After Charlottesville, George and Amal Clooney Spurred to 'Stand Up to Hate' With $1 Million to the SPLC

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George Clooney and his wife Amal Clooney at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 12, 2016. The couple's foundation announced a $1 million donation and collaboration with the SPLC to help combat hate after the events in Charlottesville. Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

The unabashed expressions of hatred, bigotry and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month—as well as President Donald Trump's apparent inability to unequivocally condemn the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who were spewing these sentiments—hit many spectators hard. That includes movie star George Clooney and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.

The foundation they established together, the Clooney Foundation for Justice, has pledged a $1 million donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center and will partner with the SPLC to bolster its efforts to combat hate.

"We are proud to support the Southern Poverty Law Center in its efforts to prevent violent extremism in the United States. What happened in Charlottesville, and what is happening in communities across our country, demands our collective engagement to stand up to hate," George and Amal Clooney said in a statement.

SPLC President Richard Cohen echoed the Clooneys' in his own statement. "Like George and Amal Clooney, we were shocked by the size, ugliness, and ferocity of the white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville," he said. "It was a reflection of just how much Trump's incendiary campaign and presidency has energized the radical right," he added, expressing his gratitude to the Clooney Foundation "for standing with us at this critical moment in our country's fight against hate."

The announcement included few other details beyond the size of the donation and the intended partnership, and promised that further information would be released at a later date. The Clooney Foundation tells Newsweek in an email that it has nothing more to announce at this point in the process beyond the grant.

"This gift was made in response to a very strong reaction to the sort of injustice that was represented by Charlottesville," Wendy Via, a spokesperson for the SPLC, tells Newsweek, confirming that the initiative was spurred directly by the recent events. "Exposing the dangers of white supremacy is obviously something the SPLC has worked on for decades," she added. "I think that there are a lot of really well meaning and informed people who are aware of the prevalence of white supremacy, but it takes unfortunately a tragedy like [the one in Charlottesville] to get it on the radar of the collective conscience."

Though Charlottesville is the recent watershed moment that demonstrated a heightened urgency to address hatred in the U.S., the climate has been building toward it for some time. "Since the election, or since the campaign I should say, there has been a much greater awareness in the country, recognizing the divisions our country faces," Via says, "sparking unfortunately a lot of hateful rhetoric, but sparking also a lot of good conversation."

The SPLC, a nonprofit civil rights organization founded in 1971 and based in Alabama, has long monitored domestic hate groups and other extremists, including 1,600 extremist groups operating in the U.S. Its fundamental mission is to fight hate, teach tolerance, create memorials and seek justice using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy. Immediately following the events in Charlottesville, it released " Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide," the PDF version of which Via says has been downloaded tens of thousands of times since.

Via believes the upcoming project with the Clooney Foundation will help the SPLC reach an even broader audience. Though the two groups are still working on crystallizing the form the project will take, it will "expand investigative work to track and expose the underbelly of the movement, not just the leaders but the participants as well," Via says. "Being able to expand the work and increase the capacity to do the work that's necessary," she adds, "that's a big deal."

After Charlottesville, George and Amal Clooney Spurred to 'Stand Up to Hate' With $1 Million to the SPLC | Culture