Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Confederate monument in Baltimore drenched with red paint

Someone poured red paint over a Confederate monument in Bolton Hill, defacing the 114-year-old statue during a weekend in which violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
Baltimore police had not received reports of the vandalism, a spokesman said Monday afternoon. But red paint had drenched the statue of a dying Confederate soldier embraced by a winged figure of Glory. The soldier grips a Confederate battle flag, also smeared with red paint.
More than 1,000 people marched through Baltimore Sunday in opposition to the violence and racism at the Virginia rally. The white nationalist rally turned deadly after a man rammed his car into a crowd of counter protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Police charged the alleged driver, James Fields Jr., 20, in the killing.
The violence reignited debate over Confederate monuments in Maryland. Mayor Catherine Pugh said she has reached out to two contractors about removing the rebel monuments in Baltimore. House Speaker Michael E. Busch said it’s time to remove from the lawn of the Maryland State House the statue of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney, who wrote the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery and denied citizenship to black people.
The confederate statue vandalized with red paint was erected by the state chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy in February 1903. The inscription reads “Gloria Victis,” meaning “glory to the vanquished.”
The monument stands on Mount Royal Avenue near Mosher Street.
In 2015, after a white man killed nine black church members in South Carolina, the monument was tagged with “Black Lives Matter” in yellow spray paint. 

Protesters pull down Confederate statue at old Durham County courthouse


DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – A crowd of protesters gathered outside the old Durham County courthouse on Main Street Monday evening in opposition to a Confederate monument in front of the government building.
Around 7:10 p.m. a woman using a ladder climbed the statue of a Confederate soldier and attached a rope around the statue.
Moments later, the crowd pulled on the rope and the statue fell.  One man quickly ran up and spat on the statue and several others began kicking it.
Durham police later said they monitored the protests to make sure they were “safe” but did not interfere with the statue toppling because it happened on county property.
“Because this incident occurred on county property, where county law enforcement officials were staffed, no arrests were made by DPD officers,” Durham Police spokesman Wil Glenn said in a statement.
Durham County Sheriff’s deputies videotaped the statue being brought down — but didn’t stop it from happening.
After toppling the statue, the protesters started marching. They blocked traffic with authorities trying to stay ahead of them. The protesters made their way down East Main Street to the site of the new Durham Police Department.
In 1924, the Confederate statue was dedicated to Durham.
Engraved on the front of the monument is “The Confederate States of America.”
Above it, was the statue representing a soldier who fought in the civil war.
“Today we got a small taste of justice,” protester Jose Ramos said after the statue was down.
Later Monday night, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper Tweeted: “The racism and deadly violence in Charlottesville is unacceptable but there is a better way to remove these monuments.”
After the Durham statue fell, several dozen protesters congregated on the street in front of the old courthouse. Some took pictures standing or sitting on the toppled soldier, in front of a pedestal inscribed with the words “In Memory of the Boys Who Wore The Gray.”
“It needs to be removed,” Loan Tran, an organizer, said earlier Monday. “These Confederate statues in Durham, in North Carolina, all across the country.”
There are similar monuments in several cities around North Carolina.
Tran doesn’t want to see it anymore.
“When I see a Confederate statue in downtown Durham, or really anywhere, it fills me with a lot of rage and frustration,” she said.
Organizers say Monday’s protest was a reaction to the events in Charlottesville this past weekend.
“People can be mobilized and people are angry and when enough people are angry, we don’t have to look to politicians to sit around in air conditions and do nothing when we can do things ourselves,” said Takiyah Thompson, a protester.
In an email to CBS North Carolina, Durham County spokeswoman Dawn Dudley says:
“Due to a North Carolina state law passed a few years ago, Durham County is prohibited from removing or making substantive alteration to historical monuments and memorials. I share this to say that there is a statute in place making the efforts you mention below difficult to move forward. I would assume that the only thing possible are steps to reverse the law.”
This statue has been the center of controversy before after graffiti was spray painted on it a few years ago.
The group that met Monday say their purpose is to “smash white supremacy.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report

Monday, August 14, 2017

After Twitter Refused To Delete Homophobic, Racist Tweets, An Activist Spray Painted Them Outside The Company’s Office


"If Twitter forces me to see those things, then they’ll have to see them too."
After Twitter refused to delete hundreds of abusive tweets, a German activist spray painted them all over the pavement outside the company’s offices in Hamburg.
Shahak Shapira, who is of German-Israeli descent, says he’s reported nearly 450 homophobic, racist, anti-Semitic, and sexist posts to Twitter and Facebook over the last six months. A majority of the approximately 150 Facebook posts were removed within three days, but, of the more than than 300 abusive tweets he reported, he received responses to only nine. And each one stated that there’d been no violation of Twitter’s rules. 
The posts included tweets like “Lets gas some Jews together” and “hang these lowlifes from the nearest street post,” as well as calls for violence against Muslims, gays, women and people of color. 
“[They] weren’t just plain insults or jokes,” Shapira explains, “but absolutely serious threats of violence. Homophobia, xenophobia, Holocaust denial. Things no one should say and no one should read.”
He decided the best way to draw attention to the issue was to take the hate speech off the web and put in the street where everyone—including Twitter—would have to look at it. “I thought, okay, if Twitter forces me to see those things, then they’ll have to see them, too.”
Shapira made large stencils out of 30 reported tweets, then he and several friends used temporary, chalk-based spray paint to cover the sidewalk, stairs and street in front of Twitter’s office building. The next morning several passersby complimented Shapira on his efforts.
“It angers me that most people don’t revolt against this,” one man said. “They just accept it. I think that’s fucked up.”
Another pointed out that it’s a bad look for Twitter to leave abusive tweets in place: “It’s careless to let this happen to your own product. It shouldn’t happen.”
Shapira is working to spread that message using the hashtag #HeyTwitter. “This will never be big enough to visualize the amount of hate tweets on Twitter,” he says, “but maybe we can at least give them some food for though.”
Learn more about his project in the video below.

I believe that true, well-told stories have the power to change the world for good. I also love a good listicle.

Friday, June 9, 2017

LGBTQ Refugee Rights Group Steals Artwork from Documenta in Athens


"In an act of protest against the German quinquennial, the group Lgbtqi+ Refugees in Greece has rock-napped Roger Bernat’s sculptural replica of an ancient monolith.
An LGBTQI refugee rights group in Athens has stolen an artwork from Documenta 14 to protest what they perceive as the German quinquennial’s exploitation of refugees seeking asylum in Greece. On May 21, the grassroots organization Lgbtqi+ Refugees in Greece carried off artist Roger Bernat‘s 110-pound, plastic and fiberglass replica of an ancient Greek monolith known as the oath stone, upon which council members once swore their vows. The theft was executed during a theatrical performance to walk the stone around Athens before its transportation to Documenta 14’s other host city, Kassel, by plane. There, Bernat intended to bury it as part “The Place of the Thing,” his collaboration with dramatist Roberto Fratini that considers a Nazi-pioneered form of mass theater. The Spanish artist had invited various collectives and groups in Athens to help tour the stone over the course of one week to locations including museums, public schools, embassies, homes, and bars.
But Bernat’s stone never made it to Kassel, as the individuals he had paid to carry it that Sunday turned out to be protestors who took issue with the project’s underlying spending of resources. Lgbtqi+ Refugees in Greece, who accepted €500 (~$560) to participate in the piece, seized the stone midway through an event at Athens’s Polytechnic University. The group then issued a statement saying that it condemns “the ‘fetishization’ of refugees and disparages the use of vast resources on the high-profile arts event, while the hundreds of thousands of refugees languish invisibly in Greece and across Europe.” Members dubbed their brazen act, “Between a rock and a hard place,” and christened it with a counter-title to the festival: “Rockumenta 14.” They added that they have no intention of returning Bernat’s stone.
“You have come to Greece to make art visible, graciously offering to purchase the participation of invisible exoticized ‘Others,’” the group wrote. “Your stone is supposed to give us a voice, to speak to our stories. But rocks can’t talk! We can! So we have stolen your stone and we will not give it back. And like the millions of others who are seeking better lives in Europe, your stone has disappeared.” The statement then offers tongue-in-cheek possibilities of where the artwork could be, each one highlighting the challenges asylum seekers face, from the bureaucratic to the humanitarian: the rock might be in a distant prison, languishing without papers; at the bottom of the Mediterranean; on a flight to Sweden, equipped with a fake passport; in a detention center, contemplating suicide.
Clearly angered by the heist, Bernat and Fratini published a 13-point rebuttalon Bernat’s website to denounce the act as a publicity stunt. The pair’s statement emphasized that they never asked anything of the collective, to whom they essentially surrendered the stone for the purpose of the performance.
“This project, thought as a deconstruction of the notion of Thingspiel, is about seeing which kind of cultural meaning, political value or even religious charisma can acquire for different collectives and individuals an archeological piece,” they wrote. “And to see how individuals and collectives can negotiate the absolute pretext the object represents.”
Their statement also clarified the financial decisions behind the performance. “The collective was never ‘purchased,” Bernat and Fratini wrote. “Having a budget for the project, we simply decided to share the money between all the associations and collective that willingly declared themselves interested in doing something with the stone. If we hadn’t offered any money, we would have felt that we were luring people into sharing the project for nothing.”
The artists said they can afford to lose the stone, having already created two copies of the original, apparently in anticipation of a theft. But the collective’s gesture, aside from introducing some hilarity to the typically austere German festival, amplifies frustrations felt by many over its arrival in a country facing economic, political, and social turmoil."

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Art can’t do anything if we don’t.


Julio Salgado Mural


For our first issue of 2017, we asked eight contributors: what can art do in times of social and political turmoil? This line of inquiry seemed undeniable – rearing its head in the poignant essays in our last issue Art + Citizenship, the driving force behind post-election actions across the country, and at the center of how we as an arts publishing organization were evaluating our own efficacy as an arts publishing organization.
We sought out a range of voices whose vocations include: art critic, curator, professor, radical organizer, visual artist. The responses we received surprised us.  Taken together, these essays shake up the very framework of the issue as we laid it out, breaking up our well-groomed inquiry into a complex cluster of meaning. Too, there is a distinct personal tenor to the narratives in this issue, one we don’t often see in arts writing. I take this as a sign that those of us that teach, advocate, institutionalize, or historicize art should be asking ourselves the same question. Art can do a lot of things, but the real question seems to be: what can we do? Art is just one of many areas under serious threat in our current landscape. Looking to radical visionaries that came before us and those that walk among us now, many of our writers summon an incredible invocation of the future through their writing. Art can help us see differently, to imagine better realities. It’s time to put our imaginations to work, or we risk being implicated in fortifying the same systems we hope to crumble. Look to art. Act swiftly. As Vivian Sming notes in her essay, “Art can’t do anything if we don’t.”—Kara Q. Smith

Wednesday, March 1, 2017



President Donald Trump gave his first joint address to Congress last night, and the rows of Democrats sitting in the audience were dotted with women in white.
Many of the female Democrats who make up the House Democratic Women’s Working Group wore white clothing, dubbed “suffragette white,” in a nod to the women’s rights movement in the early 1900s.

“We wear white to unite against any attempts by the Trump administration to roll back the incredible progress women have made in the last century, and we will continue to support the advancement of all women,” Florida Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel, the chair of the working group, said in a statement.

The members are wearing white to show their support for Planned Parenthood affordable health care, reproductive rights, equal pay, paid leave, affordable child care and “lives free from fear and violence,” the statement continued.
Since the women’s rights movement, white has since become the color for celebrating women in politics at many points throughout history. A #WearWhiteToVote campaign on Election Day 2016 encouraging women to express their solidarity with those who fought for the women’s right to vote.
White was also the color Hillary Clinton wore at major campaign events, including the night she accepted the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention. She also wore white at Trump’s inauguration. Geraldine Ferraro wore white in 1984 when she became the first woman to accept the vice presidential nomination of a major party. Shirley Chisholm wore all white when she became the first African-American woman elected to Congress; she also wore white three years later when she became the first African-American woman to run for a major party’s presidential nomination.
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Republican women appeared to be answering the move by wearing their own chosen color: purple. In political circles, purple has come to symbolize bipartisanship. Several prominent GOP women, including Callista Gingrich, wife of Trump adviser Newt Gingrich,Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), a member of the House’s leadership team, were dressed in purple.
Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who chairs the House Republican Conference, when asked about the movement of Democratic women, urged her fellow Congresswomen to “come together.”
“Typically, when a president is elected, you have that coming together as a country, which we haven’t had,” she said, “and I’m hopeful that people will listen to his message tonight and that they’ll be willing to come together, find the common ground, so that we can do the important work that the people expect us to do.”
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, (D-Mass) also wore a purple blazer, but perhaps for entirely different reasons. In addition to white, purple and gold were the official colors of the National Women’s Party and the suffragist movement. The colors were chosen deliberately, according to the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage’s statement of purpose:
  • Purple is the color of “loyalty, constancy to purpose, unswerving steadfastness to a cause.”
  • Gold symbolizes “the color of light and life and “the torch that guides our purpose.”
  • White represents “the emblem of purity, symbolizes the quality of our purpose.”
The walls of women in white in the audience were a jab at Trump’s language and behavior toward women to date. “It’s really important to show that what candidate Trump said about women and the way that he has behaved toward women in the past is not an acceptable standard for a president,” House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairwoman Linda Sanchez (D-California) said. “We want a visual reminder to him that suffragettes wore white and we are not going to let him take us backward. We are not going to let men dictate the choices that we have in our lives. We are not going to stand for a president that doesn’t respect us and take our perspective into account.”
Representative Karen Bass, also from California, said Democrats wanted to express solidarity with women who have recently protested against Trump “and just women in solidarity with each other against a president who ran a campaign that was rooted in misogyny.”

Thursday, February 2, 2017

In West Philly, activists train to 'disrupt' deportations


A few dozen people marched across the warehouse floor, holding cardboard signs and singing in Spanish. “Stop the raids,” the signs read.
They were stopped halfway across the room. “You can watch,” said a man in the middle of the room, “but you can’t come any closer.” The group locked arms and sat on the floor. The man pulled at their arms and tried to drag them apart. The room echoed with shouts and singing.
Peter Pedemonti clapped his hands. “OK, let’s take a breath,” he said. The signs lowered, the line broke apart, and the 50 or so people who had gathered in the warehouse Saturday afternoon turned expectantly toward him.
They were here to learn how to disrupt a deportation. It was something that Pedemonti’s interfaith immigrant rights group, the New Sanctuary Movement, had been planning for months, ever since President Barack Obama’s administration announced a round of deportation raids, mainly targeting undocumented Central American adults and children. At the time, officials had said they would try not to conduct raids at schools, hospitals, or places of worship.
“But if Immigrations and Customs Enforcement comes to your house, you can’t leave to find sanctuary in a church or a congregation,” Pedemonti said. “So we thought: We’ll bring the congregation to you.”
The idea was to set up a hotline that immigrants could call if ICE agents showed up at their door – and to show up at deportations themselves, with a few dozen activists and a ready-made prayer service. Some would sing and pray and read Scripture; others would form a line and block the sidewalk, risking arrest. About 60 people signed up for the program, called “Sanctuary on the Streets.” But they were never called to a deportation, and considered scrapping the program.
Then President Trump was elected, with his promises to crack down on illegal immigration and on sanctuary cities like Philadelphia, which does not cooperate with federal officials’ detainer requests for undocumented immigrants charged with nonviolent crimes. New Sanctuary Movement sent an email to its mailing list, asking again for volunteers for Sanctuary on the Streets. This time, 1,000 people responded.
Pedemonti has been holding training sessions for the program twice a month since. The executive orders Trump signed last week -- which aim to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities, hire 10,000 new ICE agents, build a border wall, and suspend the U.S.’s refugee program for four months -- have lent the program a new urgency, attendees said.
“I just want to help,” said Daoud Steele, a carpenter from West Philadelphia who was raised Muslim and said he knew Syrian refugees affected by one of the orders. “[Immigrants today] are no less American than my great-great-grandparents, who came from the Netherlands. Everyone here is an immigrant.”
So he and several dozen others came to a cavernous room in the warehouse in West Philadelphia on Saturday. Maria Turcios, a New Sanctuary member originally from Honduras, told the group about how immigration officials had come to her house in 2004, searching for the father of one of her grandchildren, who was not at home. The agents left with three of her family members, she said. Four years later, her daughter was served a deportation order. The family considered asking her to leave, she said, but ultimately decided to fight the case in court. They won.
“The more than 1,000 people who signed up for Sanctuary in the Streets will make history together,” she said through an interpreter. “Showing up today is an act of love.”
Attendees split into groups and spent the afternoon acting out a Sanctuary in the Streets protest, with different groups playing deportees, ICE agents, and protesters.
Pedemonti told them how to approach a house that was being raided (slowly and deliberately), how to identify themselves to ICE agents outside (politely but firmly), and how to begin a prayer service on the sidewalk (loudly but reverently). Afterward, he said, staff members from New Sanctuary would remain to comfort family members left behind.
“This is a nonviolent action – we show up with love and compassion,” he told the group. “If an ICE agent tells you to stop, you’re going to stop. If they tell you to move back, you’re going to move back.”
Others in a protest group can choose to risk arrest – sitting down on the sidewalk to block ICE agents, or surrounding the agents’ vehicles, he said. Those volunteers will receive special civil-disobedience training.
“Is the goal to actually stop the raid – for real?” Steele asked.
“If ICE is going to take the family, we’re not going to stop them,” Pedemonti said. The aim is not to try to break a line of agents, or to resist arrest, he said. “But we want to put public pressure on them. To tell them, every time they show up at a house or a workplace, we’re going to be there.”
Pedemonti said he wanted ICE and the authorities to know of the New Sanctuary Movement's plan. In turn, he wants the group to try to work to understand immigration authorities – “to see their humanity.” Those who criticize the notion of protesting a deportation, he encourages to read Scripture – specifically, Matthew 25:35: “For I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.”The organization wants to continue to publicize the hotline and train new volunteers, Pedemonti said. “In this moment, it’s important for people who are affected [by the executive orders] and people who aren’t to stand up, and people who aren’t affected have to start taking risks,” he said.
Afterward, Crystal Gonzalez, an arts administrator from West Philadelphia, said she was ready take those risks. She said she had signed up for the program before the election, alarmed by the record-setting number of deportations under the Obama administration. Her parents immigrated from Cuba before she was born, she said, and benefited from programs that helped immigrants fleeing communist countries.
"My family's status here was never questioned," she said. "So it's about solidarity, and really, truly feeling the concept of 'Your problem is my problem.' I can utilize the privilege and support my family received."

Monday, January 30, 2017

Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer Got Punched—You Can Thank the Black Bloc

The sky was gray, a light snow fell, and the weather was bitingly cold. But the mood outside New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) on Saturday was red-hot with anger, as dozens, and then hundreds, and then, as night fell, thousands arrived to protest President Donald Trump’s executive orderbarring entry into the United States of all refugees—including Syrian refugees, perhaps indefinitely—as well as visa-holders from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The rally, organized by a coalition of groups including the New York Immigration Coalition, the Arab American Association of New York, and Make the Road New York, came together within hours. The call for a rapid-response demonstration was posted on Facebook in the morning, and word quickly spread on social media. Supporters of these groups came from across New York, traveling long distances on the subway to reach an airport not easily accessible for many.
Throughout the day, the protesters huddled in a holding pen outside Terminal 4, the part of the airport where refugees and visa-holders, turned back from the United States, were being detained. They  chanted, “Love, not hate, makes America great,” and “No hate, no fear, Syrians are welcome here,” as cars driving by honked their horns in support. Inside the airport terminals, lawyers whipped out laptops to draft habeas corpus petitions to get their clients, held by Customs and Border Patrol agents, out of detention. Meanwhile, Port Authority police officers milled on the perimeter, and also blocked protesters’ entrance into Terminal 4. As the crowd grew, the demonstrators eventually spilled into the parking terminal overlooking the main protest area.
The protests lasted well into the evening, and continued as a federal judge ruled to temporarily halt part of Trump’s executive order in response to an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit. The order applies only to those who arrived in the United States with valid visas in the past 24 hours but were detained upon entry; they cannot be deported for now. While the order is temporary, it is a partial victory for civil-liberties advocates.
Trump’s order to bar refugees and many Middle Easterners, signed on the Friday afternoon of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, was a stunning capstone to a stunning week that seemed designed to shock Americans into submission. But in New York, and in cities around the country, protesters poured into airports in droves, determined to help those locked inside airport detention centers who had arrived just after Trump issued the ban. Taxi drivers called for a work stoppage outside JFK. Demonstrations were held in Chicago, Boston, Newark, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities.
Fahd Ahmed, the executive director of the South Asian–led group Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), told The Nation he feared that the current order was a test run for an expanded order down the road, perhaps targeting citizens of more countries. In addition to the denials of entry and detentions, he had heard that Muslim travelers were being harassed and harshly interrogated by US officials at airport entry points around the nation.
“What’s becoming clear is that this [order] is not just a bad, misguided policy. The current administration has a larger ideology, viewpoint and platform—a platform of white supremacy against Muslims, immigrants, and refugees,” said Ahmed, whose group has been helping lead resistance against Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.
The urgency—and fluidity—of the moment was underscored in the early afternoon, when lawyers, helped by Representatives Jerry Nadler and Nydia Velasquez, both of New York, successfully freed Hameed Darweesh, an Iraqi refugee who has worked for the US military. Darweesh had been detained for hours before the American Civil Liberties Union filed legal action on his behalf.
But the sense of victory quickly turned sour as other Muslim travelers were not released but remained in detention inside. Protesters vowed to remain outside JFK until everybody was free, and supporters of refugees also gathered inside a federal courthouse in Manhattan for a hearing on whether detainees would be able to stay in the United States.
A few hours later, at least one other Iraqi refugee who also worked for the US military, Haider Alshawi, was released after being detained for 24 hours. Alshawi was one of unknown numbers of refugees and visa holders detained in airports or turned back before hopping on a plane to the United States. Inside JFK, there were at least 11 people detained, according to Murad Awawdeh, the political director of the New York Immigration Coalition, the group that hastily organized the protest.
“This is a ban on Muslims. This is what it is,” said Awawdeh. “They’re being treated as if they have no rights.”
As the day wore on, the full scope of Trump’s order began to come into focus. The text of the order temporarily halts refugee resettlement; indefinitely bars all Syrian refugees; and, for 90 days, blocks travelers coming from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria and Libya. But there was confusion as to how it might impact dual-nationals and green-card holders. By the afternoon, the word from the White House had come down: Green-card holders could enter, but only if they receive an individual waiver. The State Department said dual citizens—for instance, someone with British and Iraqi citizenship—would be barred from entering the United States for now.
As more information trickled out, disgust with the order grew. Representative Keith Ellison, who is running to lead the Democratic National Committee, called for “mass rallies” against the Trump order. Senator Tim Kaine, the Democrats’ 2016 vice-presidential candidate, said he is “appalled by the cruelty the Trump Administration has demonstrated.”
And in New York, Congresswoman Velasquez forcefully spoke out against the refugee ban.
“This is ill-advised. It is mean-spirited. It goes against our values, and we got to fight it,” she told reporters at the rally. “We going to resist. We are going to organize. We are going to strategize. But we will fight for justice every single day in this country.”
As protesters chanted, “No ban, no wall, Donald Trump has got to fall,” The Nation spoke with Aditi Niak, who is from India, but received American citizenship last April.
“I was really excited to become American. And now I’m sad. I’m sad that America is being affiliated with people who don’t believe it’s a welcoming place, who feel like they can close our borders,” she said. “That’s not what America believes in. I’ve lived here for 15 years now, and this is the first time I’ve felt legitimately scared—scared for the country, scared for my friends, scared for people like me who come here for a better life and we’re being turned away. That’s not what this country stands for.”