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U.S. Gets 'Early Warning' from UN Committee to Confront 'Racist Manifestations'

DeAndre Harris is assaulted in a parking garage beside the Charlottesville police station by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, 2017. (Zach D. Roberts via AP)

A United Nations panel in the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights has called on the United States to abide by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and take concrete measures “to address the root causes of the proliferation of such racist manifestations.”

“We are alarmed by the racist demonstrations, with overtly racist slogans, chants and salutes by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, promoting white supremacy and inciting racial discrimination and hatred,” said UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) Chairwoman Anastasia Crickley on Wednesday.

The body was acting under its early warning and urgent action procedure, which is “aimed at preventing existing situations escalating into conflicts and urgent procedures to respond to problems requiring immediate attention to prevent or limit the scale or number of serious violations of the Convention.”

The last country to get an early warning from the committee was Burundi in 2016. In 2006, the U.S. got a warning to protect Native American rights and not privatize Western Shoshone ancestral lands for energy development.

The warning cites the death of Heather Heyer in the Aug. 12 Charlottesville protest as well as the videotaped beating of Deandre Harris by a group of white supremacists. Harris, a 20-year-old special-education assistant, suffered multiple injuries and continues to receive threats. Gov. Terry McAuliffe “wants to see arrests and prosecutions” in the attack on Harris, according to a spokesman.

The document states the UN committee is “disturbed by the failure at the highest political level of the United States of America to unequivocally reject and condemn the racist violent events and demonstrations led by the aforementioned groups, thereby potentially fueling the proliferation of racist discourse and incidents throughout the State party, and deeply concerned by the example this failure could set for the rest of the world.”

The U.S. government, the document continues, should “not only to unequivocally and unconditionally reject and condemn racist hate speech and racist crimes in Charlottesville and throughout the country,” but also “actively contribute to the promotion of understanding, tolerance, and diversity between ethnic groups, and acknowledge their contribution to the history and diversity of the United States of America.”

It recommends that the U.S. government “identify and take concrete measures to address the root causes of the proliferation of such racist manifestations, and thoroughly investigate the phenomenon of racial discrimination targeting in particular against people of African descent, ethnic or ethno-religious minorities, and migrants” as well as “ensure that the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly are not exercised with the aim of destroying or denying the rights and freedoms of others, especially the right to equality and non-discrimination, and that the Government of the United States of America provide the necessary guarantees so that such rights are not misused to promote racist hate speech and racist crimes.”

In September, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned of “weaponized” populism perpetuated by Donald Trump, Geert Wilder and Nigel Farage that makes the atmosphere “thick with hate; at this point it can descend rapidly into colossal violence.”