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Anti-hate event encourages listening, compassion to combat violence

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At a recent anti-hate event in McFarland, speakers shared that the best way to combat hate is with compassion.

McFarland High School students and area community members learned from content-area experts, fellow students and former hate group members about how to combat domestic terrorism at a seminar on Thursday, Jan. 6 at McFarland High School.

The event, hosted by We are Many-United Against Hate, a grassroots nonprofit working to address violence and bigotry, was meant to shed light on domestic terrorism and hate. The event featured speeches form experts on domestic terrorism and hate crimes, government officials with the Department of Justice and local elected officials.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here today,” McFarland Superintendent Wayne Anderson.

“Any time we get a chance to listen and learn, we get a chance to grow. Through…communication, we have increased understanding, and the differences that can sometimes divide us can be diminished,” Anderson added.

McFarland High School Students Hannah Rounds and Riley Schappe represented their school on a panel of student ambassadors during the event, sharing how the McFarland chapter of We are Many-United Against Hate was working to build community and combat hate in McFarland.

Rounds and Schappe shared that their club is working to educate fellow students, sharing community traditions through a culture walk, and working to unite social justice groups in the school to combine forces.

Student ambassadors from Deerfield, Baraboo and Dodgeville also shared their experiences trying to develop mission statements, hold restorative justice circles and bring students together.

“We are more separated than we’ve ever been,” Rounds said. “It’s very timely to bring people together and make sure every student knows that they’re not alone.”

“It is now our world to change,” Schappe agreed. Students have the opportunity to start to shape their own future, “rather than waiting for the world to change for us.”

Among other speakers, the event held a panel sharing the stories of two former hate group members.

TM Garret shared his experience with de-radicalization after joining leading a KKK chapter in Germany, and identifying as a Neo-Nazi. Now,TM is a human rights activist and public speaker.

Ryan Lo’Ree of Michigan also shared his experience joining and leaving a hate group in his youth.

Both Garret and Lo’Ree said that they were de-radicalized after being shown compassion and understanding, despite their pasts, and opening up to other people to listen and understand. Both speakers said that, in order to combat hate, people should seek to share compassion and empathy.

“We heard about the capacity for people to change, and the importance of the social climate that” people life in, like schools and friend groups, said Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, the moderator of the event.

“I hope that says to the people here that the work you’re doing to reach out to people, to listen to them and understand them, it matters and it can make a difference in somebody’s life,” Kaul said.

“We don’t have to live with the degree of extremism and radicalism,” he continued. “This is not a one day event, this is part of a process. I encourage you all to stay engaged.”

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