eilonwy2017: (Default)
What set me off yesterday, I think, was the glibness of conversation happening around the twp/nazis invading Pikeville and how my colleagues were ignoring that, and yet rushing to talk about safety concerns due to antifa/ara. I sat there in the faculty meeting, arms crossed, realizing my body language was getting more and more defensive but just so angry that I couldn't bring myself to care.

I know being angry all day / kicking a wall due to "presidential glibness" is overreaction. Please see my previous post to see my struggle to articulate the event.

Anyway, to follow up, the university president has posted the following on our website and it is MUCH more evenhanded and better in tone and reassuring about not welcoming (or ignoring) the kinds of ideology that brings the twp here. (I ... don't know how to make an LJ-cut, 'cuz this isn't LJ. Sorry.... Stop reading here if you're not interested and visit me for my next post...)

from the university president...
When my wife and I moved to Pikeville, Kentucky, we were immediately impressed with the kindness and hospitality of the people who call this region of the country home. Our little town is warm, safe, and has a charm that one would expect from a village nestled in the mountains on the edge of the south. Our university has been in this place for more than 125 years. We are blessed with caring, expert faculty in the arts and sciences, humanities and professions. Our medical school is exceptional and our new optometry college is highly innovative. Our university is diverse and welcoming. We have students, faculty and staff from across the country and around the world. Faces of all colors walk our streets, work in the local hospital and study on our hilly campus. We love it here.

It now appears obvious that this weekend we will be invaded by people who want to bring hatred, fear, and violence to our part of the world.

By now, you have probably heard about the rally sponsored by the Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP) that is scheduled for this Saturday in downtown Pikeville. They were not invited to our town and are not welcome on our campus. They chose to visit Pikeville for their own reasons, contacted the city, and were granted the right to assemble in our courthouse square. Groups of all sorts come to this same location in Pikeville. The city does its best to provide a safe place for free speech to occur, regardless of the political agenda. According to several reputable sources, the TWP is a Neo-Nazi organization that has a strong racist platform. If you have doubts about the truth of that statement, look them up online. Though violence tends to follow this group, they seem to be expert in provoking rather than being violent.

As a university founded by Presbyterian ministers, we have worked hard to build and maintain a tradition of a hospitality toward everyone, therefore, we utterly reject racism in all of its forms.

In fact, one of our students partnered with another student from the region to create a counter protest. They contacted the city and reserved the city park for their event. The Rally for Equality and American Values (REAV), was to be a family friendly alternative located just a few blocks from the TWP rally. They gathered significant financial support and had generated significant enthusiasm in the community. The hope was to have an event that would show the true spirit of Pikeville - family, equality, and peace - as a contrast to the rally at the courthouse.

There were some concerns for safety. Would the TWP leave the courthouse and walk the five blocks to the park? Would a shouting match ensue? At a meeting between the organizers for the REAV and myself, we determined that if they moved to our campus we could help them increase the distance from the TWP. While the REAV was never an official university event, it did closely align with our mission and values.

Over the last week or so, it has become apparent that at least two other groups are now planning to come to Pikeville. Anti-Racist Action (ARA) and Anti-Fascist Action (ANTIFA) have both made it known that they plan to send contingents to Pikeville this weekend to protest against the TWP. At first glance, it might appear that these two groups would be more closely aligned with the REAV and university positions, but you must look deeper. These two groups are vehemently opposed to the TWP, but their tendency to incite violence causes me grave concern. Review their history online and you will discover that their form of confrontation is usually not peaceful.

As a university founded by Presbyterian ministers we have worked hard to build and maintain a tradition of a hospitality toward everyone, therefore, we utterly reject violence. Indeed, racism is a form of violence that is insidious.

This week, in meetings with city officials, law enforcement, and others whose job is to watch these kinds of events we have come to the conclusion that the presence of the TWP, ARA, and ANTIFA in downtown Pikeville presents a real danger to the peace of our town. The likelihood of a violent conflict between these groups is too significant to ignore. When presented with this information, organizers of the peaceful, family oriented REAV gathering on our campus determined it was in the best interest of safety to postpone their event.

If you have ever been to Pikeville, you would understand. We have limited parking here because we live in a narrow valley. It is impossible to keep crowds separated when there are large events that occur simultaneously. The risk posed by bringing peace-loving families into the same parking garage with the TWP, ARA, and ANTIFA was simply too great.

The university agrees with the decision to postpone the Rally for Equality and American Values. We think it was the right decision for this day, but we wholeheartedly support their goal. We hope that in the weeks to come we can work to bring a peaceful event to our region that celebrates our diversity and upholds our values.

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