Thank you to everyone who emailed, called, showed up to Thursday night's Medford City Council Meeting, and to the seven community members who spoke.
Because of strong community action and presence in the room the Mayor opened the meeting with a statement that condemned hate and reaffirmed that the city values diversity. After listening to community testimony, the Council committed to making sure their stance was clear and publicly available.
Medford Council Next Steps: The City will issue a press release containing the Mayor's remarks from Thursday night and reaffirming the language in the welcoming resolution community members helped get passed last January. In addition to going out to local media, this press release will also be posted on the front page of the city's website. Councilor Kay Brooks is also writing a guest opinion as a city councilor condemning hate and will ask other councilors to sign on.
The Medford Police Department also released a statement this week after leaders from the Racial Equity Coalition met with officers to ask for clarification regarding MPD's commitment to safety for everyone, including those targeted by hate groups like the KKK. This clarification was needed after a MPD spokesperson was quoted in the Mail Tribune saying that KKK flyering activities were protected by the first amendment and that their department was "not even going to get involved in it." A quote the MPD said had been a miscommunication. Their new statement reads:
Medford Police Department Public Statement May 11th, 2018 “We have had a few questions about the recent case where a hate group left recruiting flyers in an east Medford neighborhood. Several neighbors received the flyers and were understandably upset. Our department was contacted and investigated the matter. After reviewing the materials and consulting with the City’s legal department, Officers determined that distributing the flyers was not a crime. Even though the flyers were drafted and distributed by a hate group, the flyers are constitutionally protected, and our officers are sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Oregon.
However, that does not mean the City of Medford in any way supports or condones the message of the hate group that drafted the flyers. The City of Medford values diversity and condemns hate. City Council has spoken out against this type of hate speech in the past by adopting a formal resolution stating its support for social and cultural diversity. The Council continues to stand by that commitment.
The Medford Police Department strives to serve all community members, and encourages anyone who feels that they have been a victim of a crime to contact the department. The community in Medford is made up of many groups that have historically been targeted by hate groups. It is very understandable that the recruiting flyers caused a range of emotions from anger to sadness in the community.
We believe that the actions and reactions of our community will demonstrate to these groups that their recruitment is not welcome in our community. The Medford Police Department continues to partner and collaborate with everyone in Medford to make Medford a safe place to live, work, and play.”
Please join us in thanking the Medford Police Department and the Mayor and Council for listening and taking a clear public stand against hate and for inclusion.Email the entire council and mayor at firstname.lastname@example.org Email the entire police department at email@example.com
Why are Community Members Speaking Out? On May 6th, 2018, Medford residents woke up to KKK recruitment flyers in plastic baggies with candy in them thrown in their yards like newspapers. This is only the most recent incident in a long history of white supremacist organizing, recruitment, and intimidation in Southern Oregon.
But our community hasn't let these incidents happen unopposed. In the last couple of years we have come together to rally for welcoming communities that are safe for all of us. We have called on our elected leaders for action and have passed resolutions welcoming all people at Medford, Phoenix, Talent, and Ashland city councils. We've canvassed local businesses, churches, schools, and nonprofits to put up "All Are Welcome Here" signs in their windows. And we won't stop standing up for inclusive communities.
Why Go To The Mayor and Council? It's important that our elected leaders not stand silent in the face of hate, especially with the dangerous legacy of violence that the KKK continues to this day. The tragic and bloody history of racism in America shows us what happens when people of good conscience do not act in the face of racism and white supremacy. Our elected leaders can and must make their stances clear. Here are some ways they could do that:
What is hate speech, and what about free speech? Hate Speech is: Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground... (Matal v. Tam, 2017) Such speech can be limited if it is “directed to inciting imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action."
Below are three things we all, including city leaders CAN and SHOULD do in the face of hate speech which threatens the safety of people of color, LGBTQ folks, Jewish community members, and many others who have historically been targeted by the KKK and similar groups.
1 Clearly and Publicly Condemn it – There is a big difference between prohibiting speech and clearly condemning it, and there is no legal or moral reason not to make it clear that the city does not support hate speech. City leaders have a responsibility to make it clear that they represent and serve the whole community and will do all in their power to create a safe and welcoming city for everyone, especially those being threatened or targeted because of who they are, and especially when hate speech is being aggressively distributed in neighborhoods within their jurisdiction.
2 Direct staff and law enforcement resources to be responsive to reports – When hate group activity is visible in a community, it is important for local law enforcement to take reports of threats or violence seriously and be responsive to residents who could be targeted.
3 Proactively Create a Climate of Inclusion – The City of Medford can do a lot to set a tone that welcomes, celebrates, and respects the diversity of our community. From the Multicultural Commission to the annual MLK Day Celebration, to a recent welcoming resolution, the city does and should continue to promote tolerance, diversity, and respect.