JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) - Get Report is pledging as much as $2 million to anti-extremist groups following a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that left three people dead and spurred a corporate backlash against President Donald Trump's reaction.
The largest U.S. lender plans to split $1 million between the Southern Poverty Law Center, formed in the 1960s to fight injustice against black Americans, and the Anti-Defamation League, founded five decades earlier to combat anti-Semitism, according to an employee memo obtained by TheStreet.
"The events in Charlottesville have increased the urgency to confront hate, intolerance and discrimination wherever it exists," Peter Scher, the firm's head of corporate responsibility, wrote in the memo. "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that 'the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.' But it will not bend on its own."
The Aug. 12 rally -- spurred by plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the general who led the armies of slave-holding states trying to leave the Union during the U.S. civil war -- both highlighted and inflamed racial tension in the country.
A counter-protestor, Heather Heyer, was killed, two Virginia troopers died in a helicopter crash, and Trump's subsequent statements that there was violence on both sides and that some of the alt-right supporters were "very fine people" prompted mass defections last week by business leaders serving on two advisory panels.
As the manufacturing and policy councils were deciding to disband on Wednesday, Aug. 16, Trump posted on social media site Twitter that he was dissolving the groups himself.
The president also condemned the removal of statues of Lee and other Confederate monuments as "foolish" and questioned whether activists would next seek to remove statues of George Washington, the first U.S. president, who owned slaves but freed them in his will.
JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, a member of Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum who supported disbanding the group, said in a memo obtained by TheStreet that he strongly disagreed with Trump's response to the violence in Charlottesville.
"Racism, intolerance and violence are always wrong," Dimon wrote. "It is a leader's role, in business or government, to bring people together, not tear them apart."
Along with JPMorgan's support of the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, it has committed $1 million for a two-to-one match of donations by its 250,000 employees to a variety of human and civil rights organizations. The bank also donated $50,000 a Charlottesville foundation.
As Elie Wiesel, an author and survivor of the Nazi Germany concentration camp at Auschwitz, said "'The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference,'" Scher wrote. "We won't be indifferent to the forces that would tear our country apart. The ties that bind us are too strong."
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Editors' Pick: Originally published Aug. 21.