Tuesday, November 26, 2002

How to behave when the haters come to town

This past Saturday we had a rally by three notoriously violent hate groups. There was no violence, and the editors of the Journal Sentinel published an editorial today discussing why, and why that's good. I couldn't find a url for it yet, so I'm transcribing it from my paper copy right here. Things like this make me proud of this great city I'm bound to pray for.

from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial page today, 26 Nov 2002:
Using the Creative Broom

Milwaukee has shown how to respond when apostles of hate preach their message of intolerance in public. First, the city deserves credit for what it did not do --- namely, try to deny a podium to the hate groups that soiled the steps of the federal courthouse Saturday. Such an instinctive reaction, called for by some residents, would have undermined the principle of free speech and the right to assemble, which help make America strong.

More speech, not censorship, is the answer. Accordingly, in the days before the hate rally, some residents let a placard do the talking. The placard, displayed in windows, showed a circle with a slash over the word "hate."

As for the event itself, residents divided over tactics. Some chose to send a message by staying away; others chose to send a message by attending a counterdemonstration. Which strategy was more effective is debatable. The counterprotest did carry the risk of a clash, which would have harmed the cause of racial tolerance. But no melee materialized here, as it has elsewhere. The leaders of the counterdemonstration and the police deserve credit for keeping the peace.

Finally, on Sunday, a multiracial and multicultural group of Milwaukeans showed marvelous creativity in their response. With brooms in hand, about 250 people swept the federal steps, symbolically cleansing it of the bigotry from the day before. Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan sprinkled holy water on the steps "to reclaim this section of [God's] vineyard," and an African cleansing ritual was performed.

Make no mistake about it, the sponsors of Saturday's rally --- the Ku Klux Klan, the National Socialist Movement, and the World Church of the Creator --- advocate terrorism in pursuit of their cause. The Klan boasts a long history of lynchings, mutilations, and other acts of violence designed to instill fear among African-Americans and others. The National Socialists follow Nazism, responsible for monstrous crimes against humanity. The World Church, the relatively new hate group on the block, has been linked to contemporary acts of violence.

In other words, these are vile organizations that left behind a smelly residue that needed to be swept away.

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