Free Speech & Peace

A letter regarding political violence

January 7, 2021

Dear friends,

Yesterday was a sobering reminder of the importance of the work you do every day to heal our country’s deep divisions.

Watching yesterday’s assault on our country’s Capitol, we were horrified. As Stand Together CEO Brian Hooks wrote, the violence that erupted was “the shameful and predictable consequence of reckless and dishonorable actions to overturn the voters’ clear decision in this election. And it represents the polar opposite of the values upon which our country was built.” Violence is never the answer.

I’m grateful now, more than ever, for your partnership. While our current state of affairs may feel like an insurmountable challenge, the reality is that each of you and your respective organizations have spent years preparing for a moment like the one we’re facing today.

It’s with your help that we look to begin the important tasks of preventing future violence, building more resilient communities, and healing the deep social fractures that were widened by yesterday’s events. It’s not enough to prevent harm — we must begin the healing process.

While that’s a lot of work to do, thankfully we have resources to get us started. Over the last three years, Project Over Zero and the Democracy Fund have conducted extensive research regarding a “resilience-based” approach to preventing political and identity-based violence. Their initial findings are presented in this report, which offers a roadmap of what’s needed from this community and our country’s leaders in the days ahead.

Foundational research and its real-world application are driving impact, as well. Faculty at universities across the country are undertaking research to discover proven cures to intolerance and guiding solutions advanced by practitioners in the field. To support at-risk communities and provide a foundation for coordinated response in the event of future violence, organizations such as the Bridging Divides Institute at Princeton are testing and scaling resources like a map of more than 3,000 community-level organizations that are ready and willing to make a difference. Over the last year, BDI’s tools have played a crucial role in enabling communities to come together and support one another throughout a very heated election cycle and summer of reckoning on racial justice.

When it comes to healing our country’s fractured social fabric, we all have a role to play. Let us know how you’re responding to this moment in the coming days, and as always, let us know how we can help.

In peace,

Sarah Ruger
Director of Free Expression, Stand Together Trust