By TONY BENSON
On the morning of February 18, stickers promoting a white nationalist organization were found at sites across campus. A schoolwide email was sent following the events by Anna Billingsley addressing the incident.
“Sometime between February 17 and 18, stickers from a group called the Patriot Front appeared at several sites on our Fredericksburg campus,” Billingsley stated.
In her email, Billingsley condemned the incident.
“The ideas espoused by the Patriot Front are completely antithetical to UMW’s community values.” Billingsley continued, “as a community that resists bigotry, racism, and exclusion, Mary Washington has no place for groups such as the Patriot Front.”
On the group’s twitter account, they boasted of the stickers being placed on campus, posting in a tweet, “#PatriotFront activists spread the message at the University of Mary Washington, Virginia,” the tweet read.
Due to the recent politically charged messages that have been found on the Spirit Rock, there have been heightened tensions among UMW students, and political clubs such as the Young Democrats and College Republicans, both of whom wasted no time in condemning the stickers and the Patriot Front.
The Young Democrats released a statement on their club Facebook and Twitter page on the night of February 18.
“The University of Mary Washington Young Dems are outraged that white supremacist groups have put up propaganda across campus again. This is the most recent episode in a chain of similar events starting last year when hate speech was posted outside of Madison hall,” the post read.
Shawnya Peterson, Vice President of the Young Democrats, was the first person to report the stickers presence to campus police. Peterson had noticed the first sticker around 11 a.m., and she went on to find another sixteen spread across campus until the last one would be removed at 6 p.m. She described the stickers as, “sick and heartless,” and said that they made her feel, “sick to her stomach.” Regarding the help of the campus police, she said that they were helpful in removing the stickers, but they didn’t help her search for them on the campus.
The President of the Young Democrats, Sarah Mahmud, used similar language in describing the Propaganda stickers. Mahmud said that in response to the stickers, the Young Democrats painted, “Hate Has No Home Here,” on the Spirit Rock. They also plan on collaborating with social justice clubs from around campus and are also in the process of organizing events that aim to, “take direct action against hatred in our community.”
The College Republicans also condemned the Patriot Front stickers that were found on campus. Rachel Hodges, the President of the College Republicans, released a statement in response to the stickers.
“UMW College Republicans was devastated to hear about the Patriot Front stickers that were put on our campus. We condemn whoever did this and the message that they carry.” Hodges added, “We want to make it very clear that whoever put these stickers up are not welcome at any of our meetings or events.”
In a video released days after the incident, President Troy Paino gave a response to the stickers. In the video, he spoke of the University’s diversity and unity, even through times of tension.
“Recent events on campus and in the community have reminded us if the difficult, but important work we have in front of us: To create a more diverse and inclusive community.” President Paino said, adding, “I want to remind you, that at Mary Washington we believe that our differences make us stronger, not weaker, but when you stand for this principle, there will from time to time be outside forces that will try to divide us and instill fear in us.”
The stickers put up promoting the Patriot Front are a reminder of the political divides that there are in this country. The investigation into who are responsible for the putting up the white nationalist propaganda is ongoing, and the SGA is working on finding ways to help prevent further incidents of this sort from happening again.