Days after West Lafayette’s Unitarian Universalist Church was vandalized with posters bearing threatening language, the community gathered to show unity Wednesday evening. Many say it’s just the first step to prevent threats in the future.
Government officials condemned those responsible for the racist and homophobic language by calling it cowardly behavior, and an act of attention-seeking. Religious leaders praised the community, and some spoke of the familiarity of the type of attack.
Still, Christopher Hegarty – who’s on the board of directors for the local activist group Greater Lafayette Indivisible – says he recognizes that hate speech has a pattern of showing up in Greater Lafayette.
“A lot of people were saying, ‘This isn’t the community we know.’ But for a lot of people of color, and gay people, this is the community that we know,” Hegarty says. “This is something we’ve seen quite a bit.”
Hegarty says more marginalized groups should be given a louder voice in the conversations the city needs to be having – ones about racism, sexism and homophobia.
Lafayette resident Lori Morris says if she were face-to-face with whoever posted the sign, ‘have a conversation’ is exactly what she’d do.
“We don’t have to love each other 100-percent,” Morris says. “But we certainly do have to live in a civilized society and this is heading in the wrong direction for that.”
Other action items discussed included passing the proposed bias crimes bill now before the Indiana General Assembly, and the importance of voting – all proposed as tangible ways threats like the one posted outside the church Sunday could be fought.
At the end of the event, church officials asked that everyone sign a new banner to be posted outside, adorned with words of equality and hope.