Kesey Square, protests and wildfires

• Who could have imagined that professional football players would be leading the way with a profound free speech statement about racial justice and human rights in the U.S.? Who could have imagined that we would have a president and vice-president who would distort that statement for political advantage? We’re disappointed in NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s call to make all players stand. But locally, we’re proud of the South Eugene boys’ and girls’ soccer players who took a knee to agree with the NFL players. School District 4-J followed with a fine statement supporting the students’ right to free speech.

• It’s time to celebrate the fact that Kesey Square probably will be called Kesey Square! The recent City Council committee vote of 7-2 goes to the full council, which should affirm it (see our blog post at Then the city can continue the good work it has been doing to make a proud public place equal to the great literary work that Ken Kesey gave us all. We want to point out the terrific writing EW’s journalists and viewpoint writers did to keep the square public and open and alive in the face of opposition from some elements of the downtown business community and city government. Now, on to an even better Kesey Square in the center of our city.

• Students took over the stage for a “state of reality” protest Oct. 6, upstaging University of Oregon President Michael Schill’s “state of the university” speech. Meanwhile, at Lane Community College on Oct. 9-10, a group called the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform put on the “Genocide Awareness Project” linking photos of aborted fetuses to genocide and lynchings, and students at LCC angrily protested in response. LCC has said it will review which displays it allows on campus. At the UO, Schill accused students of denying his right to free speech as he had to leave the stage and give his speech via video. As our annual Back to Campus issue goes to press, the protests remind us that college campuses are, and should be, hotbeds of not just protest but of open-minded inquiry. Well-paid UO President Schill might ponder that thought when alleging his free speech was infringed on by a protest led by students of color, LGBTQ students and low-income students.

Eugene Symphony’s new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, found himself buffeted by the lethal wildfires that killed at least 17 people in California’s wine country this week. A candidate for the job of music director at the Santa Rosa Symphony, which post he could hold while working here, Lecce-Chong guest-conducted the orchestra there in two concerts last weekend with pianist Joyce Yang before the fire erupted on the edge of town Sunday night. He was forced by the conflagration to cancel the same program Monday at Sonoma State University. Lecce-Chong and Yang are both fine, says a Eugene Symphony spokeswoman.

• As Oregon’s wildfires succumb to rain, those wildfires in Santa Rosa, California were shocking in their speed and ferocity. October is typically a bad time for fires in California, but so many fires springing up at once is stunning. No, it was not the firefighters not responding in time or the Forest Service being slow to use a supertanker to drop water that’s to blame for the destruction. From worsening wildfires in the West to hurricanes in the South and the East Coast: It’s climate change.

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