WILTON, Conn. — State Sen. Toni Boucher, a Republican, said the events in Charlottesville over the weekend "both saddened and angered me."
The largest group of white supremacists and neo-Nazis to gather in a decade descended on the Virginia college town. They were protesting plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Hundreds of others then arrived to counter-protest.
It turned deadly after a car plowed into a crowd of peaceful counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 19. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency. Also, a Virginia state trooper and a pilot died in the crash of a police helicopter that was monitoring the event.
"It has been difficult to process those violent images," said Boucher, a Republican who represents Westport, Wilton, Ridgefield and Redding and parts of Bethel,, New Canaan and Weston in the state Senate.
During World War II, Boucher's aunt, grandparents and two first cousins were left behind in Italy on the family farm. "The German soldiers came through and devastated the farm," Boucher said in a statement. "They terrorized my family, killed their livestock, and destroyed their home."
American soldiers came through and made repairs, she said. "My family has loved and been grateful to America and the liberty, freedom, and tolerance it represents ever since," Boucher said.
"I never thought I would see Nazis marching in the streets of America in my, my children’s, and now my grandchildren’s lifetime. It has shaken me to the core," Boucher said.
"I am proud to say that Connecticut has a long history of civil activism and the creation of organizations that have been key players in creating an America that promotes and defends freedom, liberty, and the civil rights of all people," she said. "Connecticut is called the constitution state because it proclaimed in 1639 that the colony would be a government by the free will of its people and not the King of England. This was a very courageous thing to do at that time."
Boucher also pointed to the role of Connecticut and its people in eradicating slavery and promoting civil rights.
"In a unanimous and bipartisan fashion this year, the General Assembly passed one of the strongest hate crimes laws in the country. This law will protect all citizens of our state no matter their religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, or nationality," she said.
"Unfortunately, Connecticut also has been home to some extremist groups during its history, but groups whose beliefs are intolerant and contrary to normal human sensibilities have not flourished here.
"Any group that professes hate, bigotry, exclusion, and violence should never be tolerated in our state or our country. I would put on notice those who would do harm in any way because of their prejudiced beliefs. Connecticut can and will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. We have zero tolerance — period."
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