AG Garland praises US laws allowing his family and Jews to live without fear of persecution

Attorney General Merrick Garland delivered personal and immensely emotional remarks on Thursday at the Anti-Defamation League’s “Never is Now” summit where he spoke of his family who escaped Eastern Europe and those who died in the Holocaust. 

Garland received standing ovations and cheers as he spoke to the audience, his voice filled with emotion. 

Garland, who spent last weekend in Selma, Alabama to commemorate the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, highlighted the ADL members who joined with civil rights leaders in their march from Selma to Montgomery. 

“For over a century, this organization has stood firmly in defense of the civil rights and safety of American Jews. At the same time, ADL has stood firmly in defense of the civil rights and safety of all Americans,” Garland said. 

The importance of the ADL post-October 7

Garland said the ADL’s mission has come into clearer focus since October 7, as there’s been a “stunning increase” in the volume and frequency of threats against Jews and Jewish institutions across the United States. 

Garland praised the ADL for upholding its tradition of combating all hate in standing up for members of the Muslim, Arab and Palestinian communities. 

U.S. President Joe Biden meets with his Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, to mark the 51st anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2024. (credit: EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/REUTERS)

No person or community should have to live in fear of hate-fueled violence, Garland said. 

“That is why, in the wake of the October 7 attacks, I directed all of our US Attorneys’ Offices and all of our FBI Field Offices to meet with local law enforcement and community leaders to strengthen our response to threats of hate-fueled violence,” Garland said “We are aggressively investigating and prosecuting all such threats. And we will continue to do so.”

American democracy promises all people will be protected in the exercise of their civil rights, freedom to worship and think, and in the peaceful expression of their opinions, beliefs and ideas, Garland said.

“My family fled the pogroms of Eastern Europe at the start of the 20th century. My grandmother, who was one of five children born in what is now Belarus, made it to the United States, as did two of her siblings. The other two did not. They were killed in the Holocaust,” Garland said. “If not for America, there is little doubt that the same would have happened to my grandmother. But this country took her in. And under the protection of our laws, she was able to live without fear of persecution.”

Garland also spoke of his wife, whose mother escaped Vienna after Hitler invaded in 1938. 

The protection of US laws also allowed her to live without fear of persecution, he said. 

“Ensuring the protection of law for all of our country’s citizens has been the responsibility of every generation in our country’s history. Today, it is our responsibility. It is the responsibility of the Department of Justice. It is my responsibility as Attorney General. It is the responsibility of every American,” Garland said. “We must protect each other.”

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