Chautauqua facility reviews security after Salman Rushdie attack: NPR


Chautauqua has a strict set of zoning restrictions aimed at preserving the Victorian look of the community. Although many do, visitors are not required to attend cultural events. If they want, they can ride their bikes, swim or play lawn games.

Jim Zarroli/NPR


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Chautauqua facility reviews security after Salman Rushdie attack: NPR

Chautauqua has a strict set of zoning restrictions aimed at preserving the Victorian look of the community. Although many do, visitors are not required to attend cultural events. If they want, they can ride their bikes, swim or play lawn games.

Jim Zarroli/NPR

Visiting the famous Chautauqua institution in Western New York, with its narrow streets that wind past Victorian gingerbread houses, can sometimes feel like taking a trip to a quieter, sweeter past.

It’s a friendly, serious place for serious conversation and quiet contemplation, where crime is virtually non-existent and the realities of the outside world can seem distant.

But on the morning of August 12, reality set in.

Author Salman Rushdie was brutally stabbed in an extremist violent attack as he prepared to give a talk at the Chautauqua Amphitheater. A New Jersey man has been charged in the attack.

“It was all over in, you know, 20 or 30 seconds. I couldn’t see a knife from where I was sitting, but I could see the attacker hitting the victim over and over again with his fist,” said said Rich Lewis, a retired teacher who attended the conference.

The attack on Rushdie, who has long been the target of a fatwa, first by the Iranian government, for his depiction of Muhammad in satanic versesforced Chautauqua to reconsider opening.

Chautauqua has long emphasized intellectual curiosity, offering its visitors a daily program filled with concerts, classes and religious services.

The list of famous people who spoke at Chautauqua is long and impressive, including Booker T. Washington, Margaret Mead, and Susan B. Anthony. In 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt gave a major speech at Chautauqua about the impending war in Europe, which became known as his “I Hate War” speech.

Artists who have performed at Chautauqua include Duke Ellington, Yo-Yo Ma, Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross, as well as the Dance Theater of Harlem and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Chautauqua has its own symphony orchestra.

“It’s a place that restores our souls because of the music, the dancing and the lectures. It just enriches our lives every day,” said Kim Hartney, of New Albany, Ohio, whose family members are long-time visitors.

Visitors are free to spend their time however they wish, swimming, boating or just lounging on their porches. But most people benefit from daily activities.

“I do a maximum of about nine hours a day. If I go to the morning service and end up at the amp in the evening, it’s from 9:00 a.m. until about 10:00 p.m. You’re exhausted when you go to bed,” said Liz Kolken, a full-time resident.

Chautauqua was founded in 1874 by a Methodist bishop and inventor, and quickly became a popular vacation spot for Protestant families. It was a sober place, where alcohol was forbidden and dress rather formal.

“Our founders imagined that as this idea of ​​free time emerged for the middle class, they wanted to find a way for people to use that time wisely,” said the senior vice president and chief brand officer. of Chautauqua, Emily Morris.

Over the following decades, Chautauqua sparked a movement, with hundreds of imitators springing up, bringing arts and culture to rural Americans.

Most have gradually closed, but the original Chautauqua survives, welcoming thousands of guests each year.

Today, alcohol is no longer banned and all faiths are welcome. Renting a private house on the land can be expensive, which may be one of the reasons for the older clientele. Gray hair is common in Chautauqua.

Chautauqua facility reviews security after Salman Rushdie attack: NPR

Police search some guests entering the Chautauqua Amphitheater to hear Rhiannon Giddens. Since the Salman Rushdie attack, people now have to go through metal detectors to attend certain events.

Jim Zarroli/NPR


hide caption

toggle caption

Jim Zarroli/NPR

Chautauqua facility reviews security after Salman Rushdie attack: NPR

Police search some guests entering the Chautauqua Amphitheater to hear Rhiannon Giddens. Since the Salman Rushdie attack, people now have to go through metal detectors to attend certain events.

Jim Zarroli/NPR

Following Rushdie’s attack, Chautauqua temporarily tightened its security measures. Visitors to the amphitheater where Rushdie was stabbed now have to go through metal detectors, for example.

But officials are still struggling to decide how open Chautauqua will be in the long term.

“Chautauqua wouldn’t be Chautauqua if it turned into what looked like a police state. It would tear at the very fabric of who we are and what we believe in the world,” said Michael Hill, president of Chautauqua.

Barbara Cassetta has been coming to Chautauqua on and off for years. As a young single mother, she loved being able to let her children roam the grounds unsupervised, without having to worry about them.

She considers Rushdie’s attack “an aberration. I don’t think it’s something I expect. But, then, in America today, you don’t know what to expect.”

Chautauqua remains a very safe place, she said. But that can’t always prevent chaos and controversy from the outside world from seeping in.


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