More than 500 people turned out for a public forum at Bradley University on the subject of hate groups and the proliferation of hateful acts.
Southern Poverty Law Center Outreach Director Lecia Brooks was the featured speaker. She says the sharp increase in acts of hate are real. She says the First Amendment protects all but people should sit idly by when hate speech comes up:
“Stand up and say together with one loud voice: ‘This is not right! This is not who we are! This not who we will be!’ That doesn’t require a direct confrontation with the other side,” Brooks said. “It requires a clear and consistent voice that we reject this notion of white supremacy.”
Brooks says the role colleges and universities play is also important to ensure young adults have exposure to different perspectives as well as critical thinking.
“Universities can and should invite true conservative speakers, true academics, people who are published to come and speak about the politics of conservative government,” Brooks said. “But don’t conflate those with these speakers who are on the extreme far right.”
She says it was no mistake the rally at University of Virginia was called ‘Unite the Right.’ But she says it’s up to those on the right to make sure hate groups are not allowed to identify with a legitimate political party.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says there are 917 active hate groups in the country. 32 are located in Illinois. The Peoria area is home to Anti-Semitic, Anti-Muslim and Anti-LGBT groups with organized Neo-Nazi groups recognized in Canton and Bloomington.
Click here for the Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Map
The Southern Poverty Law Center forum on hate was the effort of Clare Howard with Community Word and Bradley's Department of Sociology & African-American Studies Program.