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Chautauqua President addresses future, security

Chautauqua Institution President Dr. Michael E. Hill stepped up to a podium outside of the state police barracks in Jamestown late Friday afternoon. Troopers had been answering questions about the stabbing of author Salman Rushdie and the arrest of his alleged attacker. Along with The Post-Journal and OBSERVER, media at the press conference included New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters, Fox News and more.

Now it was Hill’s turn.

He let everyone know that this attack is not going to stop them from their mission. “Chautauqua is a community of people of all faiths and our collective families are holding Mr. Rushdie and Mr. Reese (the interviewer on stage) and well as their families, close in prayer this hour,” he said.

Hill noted this is the first time they’ve had an incident like this in the Institution’s nearly 150 year history.

“We were founded to bring people together in community to learn, and in doing so, create solutions through actions to develop actions, to develop empathy and to take on intractable problems,” he said. “Today now, we’re called to take on fear, and the worst of all human traits — hate.”

On Friday, Chautauqua Institution canceled all its programming for the remainder of the day. That included the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra’s performance scheduled that night at the Reg Lenna in Jamestown.

But Hill added it was not their intention to be down for long. “Be assured, we will return to our podiums and our pulpits at Chautauqua. We will continue to convene the critical conversations that can help build empathy, obviously which is now more important than ever,” he said.

The Institution remains open for both residents and those with day or week long passes.

During questions from reporters, Hill was asked if they were planning on shutting down, which he swiftly rejected. “It is our intention to continue with the season,” he said.

He did not say if events would continue today or Sunday. There’s a number of events on the calendar including performances by the Chautauqua Theater Company, Chamber Music, and more. He encouraged everyone to go to their website chq.org to get the latest update.

On Monday, Rep. Jamie Raskin is scheduled to speak. A Maryland congressman, Raskin is a member of the Jan. 6 Commission. Hill did not address if that event will still take place.

Hill was also asked if they’re going to add metal detectors or any other types of security measures. “We assess for every event what we think the appropriate security level is. This is one that we thought was important, which is why we had state trooper and sheriff presence there. We will assess for each of the events at the Institution what we think the appropriate level of security is,” he said.

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