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Penn State President, Student Political Organizations Respond to Charlottesville Events

by on August 15, 2017 12:05 AM

Penn State President Eric Barron on Monday condemned the hatred and violence stemming from a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., and stressed the university community's commitment to an inclusive, safe and open-minded environment.

Charlottesville, the home of the University of Virginia, was the site of the "Unite the Right" rally over the weekend, where white supremacist groups rallied to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. The groups clashed with counter-protestors, turning the weekend violent and deadly. 

"We watched people using hatred, bigotry and violence to intimidate and terrorize a peaceful community," Barron said in a statement. "I find it deeply disturbing to see fringe groups using a notable university community as a platform for their reprehensible actions. The result was a senseless loss of life and irreparable damage to innocent people — a tragedy for all."

Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when she was walking in the street with counter-protestors and a car allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr. rammed through the crowd. Nineteen others also were injured. Two Virginia State Police troopers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Berke M. M. Bates were killed in the crash of a helicopter that had been circling above the protests.

"I extend deepest sympathies to families of those impacted and our colleagues — the faculty, staff and students at the University of Virginia — and stand with them in condemning these expressions of prejudice and hate," Barron said. "We must unite in our support of society’s shared values of inclusivity, broad acceptance of differences, and peaceful exchange of opinions and ideas. I urge everyone to be a part of this process. We must not permit these acts of injustice and bigotry to go unchallenged."

He said that Penn State highly values free speech and peaceable assembly.

"We encourage civil discussion and engagement in discourse, and believe that a wide range of viewpoints strengthens us as a community... What we — and the world — saw in Charlottesville, Virginia, was none of those things."

Penn State's College Democrats and College Republicans both issued statements in the days since the 

The College Democrats "condemn[ed] the violent white supremacist rallies," and mourned the deaths of Heyer, Cullen and Bates.

"In the United States, no one should feel unsafe or unwelcome because of their race, ethnic background, or religion," the statement said. "White supremacy, anti-Semitism, and bigotry should have no place in this country. These ideas are vile and morally repugnant and cannot be endorsed by anyone who calls themselves a true American."

The statement, released Monday morning, was critical of President Donald Trump, who in his initial remarks on Saturday did not call out the white supremacist groups, but condemned hatred and violence "on many sides." Later in the day on Monday, Trump explicitly condemned white supremacist groups as "criminals and thugs and said they are "repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

The organization further urged students to be mindful of the activities of white supremacist groups on college campuses and to report harassment or violence.



The College Republicans were equally forceful in their condemnation of "the violence and ideology of the racist, white nationalist protestors in Charlottesville and all those across our nation who unfortunately share their deplorable provinciality, and hate.

"Nobody in our party or organization should acknowledge these individuals as anything better than dregs of our society..."

Promoting hate and using violence "are not conservative values," the group said. "Racism, white nationalism, bigotry or any other pseudonym for hate is abjectly illogical and disgusting in any context.

"It is not conservative, nor is it Republican to hold any idea which believes any person has any less intrinsic value than another," the statement said. "All those who say otherwise know not of our values, nor our principles."

The College Republicans also expressed sympathy for the families of those killed.

"Let these victims and their families not be forgotten as we fight the ills of hate together.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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