AP NEWS
Related topics

Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

April 9, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Southwest Times Record. April 7, 2019.

Controversial issues are not always seen in black and white, but a Times Record investigation into the true story behind the “K-K-K” letters topping three historic buildings downtown surely qualifies.

While we are not into history revision, we do encourage the building owners to strongly consider redecorating out of simple concern of appearances. It’s not like these ghosts are long gone. The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives recently began investigation of a string of “suspicious” fires at three African American churches in southern Louisiana.

For those who feel removing “K-K-K” from the top of three Fort Smith buildings is history cleaning, let’s look at the whole picture. As it turns out, the letters are likely the initials of the Kayser family, who constructed the buildings well before a Ku Klux Klan-driven political machine rose to power and pushed Mayor James Fagan Bourland out in 1923. As seen in the 1990 Journal of the Fort Smith Historical Society, a movement by the KKK swelled up over Bourland’s “general laxity” with prostitution, gambling and bootlegging in the border town.

We don’t know if the Kaysers were racists, or anti-Catholic, or anti-Semitic, or members of the cowardly white supremacist terrorist organization. We do know that Bourland was Catholic though, and carried only one voting box at the Catholic recreation hall during that mayoral election nearly 100 years ago.

Let’s chalk it up to bad advice on architectural decorations to the Kayser family for the situation we have. The initials “K-K-K” are prominently located on three downtown buildings. Even in the late 1800s when the buildings went up — and a photo shows the K-K-K letters were in place then — it could have been considered a passive-aggressive “wink wink.” At minimum, it’s poorly conceived.

It’s not like having out-of-date wallpaper or Doric columns instead of Corinthian. The KKK might not have been active here in the late 1800s, but it was still a thing. It may still be a thing. It’s certainly not like the Native American swastika that was on a trading post downtown. That was done before Hitler rose to power. The K-K-K letters were put up about 20 years after the KKK was formed following the Civil War.

The general tourist walking around downtown will not immediately say “Oh, look at that, honey. K-K-K. Hmm. Must be somebody’s initials from the late 1800s, before the political rise of the Ku Klux Klan in Fort Smith.” They will walk by and go “Hmm. K-K-K. That’s weird. Why would someone leave that on a building in a town trying to move forward.”

As much effort as the Central Business Improvement District puts into making sure all is kosher with paint schemes and awnings downtown, it’s fairly surprising this has never been addressed.

It’s unfortunate the CBID has neglected to speak to something that essentially advertises — coincidental or not — the initials of the nation’s most notorious hate group. But the former CBID chairman who owns two of the three buildings confided he didn’t even realize the K-K-K letters were on the buildings in the 400 block after millions of dollars of renovation.

So to recap. We have a problem that not everyone sees as a problem because of fears that come with history cleansing. And that is completely understandable since it is fully reasonable to expect a society to repeat the mistakes it forgets. Here is the reason why it is not history cleansing: The letters do not represent the Ku Klux Klan. It’s an unfortunate design that can be redesigned by the building’s owners to clear up confusion. While the KKK surely would relish the visual of these letters when they met in their “Klavern” on Aug. 11, 1923, down the street from one of the buildings displaying the three K letters, there’s no reason to let confusion or hints of hate linger any longer.

___

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. April 7, 2019.

Over the years, and we’re sure over the decades, chancellors and other high officials at the University of Arkansas have voiced a commitment that parents across Arkansas (and those from other states, too) can confidently send their “kids” to Fayetteville for their education.

They’re earnest about the sentiment. Yes, students are “adults” according to a rather random age at which our society assigns the term, but their time at the university is, for many, their first real experience on their own, away from mom and pop.

For the most part, the University of Arkansas experience is a good one, and most importantly, a safe one. Naturally, when the student population is so large the campus would be about the 18th largest city in the state, some bad experiences will be part of the mix. Sexual assaults, thefts, threats of harm, dangerous alcohol consumption -- we’re not excusing any of it, but recognizing the likely presence of these societal ills in a community of so many.

But what do you do when the university itself is the aggressor, the one guilty of wrongdoing to such a degree it penetrates one’s sense of safety?

Nearly a year ago, 22-year-old UA architecture student Emily Hunt was arrested by the UA Police Department, spending the night in the county jail. In this newspaper’s telling of Hunt’s experience, she was told little about why the police had targeted her. “I just knew this was something that I hadn’t done,” she recalled.

The “something” was terroristic threatening in a Facebook post. In May, a student told police of its existence on Facebook. Police received a photocopy of the threat, which they apparently took at face value. Within an hour, they were looking to arrest Hunt, who appeared in the photocopy to be its author.

To be sure, the threat was serious. It was ostensibly made against another student named Nicolette Nottage, 24. “I know where to find you,” it read, referencing a firearm and a promise of not being afraid to “end your life.”

“Leave this school or I will come to your apartment ... and kill you with my own gun,” the document read. “I hate black people and I hate what you did to me and to the others and it’s not fair that you are still alive because you have a serious problem.”

Nottage is black.

Naturally, such an alarming message demanded a response by law enforcement, which can ill afford to sit idle given so many examples across the country of similar threats preceding violence.

Unfortunately, the UAPD’s response was to arrest the wrong person. The university had immediately suspended her. Now, the university acknowledges she was guilty of no wrongdoing.

Nottage, who reported the threat, later told police she fabricated it, according to documents released by the UA Police Department. She’s scheduled for trial later this month on a felony charge of filing a false report.

Her guilt or innocence will be determined by the judicial system, but the question lingers: Does the UAPD deserve criticism for a rush to judgment that exposed a lack of knowledge and/or training to investigate social media-based threats?

Yes, it does. And we’d think the UAPD might be the first to acknowledge its mistake.

We might be wrong.

Steve Gahagans, the agency’s director, said the department learned from Hunt’s case, but he defended her quick arrest given what officers were being told and “what’s happening around the United States regarding active shooters.”

It’s not a strong defense.

Sure, this case involved social media. But does that absolve the UAPD of basic investigative techniques like interviewing the accused? Police, including those at the university, have been taking false reports for a long time. The fact this one involved an alleged social media post doesn’t change their duty to look for the facts before depriving someone of her liberty and suspending her from college.

We can remember the days when college police departments in Arkansas resembled law enforcement in Mayberry, and we’re talking more the Barney Fife part than the Andy Taylor part. But that’s not the UAPD, which is a true law enforcement agency led and staffed by professionals.

The agency made a big-time mistake. Hopefully, that will lead to new training on how investigators can ferret out factual information from social media sites. It’s surprising, given how extensively college students these days use social media for communication, that the UAPD hasn’t already seen the need to get up to speed on those tools.

Most of us have had experiences in which you don’t know what you don’t know until something like this comes along. Most of us are fortunate that our mistakes don’t end up wrong depriving someone of their liberty. As with so much law enforcement does, this case demonstrates a need to meet a high standard.

Why? So students at the University of Arkansas can trust that the UAPD is looking out for them — all of them.

___

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. April 9, 2019.

We call ourselves The Natural State for the abundance of natural resources in Arkansas, and there are some spots so purty you could just look at them all day long.

We’re also known for diamonds, and once in a while it’s worth pointing out we have a place where people can dig for their own. Name another of these lesser states that can give you that.

Even the name, the Crater of Diamonds, sounds neat. If you visit, you can dig for diamonds and other precious stones. Should you be fortunate enough to find any, they’re yours to keep!

Here are the official rules:

“Visitors to the park search a 37-acre plowed field, the eroded surface of a volcanic crater, for a variety of rocks, minerals, and gemstones--and any rock or mineral you find is yours to keep. You may bring your own mining equipment to search with (no battery-operated or motor driven mining tools allowed), or rent tools from the park.”

Apparently more than 33,000 diamonds have been found since the area became an official state park in 1972. That’s a whole lot of engagement rings. Turns out, the largest diamond ever unearthed in the United States came from this park. It’s called Uncle Sam and was 40.23 carats.

Just last week some lucky soul found a 1.52-carat diamond. Supposedly, that’s the largest found so far this year.

There’s lots of great things about Arkansas, but being able to dig for diamonds and keep what you find? Pretty sweet. Oh, and obviously the park offers some fantastic camping and hiking, too. That’s a standard in this small, wonderfully green state.