President Joe Biden will host a White House summit next month aimed at combating a spate of hate-fueled violence in the US, as he works to deliver on his campaign pledge to “heal the soul of the nation.”
The White House announced Friday that Biden will host the United We Stand Summit on Sept. 15, highlighting the “corrosive effects” of violence on public safety and democracy. Advocates pushed Biden to hold the event after 10 Black people were killed at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket in May, aiming as well to address a succession of hate-driven violence in cities including El Paso, Texas, Pittsburgh and Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
“As President Biden said in Buffalo after the horrific mass shooting earlier this year, in the battle for the soul of our nation ‘we must all enlist in this great cause of America,’” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. ”The United We Stand Summit will present an important opportunity for Americans of all races, religions, regions, political affiliations, and walks of life to take up that cause together.”
Biden will deliver a keynote speech at the gathering, which the White House says will include civil rights groups, faith leaders, business executives, law enforcement, gun violence prevention advocates, former members of violent hate groups, the victims of extremist violence and cultural figures. The White House emphasized that it also intends to bring together Democrats and Republicans, as well as political leaders on the federal, state and local levels to unite against hate-motivated violence.
Biden, a Democrat, has frequently cited 2017′s white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, with bringing him out of political retirement to challenge then-President Donald Trump in 2020. He promised during that campaign to work to bridge political and social divides and to promote national unity, but fulfilling that cause remains a work in progress.
Sindy Benavides, the CEO of League of United Latin American Citizens, said the genesis of the summit came after the Buffalo massacre, as her organization along with the Anti-Defamation League, the National Action Network and other groups wanted to press the Biden administration to more directly tackle extremist threats.
“As civil rights organizations, social justice organizations, we fight every day against this, and we wanted to make sure to acknowledge that government needs to have a leading role in addressing right-wing extremism,” she said.
The White House did not outline the lineup of speakers or participants, saying it would come closer to the event. It also would not preview any specific policy announcements by Biden. Officials noted Biden last year signed the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act and released the nation’s first National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism.
Benavides said Biden holding the summit would help galvanize the country to address the threats of hate-inspired violence but also said she hoped for “long-term solutions” to emerge from the summit.
“What’s important to us is addressing mental health, gun control reform, addressing misinformation, disinformation and malinformation,” she said. “We want policy makers to focus on common sense solutions so we don’t see this type of violence in our communities. And we want to see the implementation of policies that reduce violence.”