NEW YORK (JTA) — The mayors of America’s largest cities are launching a partnership with the Anti-Defamation League to combat hate and bigotry.
Nearly 200 mayors have joined the agreement, which was announced Friday, since it was first circulated Tuesday night among the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The mayors are agreeing to explicitly condemn racism, white supremacy and bigotry, and to implement educational and public safety programs to safeguard vulnerable populations and discourage discrimination.
Signers include the mayors of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C, Phoenix and Tucson.
“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,” the Mayors’ Compact reads. “We are now seeing efforts in our states and at the highest levels of our government to weaken existing civil rights policies and reduce their enforcement. We have seen an increase in hate violence, xenophobic rhetoric, and discriminatory actions that target Muslims, Jews, and other minorities.”
The compact sets out a 10-point program that includes publicly condemning bigotry; ensuring public safety while protecting free speech; training and funding law enforcement to enforce hate crime laws; working with community leaders to combat bigotry; and strengthening anti-bias education programs in schools.
Many of the points echo a plan of action that the ADL called on the White House to adopt earlier this week. The group proposed the plan following the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and President Donald Trump’s response, which the ADL and many others have slammed.
“The events in Charlottesville once again showed us we have much work to do to bring Americans together,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s national director on a conference call with reporters. “We know that hate is on the rise. ADL can’t wait any longer for the president to act. ADL is ready to work with communities across the country to combat hate.”
On Aug. 18, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild tweeted “Tucson will always stand against hate and bigotry,” with links to the mayor’s compact page, a “Don’t wait to fight hate” page on his website, and #MayorsStand4All.
The announcement of the compact comes during a high-profile week for the ADL, which combats anti-Semitism and bigotry. The group received $1 million donations from Apple and 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch, and announced a partnership with Bumble, a dating app, to block bigoted profiles.
Other mayors also portrayed the compact as a response in part to the president’s equivocation of white supremacists and those who oppose them. Steve Adler, the Jewish mayor of Austin, Texas, who has volunteered for the ADL in the past, said during the call that “mayors don’t need a teleprompter to say Nazis are bad.”
“There’s a clear lack of a moral compass,” Mayor Shane Bemis of Gresham, Oregon, a city of 100,000 east of Portland, said on the call. “This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, how he has continued to divide us since the election. It is clearly, in my view, an absence of any sort of moral leadership from the president.”
But mayors were divided on a couple of contentious issues, including the removal of Confederate monuments from cities and how to strike a balance between protecting civil liberties while guarding against incitement and threats to public safety. Tom Cochran, CEO of the mayors’ conference, said policy on how to deal with Confederate memorials should be left up to individual cities.
“This discussion is not about monuments,” he said in the call. “This conversation is about coming together to denigrate all acts of hate wherever they occur, and making sure we protect public safety while making sure that the right to free speech will always be protected.”
(This story was updated 8.24.17 with information from Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild’s Twitter feed.)