CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke at the Chautauqua Institution Sunday afternoon to address the stabbing of author Salman Rushdie, and speak on the measures the state will take to avoid future incidents of violence and radicalization.
The Chautauqua Institution is a nonprofit education center and summer resort for adults, located about an hour south of Buffalo in the Town of Chautauqua. The 750-acre community offers public events that focus on politics, religion, and social issues, as well as short- and long-term residential features and recreational activities.
“For over 150 years, Chautauqua Institution has really stood as the crown jewel in our state,” Hochul said during her remarks. “It’s founded on the principles of education, and freedom of expression, and inclusion.”
On Friday, the “Satanic Verses” author was stabbed in an attack while giving a lecture at the Institution. The Indian-born British-American novelist has experienced several death threats throughout his life, and spent a period in hiding under the protection of the British Government. In 1989, a year after he published “Satanic Verses,” the then-supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, called for Rushdie’s death.
“The attacker found him in this place; a place of openness, a place where thoughts are shared equally,” Hochul said about the stabbing.
Following the incident, he was transported via helicopter to an area hospital where he was treated for serious injuries. According to his agent, Andrew Wylie, Rushdie suffered damage to his liver, as well as severed nerves in an arm and an eye.
President of the Chautauqua Institute Michael Hill began the conference by addressing the incident.
“It’s really times like this when the spirit of New Yorkers comes through,” Hill said. “We are resilient, we’re kind, and New Yorkers try to move from tragedy to positive action. What happened here is something that’s, unfortunately, becoming a little too familiar in the world.”
In the two days since, Wylie said Rushdie was removed from a ventilator and is able to speak, although his recovery is expected to be a long process, and he may lose his eye.
Joined by Superintendent of NY State Police Kevin Bruen and Chautauqua Board of Trustees Chair Candy Maxwell, Hochul began her remarks by thanking the people who saved Rushdie’s life during the stabbing.
“They saved a man’s life,” she said. “I can still see the pain and trauma in their faces as they’re trying to figure out how something like this can happen in a place known for it’s healing, it’s tranquility, it’s harmony.”
Hochul described her and her family’s personal experiences visiting the educational institution, calling it a special place, and heralding its values.
“[Chautauqua] doesn’t just value dialogue freedom of speech and freedom of thought, this place exists because of those values. And I’m here to tell you it will exist for the next 150 years founded on those values as well,” she said to applause. “Because nothing, nothing will change what we have here.”
Hochul also took the opportunity to discuss what New York State is doing to prevent terrorist attacks in New York State, highlighting a social media monitoring program in development.
“I don’t want to be in the business in New York State of solving crimes,” Hochul said. “I want to be in the business of preventing crimes. And when the message is laid out there, and they’re spelling out, and no one connects the dots — Sounds a lot like 9/11, doesn’t it? They never connected the dots.”
Several times throughout her remarks, Hochul mentioned radicalization, and stated that New York will be working against radicalization in the form of monitoring and prevention teams. Additionally, Superintendent Bruen said that New York State Police will be increasing their presence in and around the Institution in conjunction with the county sheriff, as well as other preventative measures being taken against other potential incidents.
“Some of it you will see […] uniformed troopers, troopers with K-9s,” he said. And a lot of what will happen you won’t see — there’ll be investigators doing background works and threat assessments and other sorts of things that we do to try to get ahead of something.”
Chautauqua County Executive Paul Wendel also took to the stage to thank the “ordinary Chautauquans” who responded to the incident that day, preventing the attacker from murdering Rushdie and transporting him to treatment.
“People leaped from their seats to stop an assailant,” he said. They stopped what could’ve been world history.”
The suspect involved in the incident — 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey — was arrested at the institution. He is currently being held without bail, and his next court date is set for Aug. 19.
“Those who are motivated to violence because of calls [from] foreign leaders — even domestic leaders — calls for violence cannot be tolerated,” Hochul said. “Tolerance will always prevail over hate. Courage will always prevail over fear. And the pen will always prevail over the knife.”
Watch the full press conference in the video player below: