by Tim Gilmore, 3/20/2016
Since the Trump Campaign Office moved into the neighborhood and a second round of Ku Klux Klan flyers showed up on Riverside Avondale yards, some Riversiders, understandably, have misinterpreted these events.
In response to one Facebook post lamenting the presence of the Campaign Office, a neighbor responded, “Well, time to move again,” and after Melissa Rice stepped out to her front porch Sunday morning to play her guitar and found a KKK flyer in her yard, she told a TV news reporter, “Can you believe that would happen around here?” She said, “We have the most diverse neighborhood,” then added, “I thought.”
But these doubts are exactly what Trump supporters and white supremacists want Riverside residents to think and feel.
So here’s some perspective:
It’s worth remembering, and maybe even necessary, that the Trump Campaign Office is run by Patsy Butts, who’s long owned this commercial building, but who lives elsewhere. When I walked into the office in early February, wondering why Trump’s troops would want to set up shop in Riverside, I found that none of the supporters inside lived in the neighborhood and several of them expressed hostile views toward Riverside.
It’s worth noting that the KKK flyers sealed in Ziploc bags and dumped before dawn on a smattering of yards are apparently the work of one man. Pathetically, he calls himself “Grand Dragon Ken.” Whether he’s actually a local Klan leader and what his last name might be, we don’t know, because despite Trump supporters saying they love the reality-TV star because he “tells it like is,” the most hateful racists are mostly too cowardly to identify themselves publicly.
It’s worth remembering that the days when the Klan enjoyed publicly approved power in business and government, the days when they burnt a cross before the house of a future Congressman named Andy Johnson, are long gone.
It’s worth remembering that this is the Riverside Avondale of Jennifer Wolfe, the writer and activist who runs Women Writing for Change.
It’s the Riverside of Keri Kidder, the LGBT activist who organized a rally in December 2014 at Hemming Park to protest a city councilman’s demand that a perfectly innocent nude photograph be removed from the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville.
It’s the Riverside where Jared Rypkema first formed the Left on Mallory writing community and launched the local and national literary journal Bridge Eight.
It’s the Riverside Avondale where last fall’s Gay Pride Parade brought thousands of celebrants into the streets.
And it’s the Riverside that’s home to JASMYN House, headquarters of Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network, which, since 1993, has saved the lives and identities of thousands of young people in this city.
Riverside Avondale’s still Riverside Avondale. What and who else could it be?