Rep. Albio Sires discusses violence at home and abroad

Vannozzi: This week, much of the national conversation has centered on terror attacks. Both at home in the form of racial terrorism in Charlottesville and abroad. Multiple attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, Spain killed 14 and left more than 100 injured as of Friday morning. President Trump swiftly condemned the Spain attacks claimed by the Islamic state. That’s in sharp contrast to his Charlottesville remarks blaming both left-wing and neo-Nazi groups for the violence. As a result, three democratic congressional members including New Jersey’s own Bonnie Watson Coleman introduced a censure measure against the president. So far, more than 75 U.S. Representatives have pledged support. One is with us now, Congressman Albio Sires.  Thanks for coming in to speak with us.

Sires: Good morning.

Vannozzi: So, we’ve got a lot to discuss, let’s start with the censure resolution. This is a very strong condemnation of the president’s remarks, but its ultimately symbolic in nature. What do you and your colleagues hope to accomplish by passing a resolution like this?

Sires: Well, we hope to accomplish, and what the president has to realize, is that his words were hurtful. He should not have equated the white-supremacists, the neo-Nazi groups with people who were there on a peaceful demonstration.

Vannozzi: When did you get word of the Charlottesville incident?

Sires: As soon as it happens, we usually get texts on the news on what’s going on so we stay informed. But the president, the way he handled it, this is just awful. There is no moral equality, there’s no comparing one with another. The history of the white-supremacist, the Nazis in this country is well-documented and I don’t think the president knows that. So, we equate that with the people who were there peacefully, and then we lost a life of a woman who was there peacefully to demonstrate.

Vannozzi: We see some movement now in efforts to remove some of these statues memorializing some of these figures. Do you support that move and talk to me about how those conversations are happening with you and your colleagues.

Sires: Well, I haven’t really spoken to my colleagues because as you know this is our break period, we will be back Sept. 6 in Congress. But, basically these statues were put up there in the 30s and the 40s to poke the African-American community alliance and say, ‘look, we have these people, we have these people and really those statues should be removed.’ Anything that’s legitimate history is fine, but when you have these statues that were put there just to insight and to bring back that horror part in our history, that’s wrong.

Vannozzi: You meant though by removing these, it also removes a piece of history. You don’t see it that way?

Sires: Not those statues. Those statues were put there for a purpose. That’s basically to poke an eye in the African-American community during a previous time in our country.

Vannozzi: Let’s back track and walk through what’s recently happened in Spain. The main suspect is still at-large. Police are still searching for the man who swerved his van into this very well-known promenade in Barcelona. Does it concern you that ISIS is continuing to plan and inspire these attacks around the world and what is the U.S. doing at home to protect us from something like this?

Sires: Well, it concerns me very much because we always have to be on the alert. I live across the street from the World Trade Center, I’ll never forget that day. That was one of the most awful days I’ve ever spent. And, we have to be on our guard all of the time, and unfortunately in Spain, they have been hit twice now.  The one with the train station and now this one in Barcelona and then we had the London one. I was just in London this summer and Puerto Rico on the bridge when the people were killed so I don’t know how you stop it and it’s very difficult unless you have the intelligence beforehand to operand these people to really stop one of these. So, we really have to work on our intelligence, we have to work on our readiness to make sure we deal with these terrorists.

Vannozzi: There are some larger media outlets drawing scrutiny because they’ve linked the Charlottesville incident with the attacks in Spain. The only link that I see is the fact that they’ve used a vehicle as their means of a weapon. Let’s talk about that. How do we stop that when a vehicle is something that’s very hard to defend against, you can have very easy access to it, you don’t need to have a driver’s license to get a vehicle, what do we do about that at home?

Sires: That is the question, it’s very difficult to stop somebody picking up a vehicle and going on fifth avenue and trying to run over people. So, we have to just be smart, work on our intelligence and figure out who some of these players are so we can be there before it happens. Otherwise, we are not going to be successful.

Vannozzi: You represent one of the most diverse congressional districts in New Jersey. What are you hearing from your constituents right now?

Sires: My constituents are very upset with how the president treated the whole. We went to different events over weekend and people are just complaining about the president. Last night, we were at the Puerto Rican Day dinner, they are having the parades on Sunday, and I was saying these groups think they are the ones that America was made of. America was made of all of the groups that came here. The blood and sweat help make America what it is today. All of the groups, whether its Latinos, whether it was blacks, whether it was Italians, this is the strength of this country. And people are complaining about the president, that he doesn’t call out these groups.

Vannozzi: I want to just touch briefly on this new poll, this CBS poll today that found 55 percent of Americans disapprove of the way President Trump handled his remarks concerning Charlottesville. What are you and other members talking about for when you do return so that we can prevent something like this? Do you see this happening in New Jersey, a situation like this or are we too far blue of a state to have some of these demonstrations take place?

Sires: I think demonstrations could take place anywhere, unfortunately. They think by getting a permit, they can have a demonstration. But, when you get a permit, you don’t get a permit to carry guns, you don’t get a permit to carry clubs, you don’t get a permit to have helmets.

Vannozzi: Certainly, that made Virginia a choice option.

Sires: Yes, this is what the president said, they had a permit and the other group did not have a permit. But, you don’t get a permit to carry guns and clubs and beat other people over the head with it. So, the president is wrong from the beginning. Do we equate that one had a permit and one did not? That’s just quite wrong.

Vannozzi: Congressman Albio Sires, thanks so much for coming in to speak with us.

Sires: Thank you very much.