As soon as the Ku Klux Klan members made it known to Madison city police on July 11th that they planned on having a public rally at the Chautauqua Arts festival, members of the Hanover College community sprang into action.
Andre Nash, the associate director of multicultural affairs at Hanover, along with senior Benjamin Templeton scholars have been working hand in hand to formulate a plan of action for September 24th.
Nash explained the four options that students have that day for participating or to not participate in the on-site counter protest at Fireman’s Park in Madison.
The first option that Nash acknowledged that students could do is “to do absolutely nothing, and there is nothing wrong with that.” Nash did well to express that they understand that some if not most students would be highly uncomfortable being that close to KKK members and would rather be as far away from them as they could while doing other forms of protest.
With that in mind, option two is the daylong alternative events that are happening on campus on September 24th that focus on how we can make our campus better and more inclusive to minority groups.
Some of these events that will be happening on September 24th from 12 p.m. till 2 p.m., which is the same time as the KKK plans on being in Madison, include making personal collages, making your own prayer flags, and diversity bingo.
“These events were designed in mind so that the students who want to say something but they don’t want to say it out loud with a message that is associated with them for all of the campus to see, and that is entirely okay,” said Nash at the HAQ talk.
Once the students return from the rally that day there are also events planned for the evening. A solidarity march has been planned that ends at The Rock, “so that way we can end with reclaiming the rock,” Nash explained.
The Rock or Spirit Rock near the Horner Center has been a topic of heated debate among students this past year, inciting concepts of hate and non-acceptance to people of color and immigrants, with phrases like “Build the Wall” painted on it.
In the evening, there are plans of having a cookout that everyone is invited to.
Option three is the prayer vigil that is happening at the Broadway fountain in downtown Madison that is hosted by the Greater Madison Ministerial Alliance. This will also be happening in the same time frame of the KKK rally.
Option four is joining at the on-site counter-protest rally that Jefferson County United has formulated that will be happening in close range to the KKK rally. The KKK rally is planned to be at Fireman’s Park, which is at the intersection of Jefferson Street and E. Vaughn Drive.
“Andre’s slogan is always that he wants to be active instead of reactive,” said senior Benjamin Templeton Scholar Jazyln Stanciel when asked about what the first steps were taken when formulating a plan.
When the senior Benjamin Templeton Scholars were asked if they feel as though they were an integral part in the formation of this plan, they all agreed that the school and administrators really listened to what they had to say about that day and what events should transpire.
Nash made it clear that the point of that day was to “draw away from the ugliness and the hate that the KKK perpetuates with their rhetoric.” Nash wants students and community members to feel like the Hanover community and Madison community is a united force willing to accept anyone.
“It is a really powerful thing to see the campus and also the Madison/Jefferson County community unite as one, especially since we haven’t had the best relationship in the past, and come together and create this safe and inviting space,” said Stanciel.
Who is Jefferson County United?
Laura Arico, the former Chaplin for Hanover College, is one of the many organizers from the counter-protest group, Jefferson County United (JCU) that has formed in response to the KKK’s arrival in September. Arico gave an explanation of what the Jefferson County United stands for at the HAQ talk on September 14th in the Withrow Activities Center.
“We (JCU) commit ourselves to peacefully, productively, and visibly support and uphold the human dignity of all members of our community, and we commit to challenge our community to acknowledge its growing edges and work honestly toward reconciliation,” said Arico at the HAQ talk.
The question of why the KKK even chose Madison as the place to possibly recruit new members to their chapter in the first place, Arico said was the more important question facing the Madison community.
“If we unite and start asking these larger questions surrounding their decision to come here in the first place, we could truly start to challenge our selves and start to question the ways we have welcomed people of color, LGBTQ individuals, people of non-Christian faith, and the other members of society the KKK singles out in our own community. If we can ask those tough questions and answer them honestly, and ask what the experience of those people coming in to this community are; It’s possible that the opposite of what the KKK intended will happen in this community.”
There is a plan in place to have a “counter-protest” near the site of where the KKK members are planning to hold their rally, Arico and the JCU group has decided.
Arico highly stressed that this counter-protest would be a non-engaging protest and that their guiding principles for this protest are based off of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Six Principles of Nonviolence.”
“We don’t want to provide an audience for the KKK,” Arico said about how the overall manner of the counter-protest is going to happen.
“Essentially we are going to be throwing the better party,” said Arico to a question from a Hanover student who asked what kinds of activities can be expected to happen at the counter-protest.
At the public Jefferson County United meeting, that was held in the First Christian church in downtown Madison on September 13th, ideas were brought up of having a fun atmosphere that included music, banner signing, short presentations, making signs for unity and other forms of activity that are non-violent and non-engaging with the KKK members.
Law Enforcement’s Concerns
Jim Hickerson, director of campus safety, spoke first on behalf of the law enforcement that was at the HAQ talk.
Hickerson explained how when he served on the Indiana State police force he went to several KKK rally’s and had to protect them because of their constitutional right to freedom of speech. He made sure to express that no matter how antagonistic the KKK members get “do not let them steal your joy and prepare yourself for what you might hear.”
Chief Deputy Sheriff of the Jefferson County Police, Dave Thomas was there along with Indiana State Police Sergeant Adam Bullock who primarily gave advice on what students can expect to see at the KKK rally.
“Our biggest concern, obviously, is your guys safety,” said Sgt. Bullock.
“The main thing that the KKK members want from this rally is an audience who will listen,” said Sgt. Bullock. He encouraged students to do their “own thing”, implying that the best option that they see is for everyone to stay on campus and away from the on-site protest.
“The more people who show up to listen to what these guys have to say, the more they will say back to try to engage you and try to antagonize you,” said Sgt. Bullock.
When a Hanover student asked what actions the police would take if violence did break out, Sgt. Bullock would not divulge the specific actions his police officers would take but he did say that if anything did start to happen “you would need to get out of there as quickly as possible.”
There was no estimated amount given of how many police officers would be there exactly but Sgt. Bullock did say “that we will be a noticeable force there, so we will be prepared.”
The participants at the counter-protest rally could not have any signs that had sticks on them, because of the potential use of it as a weapon, said the officers at the JCU public meeting.
The KKK members could possibly have firearms, said Sgt. Bullock. If the officers see firearms, they will ask the KKK members to put them away in their cars, but obviously cannot force them too, especially if they have a permit to carry.
The KKK members will be gone by 2 p.m. because that is what they specified on their permit to the city of Madison, Sgt. Bullock. If the KKK members do decide to start marching, then they have every right to do so, said Sgt. Bullock.
Concerns of a possible “cross illumination” were also brought up in the JCU meeting. The officers said that if there were to be a “cross illumination” it would most likely happen on someone’s private property, in which case law enforcement could do nothing about.
At the end of the HAQ talk, Sgt. Bullock made sure that everyone understood that even though they have to defend these people based on their constitutional right to freedom of speech, doesn’t mean they want to.
The police force’s main concentration for that day is to keep everyone safe, said Sgt. Bullock. They highly stressed to the students that if they feel as if their lives are in danger then they should either tell an officer immediately or get out of there as quickly as possible.
President Lake Lambert came to the HAQ talk to show his support, as well as the Dean of Student Life, Dr. Dewain Lee.
President Lambert gave parting words of advice for the end of the talk, harkening back to the non-violence principles of Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “You have to ask yourself before you go to this event, what type of person are you? If you see yourself on the front lines, are you the type of person who can withstand hate and not respond with hate? This is the discipline of non-violence, and it’s not just what you want to do but what you are able to do.”
Caroline Beck is the current Editor-In-Chief for the Triangle. She is an English Major with an interest in Journalism and a minor in gender studies. She hopes to continue her journalistic work after Hanover and knows every single line to the Emperor’s New Groove movie and will recite them to you given the chance.