Murray residents fight against hate speech

Story by Matthew Parks, Contributing writer

Since April citizens of Murray have been posting signs that say “there’s no room for hate in Murray, KY.” More recently they posted signs that say “no place for hate in our town.”

Barbara Cobb, professor of English at Murray State, said the No Hate group started in response to the anti-Muslim and anti-immigration propaganda that was distributed around Murray claiming to be from the Ku Klux Klan.

Cobb said many people attempted to call the number on the fliers to express their displeasure with them, but the number led only to a pre-recorded line asking for support for the Grand Dragon of California, the leader of that sect of the KKK.

“We were left with this faceless group,” Cobb said. “And I wanted people to be able to see a face for the ‘other side’ of those beliefs.”

Cobb said she printed 100 of the original signs that she distributed to people in the community free of cost.

On Memorial Day weekend, more KKK propaganda was distributed across Murray, this time focused on an anti-LGBT message. Cobb said after that, people really began to flock for the ‘no hate’ signs, and she received enough donations to completely fund the second round of signs.

Cobb said since she started the group she has distributed 365 sings across the county. There is also now a Facebook page for the group and a Go Fund Me account set up for donations to pay for the signs.

Cobb said unlike many groups in Murray, the ‘No Hate’ group does not have any true “objectives” or political motivations.

“We’re not affiliated with anyone,” Cobb said. “We’re just normal people advocating the no hate message.”

According to the group’s Facebook page, which has over 300 members, its goal is “promoting the love, compassion, acceptance, inclusiveness, understanding, and friendliness that are at the heart of the city of Murray…”

Cobb said she has distributed the signs to people throughout Murray and the surrounding areas. Similar groups replicating Cobb’s original signs have also formed in other cities including Louisville, Birmingham and Hopkinsville.

Cobb said that 50 signs have been reported stolen since April, but she will continue to produce and hand out new ones.

“It doesn’t really upset me,” Cobb said. “What I see is that there are people out there who can read and are getting our message.”

They’re not the only ones getting the message. Murray State students have started to get involved in the ‘no hate’ movement as well.

Briana Birge, member of the ‘No Hate’ Facebook group and Murray State junior from Temple Hill, Kentucky, believes the group is a positive force in the region.

“It’s comforting knowing [‘No Hate’ is] there,” Birge said. “It supports the rest of us to keep fighting the good fight.”

Birge added that anyone experiencing adversity should seek support from groups such as ‘No Hate.”

“Stand your ground and don’t let it get you down,” Birge said. “Be yourself.”

Since the Traditionalist Worker Party’s presence on campus last week, Cobb believes that fight is more important than ever. She said she has also had a flurry of new requests for signs.

Cobb said one of the questions she is asked most often is why the group doesn’t adopt a ‘just love’ message rather than ‘no hate.’ She said groups like the Traditionalist Worker Party are the reason we still need a ‘no hate’ message.

“Unfortunately, the ‘no hate’ message is still necessary,” Cobb said. “One day we hope to move to a message of just love.”

No matter what else may come, Cobb said she will continue to support inclusion and tolerance within the community, and believes the most important thing she can do as a faculty member is uphold Murray State’s non-discrimination policy.

“That policy is printed on every syllabus in every classroom on this campus,” Cobb said. “And it’s our responsibility to uphold that.”