Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gay student's suicide stirs grief and outrage at Flagler College

The death of a gay teen-ager in New Jersey triggered sorrow at Flagler College, where students and others said Thursday it's a tragedy that the man killed himself after his roommate broadcast a secret dorm sex tape.
"This incident shows no one has respect for what other people do in their private life and that any boundary will be crossed," said Danny Burke, a graduate of Flagler College.
Yvan Kelly, assistant dean of academic affairs at Flagler College, expressed sorrow over the suicide.
“I just pray that it will never happen here," Kelly said. "It is a great tragedy and a great loss.”

Flagler College students, from left, Betsy Ingraham, Danielle Jordan and Maggie Eucalitto. Photo credit: Tiffany Langello

Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge last week after his roommate allegedly broadcast live-streaming video of him having a sexual encounter with another man.
Clementi's death stirred outrage around around the country and in Florida.
Flagler College freshman Danielle Jordan called Clementi's death "terrible."
"I’m heartbroken," she said.
Students at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla., are not allowed to broadcast images of others without their consent, said Dan Stewart, dean of student services.
“Flagler College has a policy about photographing and video taping without permission,” he said.
Students aren't allowed to publish or broadcast images of other students unless they are aware the images were taken and have given approval for their exhibition, Stewart said.
“If it happened, the student would have to go through the disciplinary hearing procedure and that could lead to suspension and expulsion from Flagler,” he said.
Two Rutgers University freshmen, Dharun Ravi, 18, and Molly Wei, 19, are charged with invasion of privacy in connection with Clementi's death.
Police say Ravi and Wei allegedly video-taped Clementi while he was having a sexual encounter with another man.
No court date has been set and both students have been released from jail.
Ravi was released on $25,000 bail. Wei was released on her own recognizance with a promise to appear. If convicted, they could receive up to five years in federal prison.
Legal experts say Clementi's family may also sue Ravi and Wei in civil court. Possible charges include intentional infliction of emotional distress, wrongful death and civil invasion of privacy.
But on Thursday, the family was asking for time to grieve.
A statement from the family said:
"Tyler was a fine young man, and a distinguished musician. The family is heartbroken beyond words. They respectfully request that they be given time to grieve their great loss and that their privacy at this painful time be respected by all. The family and their representatives are cooperating fully with the ongoing criminal investigations of two Rutgers University students."
Meantime, Clementi's suicide sparked a flurry of comments on social networking websites.
In just 21 hours, 23,355 users visited a Facebook page called “In Honor of Tyler Clementi" and clicked on a button indicating they liked the page.
And that number was spiraling Thursday afternoon as hundreds of users clicked the "like" button every minute.
At least four pages had been created as a tribute to Clementi. They showed photos of Clementi along with thousands of sympathetic comments and links to articles about his death.
Many of the Facebook pages urged tolerance and understanding.
One page stated: “All comments that seek to harass his tormentors, his family, or his memory will be removed from this page; all hate speech or comments that fail to respect the grieving communities will be removed from this page.”
Some advocates of gay rights called for safe places for gays on university and college campuses.
In St. Augustine, Jesse Frezza, 21, a barista at Crucial Coffee, said if Clementi had been more confident in his sexuality, this tragedy may not have happened.
“People only know about people bullying gays because it’s so widely publicized in the U.S. now. But if he had just come out at an earlier age, his roommate might not have felt the need to publicize it the way he did,” Frezza said.
Freeza said the roommate, Ravi,"should have just talked" to Clementi about his sexuality rather than broadcasting a sex tape.
Frezza said he declared his homosexuality to his mother when he was 14. He said coming out to her and a close friend sparked a support system that helped him develop his identity.
"I came out to my mom in 9th grade. Immediately, I became the gay guy that everyone wanted to be friends with," Freeza said.
"I was never bullied. Kids shouldn't be scared of who they are are. It's my life and I am going to live it on my terms."
That same kind of self-confidence, Frezza said, could have saved Clementi, whose last Facebook message reads, "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”

Student journalists at Flagler College gathered the material for this story as an in-class exercise. They had about one hour to collect the material and write the story.
Class members include:
Kelly Gibbs, Marina Torri, Tiffany Langello, Kayla Ward, Lauren Ely, Elin Karlsson, Nick Cardoso, Kylynn Pelkey, Cassandra Kapelson, Katie Taylor, James Bonus, Emily Hoover, Amanda Newberg, Lindy Almony, Brittany Swan

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Preacher now says he might not cancel Quran burning

The Associated Press reports the Quran burning may not be cancelled after all.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – An imam says the leader of a small Florida church told him that he would call off a plan to burn the Quran because it would endanger troops, not because they had a deal to move the location of a mosque planned near ground zero.

Imam Muhammad Musri said late Thursday that he and the Rev. Terry Jones agreed to have a meeting in New York about the location. He says Jones told him he would cancel the burning after a call from the Secretary of Defense and because other religious and political leaders including the president all came out against it.

When they spoke to the media after the meeting, Musri says Jones "stretched my words" about what was said about the mosque.

Jones said at that news conference that he'd cancel the event Saturday. Later he said he was rethinking that and that Musri "clearly, clearly lied to us."

Quran burning cancelled!

The Rev. Terry Jones has suddenly backed off plans to burn a pile of Qurans on Saturday, the Associated Press reports.
Jones claims he's doing this in exchange for a promise that the planned mosque near Ground Zero in New York won't be built at that location.
Developers of the mosque deny that.
Saying he's forced the mosque developers to change their plans allows Jones to claim a victory of sorts. If his claim is not true, he'll lose all credibility, that is, if he had any credibility.

Gainesville police: Be alert for possible terrorist attack

From a Gainesville police statement:

Being safety conscious is something everyone should do and domestic preparedness is a shared responsibility in which everyone can contribute. Your awareness and cooperation with local police and public safety officials can help predict and prevent crimes, attacks or terrorism before they happen. Be aware of your surroundings, nearby activity and unusual behavior at all times. If in doubt about circumstances that do not seem right, it is always better to report the conduct and actions causing concern.

What Should I Consider Suspicious?
  • Efforts to OBSERVE or case a facility by taking pictures, videos or making drawings
  • Questions about sensitive information, such as building blueprints, security procedures, etc. without a right or need to know
  • Make unusual inquiries about local sites, including government, law enforcement, military, malls, stadiums and utilities.
  • Unattended packages, briefcases, backpacks or vehicles.
  • Cars or trucks left in No Parking zones near important buildings.
  • Parking or loitering in the same area over a period of days without a valid reason.
  • Attempts to test security response or gain access to restricted areas.
  • Individuals in unseasonable bulky attire.
  • Unusual chemical smells and fumes from nearby apartments or residences.
What should I do?
  • Watch for people and actions that are out of place.
  • Make note of suspicious statements, people or vehicles.
  • If something seems wrong, notify law enforcement
  • Do not jeopardize your safety or the safety of others.
Preventing terrorism is a community effort. By learning what to look for, you can make a positive contribution in the fight against terrorism. The partnership between the community and public safety is essential to success of anti-terrorism efforts.

Gainesville church: Islam is of the Devil

Photo credit: Islam in Action

These are members of the Dove World Outreach Center. In 2009, they traveled from Florida to Ohio to support Rifqa Bary, a Muslim teen-ager who became a Christian and said she couldn't return to her parents because they threatened her after her religious conversion.
I would expect to see some of the same faces at Saturday's planned Quran burning.

Authorities hope to prevent spread of Quran burning rumors

The City of Gainesville reports:
Alachua County's 311 rumor control hotline has been activated to provide area residents with current, accurate information about proposed activities this weekend and will be operated around the clock by the Alachua County Emergency Operations Center.

Gainesville mayor: Stay away from Quran burning event

Below is Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe's Sept. 7 statement on the planned Quran burning.
He condemns the planned event and tells residents to avoid the Dove World Outreach Center on Sept. 11.

From his statement:
This coming weekend, the City of Gainesville will play host to a number of well-publicized events. I would like to welcome and encourage local residents, students and out-of-town visitors to enjoy the various events and activities that make our city such a great place to live, work and play.
As mayor of our great city, I also want to encourage you to do your part to help all of us remain safe by acting responsibly during this busy weekend. I’ll share how you can help ensure the public safety in our community in a moment, but first I will address recent developments within our city regarding the announced plans of the Dove World Outreach Center.
As many of you have heard, the Dove World Outreach Center has achieved international notoriety because of their plan to burn copies of the Qur’an on September 11. The City of Gainesville denied the center’s application for an open-air burn permit because it did not comply with city ordinances governing such permits.
As I have stated on numerous occasions, I condemn the offensive behavior that has been directed at our Muslim neighbors and those of the Islamic faith worldwide. The Dove World Outreach Center is a tiny fringe group and an embarrassment to our community. They are opposed to Gainesville’s true character.
We may be of different religions, sexual orientations, races, genders, national origins or ages, but all are welcome here in our efforts to build a better community both locally and globally. There will be those who seek to create anger instead of reason, but Gainesville values a sense of community that is inclusive rather than exclusive and thrives on the contributions of people of good will from a myriad of backgrounds.
I hope that every citizen of our city will join me in continuing to assert our community’s true character.
In order to keep everyone safe during the coming weekend, I’m asking each of you to help law enforcement and other public safety officials. Here’s what I’m counting on you to do:
  • Stay away from the general vicinity of the Dove World Outreach Center location and surrounding residential areas, unless you live there, or have business-related reasons to be in the area.
  • If possible, find alternate routes to avoid travel on Northwest 53rd Avenue between Northwest 34th and Northwest 43rd Streets on Saturday, September 11.
  • Be alert and be watchful. The Gainesville Police Department is depending on you to be their eyes and ears in the community. If you see anything out of the ordinary, no matter how small it might be, report it immediately.
  • Report suspicious activity to GPD by telephone at: 352-955-1818. However, in the event of an actual emergency, call 9-1-1.
  • Obey all local ordinances, state laws and instructions of all law enforcement and public safety officials. Avoid becoming the cause of any disturbance that may unnecessarily involve police.
As mayor of the City of Gainesville, I’m counting on each of you to do your part in helping to keep our community safe this weekend. By staying alert and knowing what to look for, you can do your part to ensure that we are all able to enjoy the many activities that our wonderful city has to offer. Thank you!