To the editor:
I am writing this letter in response to a very revealing statement that the Auburn Sheriff David Cserep II made about the anti-KKK protestors in Auburn on April 3. In describing the protestors, he was quoted by The Journal Gazette as saying, “It was unclear, however, why a peaceful protest would need to carry AR-style weapons, radio communications, first aid responders and legal counsel on courthouse sidewalks.”
In reading this quote, I could not help but wonder why Cserep felt the need to make a statement of this nature, one very clearly intended to degrade or attack the people protesting against the KKK. To me, this statement reads as blatantly doubting the motives of people fighting against racism and hatred. Essentially, Cserep is saying that, by taking measures to defend themselves, they were expecting and potentially looking to cause violence.
Outside of the obvious fact that the KKK is a notoriously violent right-wing extremist group and people protesting against them would logically want to take steps for their own safety, why would the bringing of any of these items to a protest be considered problematic? Radio communications, first aid responders, and legal counsel are all meant, very clearly, to protect those expressing their constitutional right to gather and protest.
I can see the most issue coming from the fact that some protestors felt the need to arm themselves. Yet this too should not be an issue the way that Cserep is making it out to be. Assuming that the protestors were following all applicable laws for carrying guns in the state of Indiana, who are we to criticize their choice to defend themselves, especially against the very real violence of an organization like the KKK? While I personally disagree wholeheartedly with the current gun legislation in the state (and would love to see stricter gun control), I cannot justify attacking citizens who are exercising their right within the bounds of the law. It is also interesting that this criticism of the protestors from Cserep is coming on the heels of other armed protests on the opposite side of the ideological divide; Cserep apparently has no issue with them being armed while they protest.
In reading the statement that Cserep made, I cannot help but see a blatant attempt of discrediting the counter-KKK protestors. In doing so, I see an attempt to make it seem as if the KKK is the more reasonable group in this instance. If this was not his intention, I think it would be prudent for Cserep to reevaluate the comments that he made towards people fighting against hate groups in his community. If that was his intention, we as a community should begin to think critically about where the loyalties of the county’s sheriff lie: with protecting the community, or with protecting hatred?