The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday announced a policy change: They will no longer represent "hate groups" who protest with firearms, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The swift change in policy comes after the violent protests erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia. The aftermath of those protests left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead and dozens more injured when a car plowed into a group of counterprotesters.
A handful of people who protested in Charlottesville legally open carried a handgun, which can suppress speech due to intimidation, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero told the Journal.
“The events of Charlottesville require any judge, any police chief and any legal group to look at the facts of any white-supremacy protests with a much finer comb,” Romero said. “If a protest group insists, ‘No, we want to be able to carry loaded firearms,’ well, we don’t have to represent them. They can find someone else."
According to Romero, the civil liberties organization will continue to defend white supremacy groups — as it has for decades — but now on a case-by-case basis.
The ACLU has long-defended white supremacy groups from the government's attempts to block their First Amendment right to free speech. The organization defended these hate groups based on the belief that censoring their speech — regardless of how hateful it is — weakens the First Amendment for everyone.
Just last week, the ACLU's Virginia branch defended those who wanted to host a "Unite the Right" rally, which opposed the removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee. A wide range of groups fell under the "Unite the Right" banner, including white supremacists and neo-Nazis, the Journal reported.
When the city of Charlottesville tried to force the group to move its rally to another location after it obtained the proper permitting, the ACLU stepped in and defended the group's right to protest.