Tea party group won’t protest Churchill

If fired University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill had been scheduled to speak in Grand Junction on any day other than Memorial Day, a local Tea Party group would protest, according to president Tim Fenwick of GJResult.

Instead, to honor veterans, the group has planned an observance at 5 p.m. at Orchard Mesa Cemetery, Fenwick said.

Churchill will be speaking at 6 p.m. Memorial Day at Sherwood Park in Grand Junction, according to the group Confluence Media Collective.

“Memorial Day is a very special day,” Fenwick said. “Most tea party members are connected to a veteran in one way or another. We don’t want to give Grand Junction a black eye. If (Churchill) were doing the speech on Tuesday or Sunday we’d probably be protesting. We’re asking everybody for calm and serenity to celebrate Memorial Day how it’s supposed to be celebrated.”

Monday’s event will be located in the veterans section of the cemetery, Fenwick said.

Members of the Republican Party, the Western Slope Conservative Alliance and members of GJResult will speak there, he said.

Members of GJResult think Churchill’s speaking engagement is intended to spread dissension, Fenwick said. GJResult members don’t agree with Churchill’s message or the timing for his Grand Junction visit but agree that he is allowed to speak according to First Amendment rights of freedom of speech.

“There is a reason for him being here, it is not to give a speech, it is to test our will, it is to provoke a confrontation. He is here to cause unrest, controversy and hate,” Fenwick said in an email.

Confluence Media Collective said Memorial Day is the day Churchill was available to speak and does not represent any further motives by the group. The topic of Churchill’s speech is not known, members of the Confluence Media Collective have said.

Eric Niederkruger, a member of the collective, said he appreciates the tea party group’s attention to the rights of free speech. However, he questions why the group is so opposed to Churchill’s visit.

“It is unfortunate that some people judge Ward Churchill strictly on things they have heard about him from somebody else,” Niederkruger said. “They attack the man without really knowing what his ideas truly are. Why so much fear about a middle-aged, Vietnam vet with a microphone? I find it ironic that the tea party is more interested in Churchill’s words than discussing truly frightening things, such as Congress’ renewal of the Patriot Act this week.”

GJResult’s gathering is not without controversy of its own.

Having a Memorial Day event hosted by a political party in a cemetery is not the appropriate venue, said William Bovinger, commander of the American Legion No. 37.

Bovinger said such an event should be in another public place, such as a park. Bovinger is helping to organize a Memorial Day event at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery of Colorado. It is at 10 a.m. Monday.

A political activist, tenured professor Churchill was fired from the University of Colorado, Boulder, after comparing victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to a Nazi official who helped organize the Holocaust. The university fired Churchill, citing research misconduct, but he later won a lawsuit against the school and was awarded $1 by a Denver jury. Churchill is appealing a judge’s ruling in an attempt to be reinstated at the college.

Grand Junction Police Department spokeswoman Kate Porras said a few officers will be on hand during Churchill’s speech, but the department is not anticipating any problems. No groups have requested the presence of officers, she said.

“This is simply part of our planning anytime there is an event like this,” Porras said.


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