People For the American Way

500+ Local Elected Officials Pledge To Combat Xenophobia, Anti-Muslim Attacks

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 29, 2016

Contact: Laura Epstein or Drew Courtney at People For the American Way

Email: [email protected]

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

In the face of an alarming spike in anti-Muslim and xenophobic attacks, more than 500 elected officials from across the country today released an open letter condemning bigotry and pledging to support Muslims and immigrants who have come under attack in their communities. The letter marks the start of a coordinated campaign in cities across the country to push back on increasing attacks on immigrants and Muslims, which have reached levels unseen since September 11, 2001.

“We vow to use our positions as elected leaders to stand up against anti-Muslim bigotry, against xenophobia, against hatred, and against oppression,” the lawmakers write in the letter. “We vow to promote local laws and policies that advance equity and value diversity. We vow never to use fear as a political tactic and never to succumb to fear as political pressure. We vow to work to fulfill the aspiration of our nation’s founding, in partnership with you, and against all those who would demonize or silence you.”

In coming months, signatories will introduce and pass resolutions in their respective legislative bodies pledging to stand against hate in their communities. They will aim to boost existing local efforts to fight bigotry and lay the groundwork for substantive legislation in 2017 to address xenophobia and bigotry.

The effort is being coordinated by Local Progress, a network of progressive local elected officials launched in 2012 to connect and support local legislators nationwide, and the Young Elected Officials Network Action (YEO Action), a program of People For the American Way (PFAW) that provides a network of support to young progressive leaders. 

“As the first Muslim member of Congress and the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, I am so proud and appreciative of the hundreds of local elected officials from around the country who have stood up against hatred and anti-Muslim bigotry,” said U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN). “Local Progress and the Young Elected Officials Network Action are doing essential work organizing leaders from cities and states around the country, and their work on this campaign will strengthen our country and help protect the Constitutional rights of all Americans and immigrants to practice their faith and live dignified lives in our great country.”

“After months of blistering attacks on immigrants, Muslims, people of color, and any other group that can be used as a scapegoat, local leaders are finally saying enough,” said Ady Barkan, Co-Director of Local Progress. “With this letter, legislators from every corner of the country are declaring their intent to turn the tide and renewing their commitment to the inclusion and diversity that make this country so unique and so strong.”

“We cannot sit idly by and watch as our friends and neighbors are vilified and attacked because of their religious beliefs, attire, or race,” said Meshea Poore, YEO Network Interim Managing Director. “Young leaders across the country will stand up for all Americans and make clear that hatred and bigotry goes against the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed in our country.”

“The rising tide of bigotry and Islamophobia aimed at our neighbors and community members has been painful to watch,” said Andrew Gillum, Tallahassee Mayor. “I’m so proud to join with these elected officials as we take a stand for one of our nation’s most fundamental principles: that all people, regardless of race or religion, are equally welcome in our civic life.”

"From targeting of women in hijab, to vandalism of mosques, to the public executions of two imams in New York City, Muslims have witnessed unprecedented attacks against our faith,” said Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York. “While some politicians have opted to scapegoat Muslim communities, 530 elected officials across the country are choosing to reject bigotry and Islamophobia. As a Muslim, I welcome the moral courage these women and men have demonstrated and hope others will join our call to stand with our Muslim neighbors and stand up against hate."

“The America I was drawn to as a refugee from Ethiopia was a place that saw me for me – not as an outsider, not as an immigrant, not as a threat. We need to protect that America and the inspiration it gives to millions around the world,” said Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO and a Board member of Local Progress. “All of us have a claim to this country, and nobody is more American than anybody else. We need to stand up, stand together, and stand for the values that have always made this country strong.”
Local Progress is a network of progressive local elected officials from around the country united by our shared commitment to equal justice under law, shared prosperity, sustainable and livable cities, and good government that serves the public interest. Local Progress is staffed by the Center for Popular Democracy.
The Center for Popular Democracy promotes equity, opportunity, and a dynamic democracy in partnership with innovative base-building organizations, organizing networks and alliances, and progressive unions across the country. CPD builds the strength and capacity of democratic organizations to envision and advance a pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial justice agenda.
YEO Action is an advocacy network that provides young progressive elected leaders ages 35 and under with resources to effectively impact policy, foster their own development and professional growth, and elevate their leadership in the broader progressive movement. YEO Action is a program of People For the American Way, a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.