Under this country’s legal system, anyone accused of a crime is innocent until proved guilty.
That rule is intended to safeguard individual civil rights and prevent miscarriages of justice. It is wise, it is fitting, it is foundational to our American liberties.
But with that truth always in mind, it also remains necessary to condemn those in this nation who would dishonor our democracy, thwart our liberties and endanger our persons through racist threats and violence.
We’re talking about the criminal charges of cyberstalking and racist threats allegedly made by a Florida man against a black Charlottesville activist who had planned to run for office.
Courts have not determined whether Daniel McMahon of Tampa, Florida, is guilty of those charges.
But it is enough to know that such despicable threats are possible in our society, and even are on the rise. In order to take a stand against such threats, it is enough to know that too many people are making such vile statements. It is enough to know that too many people are acting on their threats and perpetrating violence.
In addition to general threats on social media, Mr. McMahon allegedly used social media accounts to intimidate Don Gathers as he prepared to run for Charlottesville City Council, according to a recently unsealed indictment.
You might remember the surprise and consternation earlier this year when Mr. Gathers resigned from the Charlottesville Civilian Police Review Board and announced he was delaying his campaign for City Council. He cited an earlier heart attack and said he had recently learned of “recurring health issues.”
The indictment says that defendant McMahon used the internet and his social media accounts to threaten physical harm, intimidate and interfere with the campaign of someone identified as “D.G.” Instead of announcing his candidacy on Jan. 8, D.G. announced he would not seek public office, according to the indictment.
The initials, the timing, the description of events point to Mr. Gathers.
As we made clear at the start, Mr. Mahon is an innocent man at this moment. It will be up to the courts to say otherwise.
But even without knowing whether he broke the law as charged, we can still say that threats such as those described in the indictment are despicable.
Not only are they an affront against an individual American, they can be read as a form of verbal assault against African Americans.
But there’s more. They are an assault on our very way of life, and against the freedoms that our predecessors worked so hard to establish over difficult years, decades, even centuries.
Interfering with a campaign? Intimidating a candidate? Threatening someone for exercising his civic energies to further serve his city?
No one deserves that.
And a nation that is founded on freedom should never accept that. Such interference, wherever or however it surfaces, undermines and contradicts the very foundation of our democracy.
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