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Residents and Mayor react to white supremacy fliers in Lafayette

Some residents say the City of Lafayette has not done enough to vocally condemn racism. Mayor Roswarski says he has always denounced hate speech in his city.

Posted: Jan 13, 2020 10:44 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - People are asking for a stronger response from the City of Lafayette about white supremacist fliers that have circulated around town. About five people spoke on behalf of the cause to the city council on Monday. About 30 people showed up to support in the audience.

They speakers said they have seen KKK fliers around the city multiple times in the past few years, the most recent incident was a few weeks ago. They are asking for a formal, public condemnation of the fliers from Mayor Tony Roswarski and from the council.

Shahar Zach spoke at the podium on behalf of the organization, Jewish Voice for Peace. He has lived in Lafayette for two years. He and his fellow speakers say the city has not done enough to denounce hate speech.

"As a Jewish man, an immigrant, a brown man that concerns me a lot," he said. "(We want) an actual response from the city, a clear statement as well as some form of a committee."

They want this committee to be comprised of city leaders, local social justice organizations and those who are actually impacted by racism.

Mayor Tony Roswarski said he has advocated against racial and religious prejudice since he started as mayor.

"I have said that I deplore what the KKK did and that I didn't approve of it so to say that I have not made a public statement on that, you know, I understand their passion but some of the information tonight simply wasn't accurate," he said.

He said when he first started as mayor, they tried to have committees to address how institutionalized racism has a bigger impact on society, but they had to disband them due to lack of participation. He also said he, along with West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis, traveled to the Indiana Statehouse last year to voice support for State Sen. Ron Alting's Biased Crimes bill, which eventually failed.

Mayor Roswarski said it will take more than just a statement from him to stop acts of prejudice in the city.

"I'm willing to work with them to start a new committee or expand the diversity round table, but it's going to have to take people who are willing to come month after month, year after year to do that," he said. "Government is not going to be able to solve this, we need the grassroots effort for the community as a whole to send the message," he said.

Zach said Lafayette is a welcoming town, but that fighting racism is constant.

"I've been welcomed by many people here that I love and cherish but there is always work to do," he said. "Fighting racism is an everyday battle. There isn't a point of post-racism, you always have to engage with it in an anti-racist fashion."

Councilman Perry Brown responded after the public comment was done. He said he has received these fliers at his home, which he has lived at for nearly 40 years. He called racism a "congenital disease" during his response.

He thanked those who came to the meeting to speak out, saying "silence is what feeds the beast" when it comes to the spread of racism. He affirmed that Lafayette has always had consistent rejection of white supremacy beliefs.

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