl Hand, who is a Nazi – he was saying he was coming to the city, in front of City Hall and he was going to have a demonstration, well we, as community relations director at the Jewish Federation and here at the NFJC said let’s have a counter, positive gathering. Nobody came to his party – he was by himself,” recalled Benatovich.
Benatovich spoke directly with Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen. A vigil is planned for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Durham Memorial AME Zion Church on East Eagle Street in Buffalo. Government leaders, clergy, labor and community leaders and others will gather to denounce violent racism and bigotry.