Eugene joins Springfield against racism
After the recent racially-motivated attack against a Springfield teenager, Lane County is fighting back. The City of Springfield, in alliance with the Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC), held a rally earlier this week at the Springfield Public Library to protest racism. At noon today the City of Eugene held its own event in support of Springfield and to demonstrate its dedication to a discrimination-free community.
Organized by CALC as well, the Eugene rally was held in front of the Eugene Public Library. Representatives from CALC, the city, and the local school districts took turns speaking to the gathering crowd. Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy kicked off the event.
“I’m sure everyone has other plans for this weekend,” Piercy said in her speech, “so it is very special that everyone came here today to make a statement against hate. The incident that brought us here happened in Springfield, but I know there are no borders on prejudice and bigotry. It affects us all in all parts of our community.”
Piercy said that, while hate crimes are something that local law enforcement deals with, hate speech is something that we as citizens can and must address.
“Hate crimes are the jurisdiction of the police,” she explained. “But hate speech? That is for all of us to address. We must let people know. Your job is to be an ally to those who encounter [hate speech]. That’s not who we are. The right way to respond to someone is to be a friend and make people feel safe.”
Colt Gill, Superintendent of the Bethel Public School District, also spoke.
“On behalf of our entire community,” Gill declared, “we want to take a stand together.”
Gill read selections from a joint statement prepared by community leaders, including the University of Oregon, the Eugene and Springfield School Districts, Lane Transit District, and Lane Community College. A full text will be available soon. The following is an excerpt:
“As leaders of our area’s 11 largest public agencies, we feel compelled to respond to the incident of racial intimidation that occurred in Springfield on Monday, May 28, 2012. We offer our heartfelt support for the young man who was targeted and for his family. We strongly condemn such behavior and firmly believe that intimidation and threats of violence have no place in our community. It is our hope those involved will realize the error of their actions, and make efforts to undo the prejudices that motivated them to their participate in this appalling act. We hope that one day they can join our citizens to help our community become a more welcoming and respectful place for all….
“We stand together, and ask you to join us, to make our communities safe and respectful places for everyone. Against, we ask, please stand up and speak up. Together, we can make our community safe and inviting for all.”
After the Eugene rally, CALC called upon all attendees to spread their red, Hate-Free Zone flyers around downtown. Similar to the end of the Springfield rally, volunteers were sent in small groups to ask local businesses to put the flyers in their windows.
Asked about Eugene’s support of Springfield in this recent matter, Mayor Piercy made clear that this rally demonstrates full and constant support.
“We are absolutely standing with Springfield,” Piercy said. We are very proud of them in how they responded to the incident. The fact is, hate has no boundaries. We are all dealing with racism on a constant basis. When we have an incident, whether it is here or in Springfield, Eugene will speak up. We have a high level of both internal and external non-discrimination policies. We immediately work with those who have encouraged hate crimes or speech. And we want to be an ally of anyone who has been impacted.”