Editor’s note: This open letter from Radford Mayor David Horton was forwarded to The Patriot by Pulaski County Board of Supervisors Chairman Joe Guthrie.
I wanted to address some concerns I have received regarding an on-campus program that is planned at Radford University for Saturday, September 19th.
The Bigger Picture Rally and March has been mischaracterized as some type of national or even state-wide driven activity and that is not accurate.
These are Radford student voices expressing their concerns about issues with race and equality while exploring ways to create a future where all people experience a just society regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, gender, and so forth.
At its heart, this is an educational event designed to help ask questions that can promote positive change such as:
What actions am I displaying to others that demonstrate support for people who are treated unfairly?
Do I even see that there is a bigger picture here that effects not just black and brown people, but will help create a culture of mutual respect and personal growth for all?
A couple notes about the event and the City of Radford Ordinance on gatherings.
The City of Radford cannot regulate legal activities on the Radford University campus according to state law.
The Ordinance cannot and does not prohibit expressive activity such a peaceful protest. We have several activities that are exempt including church services and funerals, but in all the exemptions, we have stressed that appropriate COVID 19 safety measures should be followed with masks and social distancing.
As you are aware, we have been concerned about large gatherings with regard to COVID 19 as most of our cases in Radford have come about due to people attending large gatherings and not practicing good safety measures such as social distancing and wearing masks along with frequent hand washing.
It is a challenging time to have such gatherings because it puts a responsibility on the organizers to limit the spread of the disease through their organization and execution of the program. Situations that have resulted in issues in Radford have not been about the event per se, but about not practicing appropriate safety measures to slow the spread of a dangerous virus.
Some have asked if this program is in violation of the Radford University limitation on gatherings to no more than 10 people.
It is not.
There are limited exemptions within that rule that must adhere to physical distancing and safety protocols.
Learn more about that at this link:
As Mayor, I have done my due diligence in checking to see what safety protocols are in place for the program and how people can be kept safe. Event organizers are working to keep people spread out, wearing masks and are even sanitizing podiums and microphones between uses.
We are working with the proper authorities to ensure the safety of our community around campus and throughout Radford. Radford City Police and Radford University Police are in close contact and have support of additional law enforcement agencies.
I will ask all of us as citizens of this community to help us drown out the hateful rhetoric that is being spread regarding this program.
Safety measures are in place.
The program takes place entirely on campus.
This is not a top-down indoctrination of students as some have claimed but instead a grass roots effort led by students who see challenges in their world and seek to find solutions for a better future.
I will have more thoughts in the coming days.
Thank you to all for your hard work in moving the City we love forward and in building a tomorrow for all of us and future generations. It is challenging but we will create a path.