Occupy tent falls to arson
Occupy BloNo was one of the longest-running 99%er protests in the country. I am proud to say that our University protected their free-speech rights – there was no SWAT team here, no pepper-spray, no bullhorns, and campus security kept watch for their safety. When the physical presence ended, organizers received permission from the University to leave one of the tents up as a symbol. While it was a frequent target of vandalism, organizers made a series of repairs.
Last night someone burned down the tent, damaging the University’s plaza canopy in the process. Ironically this morning’s Pantagraph newspaper features an article, Occupy BloNo seeking new vision, with probably the last picture of the tent and an interview with organizers.
The investigation is ongoing. University president Al Bowman said this:
“I was disappointed to hear about two incidents that occurred over the weekend on and near campus. One involved the physical assault of an Illinois State student—the other was a fire that destroyed the Occupy tent and damaged a canopy on Milner Plaza.
While both incidents are still under investigation, they both have the clear makings of acts of hatred, and that is troubling. We all encounter ideas we disagree with and people we don’t like. But responses that involve destruction and violence are unacceptable at Illinois State, a University that holds diversity as one its core values.
With regard to these incidents, I will have no tolerance where crimes have been committed and codes of conduct have been ignored. Meanwhile, I remind everyone that Illinois State is a university that values differences, and I ask that you do your best to put those values into action every day.”
This is a very simple, bright line separating acceptable and unacceptable responses to disagreement. We can talk things out – it might take an hour, or a generation but we can work it out. Violence is a shortcut but it is also a detour that simply loops back into more violence. In the end, it settles nothing.