We’ve had disagreements over the years with the Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice, but we’d like to rise to the defense of that organization right now.
That’s because the group was attacked Thursday by Riley County Commissioner Ron Wells. Which, in and of itself, is a badge of honor, and so our defense is probably unnecessary. Commissioner Wells, as you probably know, has lashed out at The Mercury repeatedly; he has ripped into a citizen in a social-media squabble about boob jobs; he has spoken warmly about police beating people with rubber hoses; he has questioned the need for the First Amendment.
On Thursday, he said a new group of people in the alliance have dragged it “right down into the gutter.” He said that the “downhill slide” of the MAPJ meant that “to me, you just don’t exist anymore.”
The MAPJ started out as what was called the Manhattan Alliance on Central American. Led by K-State philosophy professor John Exdell, it opposed U.S. involvement in Nicaragua, El Salvador and other Central American countries during the Reagan Administration. That was a big issue at the time, but it faded into the 1990s, and so the founders morphed the group to focus on broader social-justice issues. Some of those were specifically local; others were national or international. The group’s focus has shifted over the years with different leadership, but it has always stood for similar values.
In recent weeks, the group has turned its attention specifically to the Riley County Commission, after Commissioner Marvin Rodriguez made ridiculous remarks about the Manhattan area being relatively unaffected by the coronavirus because of a lack of Chinese people here. The group was essentially defending the interests of Asian citizens here, calling for Rodriguez to resign and calling for commission meetings to be streamed live online for greater exposure.
As has been the case with several MAPJ proposals over the years, we’re not entirely on board with either proposal. Voters will take care of Mr. Rodriguez if they choose, and the real issues with the county commission will not be solved by a webcam. We’ve written our view on those matters before.
But we salute MAPJ for its vigilance and its advocacy, regardless of policy disagreements. It is an organization that has served as a conscience for the community for decades, and continues to serve that way today. Not only does it still exist, it is as relevant as it has ever been.