On Sept. 15, Johnson City will host the first annual TriPride event. TriPride is a nonprofit organization focused on including the LGBTQ community and its allies in the surrounding Appalachian area through community outreach and public demonstrations. For Johnson City, this event shows the city’s growth and progression toward including a diversity of people. For the LGBTQ community, TriPride leads a step forward to acceptance.

Another organization showing face on Sept. 15 is called the League of the South, a “Southern nationalist” organization whose “ultimate goal is ‘a free and independent Southern republic.’” The League of the South believes “leftist agitators and foreign religions” are tearing down Southern traditions and thus diminishing Southern people as a whole.

In an article from the League of the South’s website, the group says, “For the South, cultural as well as political secession is the only practical, the only realistic, and the only moral choice.”

To protect Southern culture, the organization holds public events and rallies to advocate their cause. The Johnson City Press reports that the League believes “the growing agency of people of color and individuals in the LGBTQ communities represents a threat to the power they believe their ancestors handed down to them through birthright.”

As far-fetched as this seems, this is real. Hate speech and bigotry fully shows why marginalized communities need advocacy, protection and awareness. There are those who truly believe multiculturalism, diversity and community inclusion eradicates another culture.

For one group of people to believe another’s inclusion could erase the first is entirely falsified and shows fear of diversity and change. As shown above, the League of the South advocates for a second secession, which would perhaps end in another bloody, second civil war. This group has not only alienated themselves from progressive movements and other communities, but they have essentially excluded themselves from growing American values.

While the League of the South does not seemingly promote violence, their hate speech against other communities shows their resentment toward others unaligned with their traditional cultural values. This bigoted endorsement of white supremacy, with symbols of the swastika and the Confederate flags to further their points, hints at what extreme measures this organization would take to neutralize what or who the group and its allies deem a threat.

The First Amendment runs true in this country, and I advocate it to its fullest extent, so while this group is legally allowed to voice their opinions, where does the line draw between hate speech and freedom of speech, between freedom of speech and terrorism?

Its establishment as an organization should be illegal, including efforts of recruitment and hosting public events. The League of the South is not only racist, but it is homophobic, anti-Semitic (check out the group’s article, “Jews, mental illness, and guns: An ever-present danger”), and anti-government. I find it ironic that hate groups such as the League of the South can exist when Islamic terrorism has been the forefront of every political debate and war effort since 9/11.

Wake up, America. This is real.

Regardless of gender or sexuality, I encourage everyone to attend TriPride, if only to show that those who support love and human rights outweighs those who wish to destroy the foundations this country was built onfreedom from oppression, freedom from injustice and freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness.