Holding Education Hostage

Earlier today at noon, an extremist group called as Patriot Prayer stormed the campus of Washington State University Vancouver. They have held rallies in the Pacific Northwest with the intent to instigate violence and escalate conflict with lethal force. This group is closely associated with fascist organizations and white-nationalists, and are known to attack people of color and advocates of peace.

Earlier this year, Patriot Prayer hosted a protest at University of Washington’s Red Square, where over a dozen UW clubs counterprotested the hate group. On August 4, 2018, Patriot Prayer held a rally in downtown Portland, Oregon to protest gun control laws. Armed with various weapons, including hard-knuckled gloves, knives, and guns, the protest quickly turned into a violent riot. Portland Police later found caches of firearms stored on rooftop garages by members of the group.

The students of WSUV responded by refusing to engage and counterprotest in order to peacefully disarm the voice of these extremists. This brought about a call to excuse the absences of students, staff, and faculty for not attending campus today, October 23rd, for the protection from dangerous individuals. Chancellor Mel Netzhammer responded with concern for the safety of the community by allowing faculty to cancel classes and students to be absent without penalty. However, free speech laws bar the university to prevent the rally to take place.

“I take this opportunity to remind you that WSU Vancouver stands against bigotry and hatred, even as we hold freedom of expression as a core value.”

— Chancellor Mel Netzhammer, WSU Vancouver

Students and professors have expressed their frustration with the violent extremist group and their presence on campus. Patriot Prayer has made it clear that they are here to terrorize and cause fear to anyone who opposes them. They are intentionally disrupting the course of education and threatening the safety of hard-working students and teachers for an unwelcome cause. Students who chose to attend, despite the cancellations of classes and non-mandatory attendance, covered the walkways in colorful chalk with messages of peace, unity, and safety. Non-peaceful protests and senseless violence have no place in a community of education and freedom.