More than 100 people gathered at New Hope Christian College in south Eugene on Friday to provide security for the cross that once stood on Skinner Butte after a Facebook post for a rally titled “War on Racism Removal of ALL racist monuments Eugene/Springfield” focused on the cross.
“We will be using this event site to declare a War on Racism. This will be to identify ALL racist monuments, where they are located, how they were established, and their purpose,” the post said. “I peacefully request support in asking the New Hope Bible College … to review the history, then remove and replace the cross.”
Emails and Facebook alerts to local “Patriots” groups claimed Antifa was planning to come to the college to tear down the cross, leading to the security response. The road leading up to the campus was blocked and several men, some with weapons, stood guard at the entrance.
“(The people who showed up) are saying we are tired of this and were not going to stand it anymore,” New Hope Bible College President Wayne Cordiero said.
An attack on the cross, or even a protest against it, never came.
The cross is on private property and to destroy it would be a hate crime under Oregon law, Cordeiro said.
New Hope is a multiracial campus, Cordeiro said, with staff members from around the world. “If they say we are racist, it’s like, ‘You’re blind. Go somewhere else because you are not making any sense.’”
There is history in the 1920s of the Ku Klux Klan burning crosses on Skinner Butte. The cross now at New Hope was erected on the butte in 1964. In 1970, Eugene residents voted to designate it as a war memorial. The cross was removed from Skinner Butte in 1997 and relocated to the New Hope campus (then Eugene Bible College) after a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated that the cross was a religious symbol and was in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
“If we say Eugene is a place where we accept diversity, then that’s exactly it. We are a place of diversity and accept one another and we want to be at peace,” Cordeiro said.
Contact photographer Andy Nelson at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter @apnelsonphotos and Instagram @apnelsonphotos.