Township Mayor Robert Jackson is one of more than 200 mayors who have vowed to fight racism. DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI/STAFF

By LINDA MOSS
moss@montclairlocal.news

Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson has joined nearly 300 mayors across the nation, including 13 others from New Jersey, who are teaming up with the Anti-Defamation League in a pledge to fight racism and extremism in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

At a press conference last week the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the ADL unveiled a joint plan to combat bigotry and “to and promote justice and equality in response to the disturbing hate and violence seen in Charlottesville,” according to a press release.

More than 270 mayors representing the conference have vowed to implement the Mayors’ Compact to Combat Hate, Extremism and Bigotry, which “calls for fully resourced law enforcement and civil rights investigations of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” the announcement said.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Jackson said of his participation in the initiative. “We do a lot of it now [in Montclair].”

The mayors’ conference partnered with ADL to craft the 10-point compact.

Under its terms, the mayors will: commit to vigorously speak out against all acts of hate; punish bias-motivated violence to the fullest extent of the law; encourage more anti-bias and anti-hate education in schools and police forces, using ADL experts and resources for both; encourage community activities that celebrate their population’s cultural and ethnic diversity; and ensure civil rights laws are aggressively enforced and hate crimes laws are as strong as possible.

“What happened in Charlottesville last weekend reminds us all that violent hate and racism are very much alive in America in 2017,” Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of the mayors’ conference, said in a statement.

“For decades, America’s mayors have taken a strong position in support of civil rights and in opposition to racism and discrimination of all kinds. At this critical time mayors are doing so again through this compact in an effort to combat hate, extremism and bigotry in their cities and in our nation.”

As of Wednesday night, in addition to Jackson, the New Jersey officials who plan to implement the compact are Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Kahn, East Brunswick Mayor Brad Cohen, Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos, Mountain Lakes Mayor Peter Holmberg, North Brunswick Mayor Francis Womack III, Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler, Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, South Orange Mayor Sheena Collum, West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi and Westfield Mayor Andy Skibitsky.

Jackson is a member of the New Jersey Black Mayors Alliance for Social Justice, which issued its own statement about the U.S. mayors-ADL compact.

“When the President of the United States proclaims that peaceful demonstrators are the equivalent of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis whose actions they protest, it’s time for mayors across our nation to unite, lead the resistance and provide the moral leadership so lacking in the President,” the statement said.

“What we saw in Virginia was groups that no longer feel the need to wear a hood or hide their identities,” the black mayors said. “Why should they when they have found their leader in Donald Trump? We are witnessing a resurgence of the domestic terrorism that people of color have faced for generations. This is the hate spewed by torch-bearing, racist, xenophobic, bigots from neo-Nazis and groups like the Klan.”

The statement said, “Unfortunately, in New Jersey, we are far from insulated from this horror. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 15 of these hate groups can be found right here. We join with United States Conference of Mayors in signing the Mayors’ Compact to Combat Hate.”

Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio were also among those to join in the compact.

“Charlottesville made clear that we have a lot more work to do in our communities and we can’t wait a minute longer to step up our efforts,” ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “The U.S. Conference of Mayors deserves credit for their leadership. Mayors have always been strong supporters of civil rights and counterweights to those who discriminate. ADL could not have found a better partner to work with against hate.”