53ºF

UNF prepares for possible rally supporting suspended white supremacist

Student, former KKK member, stands by social media comments

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two days after a 37-year-old University of North Florida student was suspended for posting what the university called a "threatening message and a disturbing image" on social media, campus police are preparing for a possible rally supporting the self-proclaimed white supremacist.

Ken Parker, who admits to being a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, posted a photo of himself with a gun on Facebook on Tuesday night and made controversial comments on the Facebook page of the UNF campus publication, Spinnaker.

The university is investigating the posts as an act of racism.

Parker told News4Jax on Tuesday that he didn't have any intentions of harming the school and the posts weren't meant to threaten the student body, but he stands by the comments he made toward the on-campus group, Students for a Democratic Society, which is linked to the Black Lives Matter movement.

"I don’t think a suspension is worth anything, obviously, the ultimate goal was for me to get my degree. If I get suspended, obviously, that’s not going to happen," said Parker, who served in the military and has been attending UNF for the last two years.

On Thursday, UNF President John Delaney told News4Jax that a white nationalist rally in support of Parker is expected to take place on campus Monday outside Alumni Hall, where Parker's conduct hearing will take place.

"I know that there's a partnership going on with the Student Democrat Society, and a lot of students are participating in a protest that's a counter protest to what the alt-right or the group supporting the young man recently suspended," UNF black alumni Brandon Jacobs said.

Jacobs said he and others are preparing to protest supporters of Parker.

Campus police said they're preparing for a possible rally supporting Parker, as well as the others who may counter that protest.

"We don't want to shine the spotlight on what they're doing, rather, we want to deflect from it and encourage folks to respond by increasing acts of goodness and kindness,"Shmuli Novack said.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said protesters will likely be separated, which is key for safety.

"They'll get with the people who may be protesting and set the parameters, letting them know what will be accepted and what will not be accepted," Smith said.

Many students hope the rally doesn't happen in the first place, and some said they're worried about their safety. 

"I don't think it has a place here, and those values are not good values to have," UNF student Stephen Griffin said. 

Student Madisen Smith said she's almost become numb to race controversy on campus these days. 

"I wasn't shocked because things like this have been happening on campus for a little bit now, so I was, like, 'Here's another situation that we have to deal with,'" Madisen Smith said. "I’m just looking around all the time, when I’m walking all the time, because you never know. And there’s probably more Ken Parkers on this campus and it’s, like, you can’t tell.”

Smith was among several students who said they hope the outcome of Monday's hearing will be that Parker isn't allowed to attend UNF anymore.

"I think that he should have been expelled, truthfully," student Meredith Hoag said. "If you’re going to threaten people, then you shouldn't be able to come back.”

UNF students told News4Jax on Thursday that UNF has been good about keeping them up-to-date with what to expect Monday.

Delaney said Parker will be escorted to and from the hearing by police.

University officials said they don't believe students have anything to worry about. 


About the Authors: