The American Constitutional Rights Union just began a petition to ask America’s policymakers to put an end to the toppling and defacing of the nation’s monuments. Statues of George Washington, Christopher Columbus, and Albert Pike are among those vandalized since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Lori Roman, president of the American Constitutional Rights Union, joins the podcast to explain how her organization is working strategically to activate political leaders to protect history and end mob rule.
Also on today’s show, we read your letters to the editor and share a good news story about one North Carolinian who went out of his way to show local police officers that he appreciates and supports their service.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
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Virginia Allen: I am joined by Lori Roman, president of the American Constitutional Rights Union. Lori, thank you so much for being here today.
Lori Roman: Thank you, Virginia. Very happy to have the opportunity.
Allen: Now, we have a great discussion ahead of us. We’re talking about defacement of statues, what’s happening, what we can do about it, how we should respond. But before we dive into that, I do want to take just a second and ask you to share a little bit about the American Constitutional Rights Union and what you all do.
Roman: American Constitutional Rights Union was started 20 years ago as the American Civil Rights Union to stand up to the ACLU that had seemed to abandon constitutional principles and become an arm of the radical left.
It was started by Reagan folks, [a] Reagan adviser named Bob Carlson, who worked for him when he was governor. And then when President [Ronald] Reagan went to Washington, he went with him; he’s known as the father of modern welfare reform. And then a name that you will find very familiar at [The Heritage Foundation], Attorney General Edwin Meese, was one of the founding board members of what was then the American Civil Rights Union and is now the American Constitutional Rights Union.
So we stand up for the Constitution and often you’ll see us litigating on voting integrity issues and often on First and Second Amendment issues. But if it’s about constitutional rights, we’re all over it.
Allen: We certainly appreciate the work that you all do. And my goodness, right now is certainly a critical time for that work.
There’s so much unrest in the nation right now and it seems like a lot of that anger is being directed toward America’s statues. We’ve seen many Confederate statues defaced, but also statues of Ulysses S. Grant, George Washington, even a statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass was torn down in New York. But the American Constitutional Rights Union is trying to protect these pieces of history. Can you tell me a little bit about how you all are doing that?
Roman: Well, it hasn’t been that long ago, just a week or so ago, we noticed that there weren’t very many public officials who were willing to stand up against the rampaging mobs and the rioters and defend America and our monuments and our history.
So we started this project called Protect Monuments, and you can find it at protectmonuments.org, to really push public officials and give the grassroots an opportunity to have a mechanism to push their own public officials to take a stand against rampaging mobs.
We can’t have discussions and solve problems as a country if we allow lawlessness and mobs to frame every single debate, it’s just not productive. There are many problems we could work on together if we thought the radical left really would be serious about working on these solutions.
But we believe that the destruction of the monuments is just a means to an end by a few factions of very radical leftists and Marxists who want to tear down the country. They want to demean and demoralize Americans and they want to create a new Marxist version of America. And we can’t let it happen.
It is true that monuments are just a symbol of all this, but if you allow lawlessness and mobs, you’ll keep getting more lawlessness and mobs. So it’s time for public officials to stand up.
So we want Americans to go to protectmonuments.org, sign a petition in support of the monuments, and then get your public official to download our pledge for public officials and send it to your public official and say, “We want you to get out from behind your desk, stop quivering behind your desk, and come out and protect America.”
And if we all do that, perhaps we can graph some of the backbone of the American people into some of our cowardly leaders. And I do not include President [Donald] Trump in that, he has been fantastic on the monuments.
Allen: So what is the response this petition has received so far?
Roman: Well, yesterday was the first day we blasted it out. We sent it out to over 10,000 public officials across the United States, just yesterday. Some are signing the pledge, those are starting to trickle in. We have Americans signing the petition. …
We also have a hotline, a tip line so that people can call us or email us and let us know if there is a statue being destroyed or lawlessness and mobs ruling in your area. Let us know who the cowardly public officials are, we’re not afraid to name them and shame them.
Allen: If you would allow me just for a moment to kind of play the pessimist, if you will. I think sometimes we see petitions and these calls for action, but it can be really hard to turn that signing your name on a piece of paper into movement forward, into action. So how do you all plan to ensure that those leaders who are being called upon to take a stand will actually follow up their words with action?
Roman: It is true. These days, people are afraid to sign petitions and put their names to things. And that is one of the unfortunate consequences of allowing mobs and lawlessness in our country. And that’s a sad fact.
But even if no one signs a petition on our website and even if public officials don’t hear too much … directly from their constituents, which we hope they will, we’re going to keep pushing them, we’re going to keep sending them emails. We are going to keep placing ads and running ads and we are going to put out press releases and social media to shame those who are too cowardly to stand up for America.
So we have other means if American citizens are really not feeling comfortable sending things directly, then we have other means. And those are very public means to call up public officials and say, “Stand up to mob looting and lawlessness, protect the statues. That’s a symbol, but it is part of a bigger problem of allowing destruction and violence in our country, that is very alarming.”
What we know is that as long as we’re spending time with violence and destructive acts, we cannot have productive conversations about the things that we need to have productive conversations about. Which leads me to believe that the radical left and the Marxists behind this are using many young people, using, in some instances, the ignorance of young people who are doing crazy things like putting down the statues of abolitionists. They don’t know what they’re doing, they have not been educated.
And I believe they’re being used by very dark forces who are trying to promote Marxism. And they’re using young people who don’t know exactly what they’re doing, who are getting caught up in the frenzy. And I think that’s very sad, but we need to stand up to those forces who are in many cases using people who do not know that they’re really being used by people who want to overthrow America as we know it.
Allen: You mentioned having a conversation and I think that, at the end of the day, both sides want that. You have this radical fraction that you mentioned that doesn’t want to talk, they just want to burn things and tear things down. But I think when we actually get down to the root of what this conflict is about, there’s a desire on both sides of the aisle to actually sit down and have that productive conversation. Do you think that’s true?
Roman: I think that’s certainly true. And if you go to our website, protectmonuments.org, you will see a quote there from Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., who has always been a great and calming voice, asking for us to have productive dialogues and civil discussions and to love and forgive one another. She is encouraging people to work out our problems and our solutions without destroying property.
So it’s important that we look to leaders like that who are willing to lead civil discussions, who are willing to follow the plan and the example of her uncle Martin Luther King Jr. to have peaceful resistance when we feel the need for resistance in our country, that we encourage peaceful protest when we feel the need for protest in our country, and certainly we encourage that.
… The purpose of peaceful protest is to get us to the point where we can have civil discussions and solve problems together legislatively or culturally. And that can’t happen as long as we’re allowing lawlessness to rule. Martin Luther King Jr., he understood that and we’re thankful for his example. But I see not enough people in our country who are willing to stand up and follow his example, thankful for Alveda King, the way she has done it.
Also on our website, you’ll see Lt. Col. Allen West and Ambassador and former Secretary of State of Ohio Ken Blackwell, all of us urging people to stop the destruction, let’s have a peaceful dialogue.
After George Floyd’s death, there were polls that ranged between 84% and 97% of Americans agreed that that was police brutality, it was excessive, and that was a problem we needed to solve. Imagine, Americans don’t agree on anything to that level, that would have been a wonderful starting point to have peaceful and wonderful and productive dialogue together about police brutality.
And when it happens, of course, we support the majority of police who do not engage in such activity. But we’re perfectly willing to have, as Americans, a discussion about how we make things better and make sure that things like that never happen again.
That could have happened, but public officials and others allowed us to get to the point where lawlessness ruled and we cannot solve problems in this situation. So let’s stop the lawlessness, let’s stop the destruction, and then let’s focus on having some dialogues on what we need to improve in our country.
I think America has always been great about that. Always looking for ways to more fully live up to the ideals in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. So we hope people will go to protectmonuments.org, help us stop the mobs and start the discussion.
Allen: When do you think it maybe is appropriate for a statue to be moved to a different location because maybe it is highly offensive to some people?
Roman: Well, as long as we’re having civil discussions and we’re voting on things as Americans, I think we all feel pretty comfortable if there’s a legal and civil process going on to make these decisions. I think none of us feel comfortable when it’s done in haste, when it’s done because we’re being bullied by someone or pressured by someone.
But if we can let cooler heads prevail and we can have discussions and not rush into things, I’m sure there are situations where communities will decide that they may want to move a statute or they might want to put it in a museum, or they might realize that maybe some context needs to be put in a plaque next to it.
Those are all things I think, as Americans, we could agree on in a civil way and we’re perfectly open to that, but let’s not do it because of a frenzy that’s being created, where we’re not really thinking about the long-term effects of erasing some of our history.
I am the great-great-granddaughter of a man, my great-great-grandfather, … who served as a volunteer in the Union Army and was wounded and captured and sent to the most brutal Southern prison camp at Andersonville. So I grew up not having great, fun stories being told to me about the war.
And every Memorial Day, my family would take me to the grave of my great-great-grandfather and tell me the story of his wound and his capture at Lovejoy Station in Georgia and how he happily volunteered to be a part of the Union Army.
So I often think if I met the great-great-granddaughter of the person who shot my great-great-grandfather, would I have any ill will toward her? And the answer is no, I absolutely wouldn’t. Would I love to see a statue maybe of her great-great-grandpa who shot my great-great-grandpa, probably wouldn’t love it, but I wouldn’t destroy it.
If my kids went and saw such a thing, I think I would use it as a learning opportunity. I would talk to them about the war, I would tell our family story, but never in my wildest dreams would I think of taking out a sledgehammer and destroying it.
Allen: Lori, so much of what you’re saying I think goes back to that root of education, to having those conversations about America’s history with our kids when they’re young, when they’re teens, and being honest that, yes, there are parts of America’s history that obviously are dark, but we also have to look at how far we’ve come as a nation.
It just seems so critical to really, especially right now, be thinking about, “OK, how do we maybe rethink civics education in our schools and make sure that it’s being taught really well?”
Roman: Well, one of the things I’ve noticed is the United States is very forgiving. We go to war with different countries and then we forgive and we move on and we even help them rebuild. We’re not as forgiving it seems with our own fellow Americans.
The U.S. has been on a journey and I believe that we are constantly striving toward the ideals of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, but it’s a process. And as Americans, I think we need to focus on forgiveness, we have to forgive our ancestors at some point and move on and say, “It’s up to our generation to continue to look for solutions in a civil and productive way, not a destructive way, but a civil and productive way.”
I wish we would just have more folks stand up along the lines and the example of Martin Luther King Jr. And we’re looking for public leadership, but protectmonuments.org, if you’re a public official and you want to stand up and say, “I’m here, I want to lead a discussion, I want to provide leadership in stopping lawlessness, but looking for solutions, we’re happy to work with you, we can’t wait.”
But we’re calling out public officials, please come forward, stop the lawlessness, and help us start the discussion. We’re looking for leaders.
I did a radio show earlier this morning with a delegate in Maryland who helped fish out the statue of Columbus out of the harbor the other day, after it was dumped in there, and who is sponsoring legislation to protect historic monuments in the state of Maryland. That’s the kind of leaders we need.
And the leaders who think they can hide behind their desk or under their desk and wait until this blows over, it’s not going to blow over. When you allow mobs, you get more mobs. When you promote civil discussion, you get more civil discussion. It’s time to come out from under the desks and fight for America, protecting our history while still solving our problems together in a civilized way.
Allen: So what are one or two practical actions that our listeners can take today?
Roman: Well, protectmonuments.org. There’s three, really four things you can do. You can sign a petition in support of protecting monuments, the more names that are on there, the more weight we have when we go to public officials and say, “Folks want you to protect monuments.”
The other thing they can do is download the public officials pledge and send it to their public official and put some pressure on them, “I want you sign the pledge.” They need to hear from their constituents that there is a real desire to stop lawlessness and protect property.
The third thing they can do is donate to the cause, there’s a donate button there, donate and help us protect monuments.
And the fourth thing is they can go there to our hotline and they can report if there are problems in their community, if you think the public officials in your community are allowing the monuments to be destroyed without protection.
And if they are letting rioting and destruction rule the streets, we want to hear from you, tell us who’s doing it. We’ll name them and shame them, we’ll run ads, we’ll do press releases. We will call them out on social media and on radio and ads and let us know.
So four things they could do if they want, is they go to protectmonuments.org, but we could sure use your help. Let’s all stand up together and protect America from lawlessness and mobs ruling. That’s not who’s supposed to rule, we’re all supposed to rule and it’s time for us to stand up for ourselves.
Allen: Lori, thank you so much for joining the show and telling us about the petition and the work that you all are doing.
Roman: Thank you so much. Thanks for the time. Thanks for all your great work.
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