In a troubling development, a recent graduate of Skidmore College is organizing a campaign to fire two faculty members for attending the Back the Blue rally. The letter this recent student is circulating has many highly inflammatory statements that are demonstrably false.
Please note that I have redacted both the names of the faculty members and the name of the person promoting the firing. I redacted the names of the faculty because I did not want to see them subjected to anymore abuse than they are already experiencing. I redacted the student’s name because I would like to think that their misrepresentations were the result of immaturity rather than malice.
This is the letter being circulated:
These are graphics they have posted on the web as part of their campaign.
The following are excerpts from their letter along with my commentary.
From the letter:
“…it is unacceptable for faculty members…to publicly voice their support for a hateful cause that directly challenges the right of black students to exist, live, and breath in America.”Letter
The following is from the Back the Blue Facebook page soliciting public participation in their event.
We want to humanize these officers and remind people they are spouses, children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors, etc.
Things to Bring: Signs of support, Blue Line flags, your friends and family that are pro police. Kids are welcome as this is a family friendly event.
Things to leave at home: Any political signs, flags, etc. We want to keep this a positive, all inclusive event and do not want this to turn political or negative in any way. This is a peaceful, purely pro-police event. We hope to see you there!Please practice social distancing and wear masks when not possible. Thank you!From Back The Blue Facebook Page
Conspicuously absent from this Back the Blue text is any reference to Black Lives Matter. It is clearly evident that the organizers of this event went out of their way to make the focus on “purely” supporting the police.
I have a dear friend who attended the Back the Blue demonstration who did so to support relatives who are police officers who share her anger over racism in America and who were appalled by the killing of George Floyd.
The idea that the attendance of faculty at the Back The Blue rally is proof that they oppose the right of people of color to live is just stunning. It is hyperbole on steroids.
That is not to say that other people who attended the event may not have had other agendas but to reduce the event to a campaign for the extermination of people of color in our country is itself rather scary.
But the Saratoga Springs Police stood with their back (SIC) to the white supremacist, alt-right, counter protesters and faced us, as if defending them and looking for potential attacks from us.From the letter
Back the Blue had arranged for their march and rally with the Saratoga Springs Police. The All of Us group simply announced over social media that they were organizing a counter demonstration and showed up. It is not surprising that the police were deployed around the sanctioned event.
Meanwhile, our side of the protest wore masks, while the anti-Black lives side was mostly mask free, a potential threat to our lives.From the letter
Whatever threat that the maskless Back the Blue demonstrators may represent to each other and to the police protecting them, in the video they are more than six feet away from All of Us.
After defending the white supremacist until they got bored and went home, the Saratoga Police donned riot gear, camo, and army fatigues, and brought a tank into downtown Saratoga Springs.From the letter
Repeating myself, the Back the Blue group may very well have had white supremacists among them but characterizing the group as a white supremacist gathering is a reckless exaggeration.
More specifically, the law enforcement officers wearing military type gear were with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department. They were dressed this way during the entire evening. All of the Saratoga Springs Police were dressed as they would normally. They did not gear up following the Back the Blue event.
The vehicle was deployed by the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department. Not to put to fine a point on it, it was not a tank but an armored personnel carrier. A tank has a cannon and machine guns and this armored personnel carrier did not. I have in previous posts expressed that I think the deployment of this vehicle was unnecessarily provocative.
It is a mis-characterization that the Back the Blue people went home because they were bored. They had previously reached an agreement with the police on the schedule of their event which included ending before dark.
Officers…pointed loaded, automatic weapons, at a group of about fifty unarmed protesters…From the letter
Of all the misrepresentations in this letter, this is the most reckless. It is hard to be temperate in writing about this claim. Based on the extensive video, there were no automatic weapons in evidence at the event. The idea, as put forward by this letter, that there were such weapons present and that they were aimed at All of Us is inexcusable. Bear in mind that the Saratoga Springs Lieutenant managing the event was continually among the demonstrators reflecting the non-threatening effort put forward by the Saratoga Springs Police. If automatic weapons fire had been employed by the police, he would have been among the first casualties.
Protecting Academic Freedom
Institutions like Skidmore College have processes for addressing behavior by faculty members that is deemed to be materially destructive to individual students.
To characterize the participation of the two faculty members in the Back the Blue event as proof that they are an actual threat to students of color is abhorrent and reminiscent of Joe McCarthy’s reign of terror against people on the American left in the 1950’s.
I have to wonder whether the new President of Skidmore College, Dr. Marc C. Connor, will have the courage to come to the aid of these two faculty members who will now be the target of a general campaign to shame and humiliate them. In an age of “cancel culture” one would hope that President Connor would see the need to address this ugly business by countering this campaign of disinformation using the best of the academy to both correct the record and to reaffirm that faculty are not fired based on holding opinions that may not be popular.
Someone identified as bokk_choi posted an entry shown in this blog which states “…in attendance today at the blue lives matter (white supremacy protest) were…..Firemen who drove alongside blue lives matter protesters in their fire trucks…” I had not seen fire trucks in any of the videos but checked with Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton who confirmed that the only fire truck on the streets that night was one returning to the station from a call.