The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is apologizing after tweeting a photo that many people perceived as being racist.
The photo, posted on Aug. 23, shows a white toddler wearing a "Free Speech" onesie while holding an American flag, accompanied by the caption: "This is the future that ACLU members want."
The tweet was widely condemned by social media users who accused the ACLU of racism.
"Now I see why you worked so hard for the neo Nazis in Charlottesville," one user tweeted, referring to the "Unite The Right" rally held in that city on Aug. 13.
The rally, which the Southern Poverty Law Center described as "largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States," attracted thousands from neo-Nazi groups, the Ku Klux Klan and other far-right organizations, as reported by The New York Times.
It ended with the declaration of a state of emergency, following the violence which culminated in multiple injuries and one death.
The city had tried to move the rally to a park a mile away from Charlottesville's Emancipation Park, notes Common Dreams.
However, the ACLU and the Rutherford Institute successfully argued that Charlottesville was "discriminating against protesters who espouse highly controversial views and blocking their access to a historic downtown park while allowing counterdemonstrators access to parks in the vicinity," and the rally was allowed to continue as planned.
The ACLU justified its defense of the racists who organized the rally on the grounds of free speech.
As explained on the organization's website, "For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been our nation’s guardian of liberty, working in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country."
As for the ACLU's controversial tweet of the picture, the group said that it was merely an advertisement for a line of clothing. "The future we want is babies in ACLU onesies," the organization said, explaining the intended message of the ad. "For more cute ACLU babies, follow us on Instagram!"
But the group took the backlash against its legal defense of the "Unite the Right" protestors more seriously, announcing that it would no longer immediately vindicate groups that bring guns to demonstrations.
"The events of Charlottesville require any judge, any police chief, and any legal group to look at the facts of any white-supremacy protests with a much finer comb," Anthony Romero, the ACLU's executive director, told The Wall Street Journal, as quoted by Common Dreams.
"If a protest group insists, 'No, we want to be able to carry loaded firearms,' well, we don't have to represent them. They can find someone else," he added.
However, the ACLU denied that it was responsible for the violence at the rally, reports CNBC.
In a statement, ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire G. Gastanaga said: "But let's be clear: our lawsuit challenging the city to act constitutionally did not cause violence nor did it in any way address the question whether demonstrators could carry sticks or other weapons at the events."