KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — After The Rock was defaced with hate speech for the third time in eighteen months this week, the Knoxville Jewish community is responding with a new, love-based initiative.
In a statement, The Knoxville Jewish Alliance (KJA) said it appreciates UT Chancellor Donde Plowman’s immediate response "condemning the latest HATE language appearing on The Rock", and said "our community welcomes her three-step plan to combat hate."
In response, the Knoxville Jewish Alliance has initiated a “Knoxville Against Hate” campaign. The first billboard features a religious COEXIST poster and can currently be viewed at I-40 and James White Parkway.
Tracking Hate | What's happening at 'The Rock'?
Anti-Jewish comments have been painted on The Rock at the University of Tennessee's campus three times over eighteen months. Here's a look back at previous times hate speech covered The Rock, and how the university responded.
January 22, 2018 - The Rock was painted with hateful messages over the course of the month by a "racial separatist group".
Shortly after University of Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport issued a statement against the group: "Even though the First Amendment to the Constitution protects hate speech, that does not mean we must remain silent about it. In fact, we have a responsibility to condemn what we know is wrong. Hate is wrong. Racism is wrong. Advocating for the exclusion of all but one race is clearly wrong," she wrote. University of Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport has issued a response to several incidents where hateful words and symbols were painted on the Rock.
November 10, 2018 - Swastikas and messages of hate were painted on The Rock the night of November 10, 2018. At the time, was the second time in two weeks that The Rock had been used to communicate hate.
In a statement released on Nov. 11 about the most recent incident, UT officials said the messages are hurtful and threatening to many members of their community and do not represent Volunteer values.
However, messages of love covered up the words shortly after.
September 12 , 2019 - Tennessee Volunteers adorned The Rock with words of tribute for the boy who was bullied for his homemade Vol shirt. Then, someone painted over it with the words "Jews did 9/11. Google: Dancing Israelis."
It was quickly painted over with a message of "Love Thy Brother," but images of the hate speech on the Rock had already spread across Twitter.
The university's chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi, a traditionally Jewish organization, expressed their disappointment over UT "constantly doing nothing to address this" in a post on Facebook.