On Monday, students at Indiana University Bloomington mistook a priest for a Ku Klux Klan member, taking to social media to express their fear of the alleged Klansman, who they claimed was carrying a whip, and dressed in “white robes.”
Rumors of a Klansman on campus were extinguished after it was pointed out that the passerby was actually a priest innocently making his way through Bloomington, Indiana. When sighted on campus, students thought his white robes indicated an affiliation with the KKK.
Residential hall advisor Ethan Gill quickly wrote an email to his students, warning them of the “threat” on campus: “There has been a person reported walking around campus in a KKK outfit holding a whip. Because the person is protected under first amendment rights, IUPD cannot remove this person from campus unless an act of violence is committed. Please PLEASE PLEASE be careful out there tonight, always be with someone and if you have no dire reason to be out of the building, I would recommend staying indoors if you’re alone.”
Later in the evening, Gill was forced to retract his warning on his Facebook page, where he clarified that the purported Klansman was actually just an innocent priest dressed in liturgical garments. The “whip” turned out to be the clergyman’s robe-like belt that was tied around his waist.
“This is what happens when there is miscommunication,” Gill wrote. “So what happened tonight goes like this: a person saw white robes and what looked to them like a weapon, got scared (rightfully so), warned people, warned staff, which in turn caused me to warn my residents because I need to look out for my residents, which in turn made it spread.”
“Then my residents, terrified, come running to me, saying yeah the report must be true, they saw him and couldn‘t believe there was a klansmember [sic] with a whip,” he explained. “And I see this picture. It’s a priest. With a rosary.”
Although Gill clarified that there was no threat on campus, he made sure to remind students that their fears were legitimate because Klan members have caused unrest on Indiana University’s campus in the past: “Now, I get it why a person would be scared. There in fact HAVE been klansmembers [sic] on the campus spurting hate speech, but never have they been reported with a weapon. So yeah, if it was in fact a weapon and a threat, it’s a good thing to warn a friend. So when someone warns other people, we need to be cautious. However, what I’ve learned from this is to take anything with a grain of salt. In the future, I’m still sending my residents warnings of threats, crime, hate gatherings, and all that but I will wait for a confirmation. But now that there is no danger I can say: this is a hilarious miscommunication.”