A growing coalition of faith-based, ethnic, diversity and minority groups is spearheading a public rally against white supremacy efforts.
The coalition, called Not In Columbus, has been meeting since Oct. 12 to build a united front against hate groups claiming to have an organized presence in Columbus. It has organized the rally for 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday in the lecture hall of the Columbus Learning Center, 4555 Central Ave.
“We want to mobilize together to show people that no hate group of any kind — no group with white supremacy ideology — has any way to organize here,” said Brittany King, among key organizers of the weekend rally and an organizer of Black Lives Matter of Columbus.
Not In Columbus began meeting after two white supremacy groups came to the city.
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The Traditionalist Worker Party, labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a white nationalist group that advocates racially pure nations and communities, conducted a practice march down both sides of Washington Street downtown in early September. In late October, a group called Midwestern Alliance distributed posters at public locations in Columbus in support of its stated goal to establish a white ethnic state in Midwestern states.
Not In Columbus’ mission statement makes its purpose clear. Part of its says, “Not In Columbus will not be silent in response to hate. We will stand against those wishing to spread hate by word or deed.”
Saturday’s rally will include several speakers, but details still were being finalized among organizers. King said she expected to share some of a recent experience in which a local teenager saw her interviewed on an Indianapolis TV station about the hate posters. He then sent her a Facebook note addressing her with a racial slur and suggesting she kill herself.
One of the rally organizers is the Rev. Felipe Martinez, also a member of Not In Columbus and pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Columbus.
“This (rally) is not just a reaction to a particular situation,” Martinez said. “This is a response to something larger. We want to make sure this is a positive statement and a proactive statement about what the community as a whole needs to be, and is in favor of.
“And we are decrying the work of these (hate) organizations and groups and saying, ‘This is not fertile ground for you. This is fertile ground for inclusivity and community building.’ We will declare that. And I feel good about that,” he added.
He’s aware that a Midwestern Alliance leader said in October that that organization has followers in the Columbus area.
“The fact that some people in some places sometimes will have repugnant ideas is not something we can control,” Martinez said. “But the fact that we who have a view of an inclusive community can come together is something that can give encouragement and power to people who might be reticent to speak out.”
King said coalition members thought “things could get worse” with hate groups if a strong, public stance for inclusivity was not made.
“I think momentum (for good) is building,” Martinez said. “We are saying that a healthy community does not put up with this rhetoric (of hate). Diversity enriches and deepens the sense of community that we have. It’s about enriching the stew.”
Mayor Jim Lienhoop, involved in helping with the rally, mentioned that diversity’s benefits are multi-faceted.
“For starters, the business case for diversity is pretty compelling,” Lienhoop said. “We have a pretty robust economy in Columbus, and a lot of that is due to our immigrants that have come here and aided the workforce.
“And our education system becomes better when it’s grounded in diversity. Also, the cultural experience here is improved because of diversity, because it allows you to see something beyond just what you yourself are,” the mayor added. “And we all always have to remember that our ancestors came from somewhere else.”
“Not In Columbus is a coalition of organizations in Columbus, Indiana, who have formed an alliance to publicly reject the ideology of any group that seeks to divide and exclude any members of our community. We believe Columbus is an inclusive community that values diversity in all its forms, therefore we renounce all forms of hate in our city. White Supremacists, White Nationalists, Neo-Nazis (and any other group founded on discriminatory ideologies) are NOT welcome to use this town as grounds to recruit, indoctrinate, or mobilize our residents. Not in Columbus will not be silent in response to hate. We will stand against those wishing to spread hate by word or deed.”
What: The Not In Columbus coalition’s rally for inclusivity and against hate groups, such as those representing white supremacy
When: 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Lecture hall inside Columbus Learning Center, 4555 Central Ave.
Why: For community leaders to present a united front of celebrating diversity and fighting hate groups and racial, ethnic and religious intolerance
Current members are:
- African American Pastors Alliance
- Black Lives Matter of Columbus
- Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbus
- First Presbyterian Church
- Su Casa Columbus
- Bartholomew County Indivisible
- Islamic Society of Columbus Indiana
- Chinese Affinity Group
- Showing Up For Racial Justice
- Representative from the Columbus Hebrew congregation
- Hindu Society of Southern Indiana