BATAVIA, N.Y. — There is more controversy Tuesday over the ReAwaken America Tour coming to Genesee County this weekend, after a letter sent by the New York State Attorney General to event organizers.
The event has featured speakers including former President Donald Trump's son Eric Trump and former national security advisor Michael Flynn.
A handful of protestors opposed to the event picketed outside of Cornerstone Church in Batavia over the past weekend.
Now, a pastor of the church where the tour is planned to stop this weekend, says he believes a letter sent by NY AG Letitia James was an effort to intimidate them as part of a push to quash Christian conservative voices.
"I Felt Like It Was Trying To Bully Us"
The letter arrived via U.S. mail and was addressed to event organizers in care of the church, according to Pastor Paul Doyle.
"I felt like it was trying to bully us," Doyle said.
In the letter James raises concerns the event could spur "extremist or racially motivated violence"....and makes claim the of the featured speakers "regular allusions to white nationalist ideals."
"She's basically insinuating that we're involved in racists activity," said Doyle, who thought the tone of the letter bordered on defamation.
"We are a Christian Church. My youth pastor is an African American, and we have a number of African Americans in our church. They are insulted by this," said Doyle, whose church was also among the first to respond with food and clothing to residents of the Jefferson Avenue neighborhood in Buffalo, after the racially motivated mass shooting at a Topps Store on May 14.
"Intimidation Right From Our Government"
The letter also reminds that state law prohibits racially motivated violence, harassment, or interference with another person in the exercise of their civil rights, such as protesting, and that anyone could be fined for doing so.
The ReAwaken America tour had previously been scheduled for this weekend at the Main Street Armory in Rochester, but its owner decided to cancel after he and his staff received threats from those opposed.
"I understand there are extremist groups out there, but if you're going to call us an extremists group I’d like to see some validity for that...and it's intimidation right from our government," said Doyle. There's nothing racist about this event. In fact, there will be there's a number of African American speakers as well as Jewish speakers at this event."
Doyle said he had no calls or contact from the AG's office prior to the letter's arrival.
"There should be no drama here. We are free to assemble and we are free to speak," he said.
AG Doubles Down
James later issued a statement reading in part, "
“The so-called ReAwaken America tour is nothing but a traveling carnival of hate speech, wild conspiracy theories, and attacks on our democratic process,” said Attorney General James. “Wherever this tour goes, it leaves a trail of divided communities and heightened tensions. I have zero tolerance for racist and hateful rhetoric that urges violence against any New Yorker. To the organizers of this event in Batavia let me be clear: My office will not hesitate to use the full force of the law to clamp down on any racially motivated violence or unlawful conduct.”
AG James also said that her office will take legal action if Civil Rights Laws are violated.
"I don’t find any validity to what they say this event represents," said Doyle.
The tour is scheduled for this Friday and Saturday.