By ELIZABETH FINTO
Another white supremacist group made its presence known on UMW’s campus.
On Nov. 25, UMW Police found numerous fliers and stickers from the white supremacist group Identity Evropa. According to the UMW Police, these fliers were acting as part of a “recruiting campaign that targets college campuses.”
The propaganda dispersed around campus was found near Blackstone Coffee and on the Eagle Village bridge. UMW was not the only college that was targeted. Other colleges including North Carolina State University, University of Montana, Bridgewater College, and numerous others nationwide have had fliers posted on their campuses. Identity Evropa shares images of the fliers posted on college campuses to their Twitter account numerous times each day. These fliers include images of European statues and phrases such as “Our Future Belongs to Us” and “Keep Your Diversity We Want Identity.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Identity Evropa is a white supremacist group that was launched in March of 2016. Their goal is to “preserve ‘white American culture’” and uphold the “white European identity” (Anti-Defamation League) by using hate speech and a racist ideology. Identity Evropa also played a role in the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville.
The UMW Police received a call early in the morning on Nov. 25 about the fliers and immediately responded. “We canvassed the community, we looked for other areas on campus [with fliers] and found some other fliers and we took those down,” said Michael Hall, the chief of UMW Police. “While the information and the ideas behind [Identity Evropa] are despicable, it’s not illegal.”
Chief Hall ensures that there are numerous measures in place, such as cameras and patrol, in order to help prevent these events. “We can’t guarantee it won’t happen again,” he said. But we have policies and procedures that prohibit [these acts] on our campus. We don’t condone this here at the University of Mary Washington. It goes contrary to everything we believe in.”
The UMW Police and the UMW community “continue to reach out to other counterparts whether its at the local, state, or federal level,” according to Chief Hall.
Although Hall recognized the importance of notifying the community of what has happened, Hall explained that, at the same time, he “does not want to create a platform to get a message out that reinforces or publicizes Identity Evropa’s message.”
Chief Hall shares that he never wants to put UMW’s community in fear. “We’re on top of this and we are following this. We are an open campus, and we want our community to feel safe and secure,” he said.
UMW’s Student Government Association is also making efforts to prevent similar incidents. In a statement, they explained: “SGA constantly strives to be an inclusive governing body, and ensure that all students feel like they belong here at UMW. SGA is committed to working with the university to maintain a safe campus environment. To further that commitment, the Senate voted on November 7 to create an ad-hoc Campus Safety Committee. This committee is charged with all matters of student safety and security. Every student, no matter their race, class, gender identity, etc… deserves to feel at home at UMW.”
Students also voiced their concerns about these incidents and how they are handled.
“My experience with UMW has always been a positive one that has been super welcoming and inclusive, but I see a major lack of diverse representation around our campus and I think flyers like these hurt UMWs image to be more diverse and inclusive,” said senior and communication and digital studies major, Christiana Meyers. “Students have the right to express themselves but it’s UMW’s job to make sure that it is happening in a way that is respectful to all.”
UMW College Republicans condemned the actions of Identity Evropa. “There is no place for white supremacy here in Fredericksburg,” said the club’s president, senior political science major Stephen Lamm. “To use a known slogan and be a little cliché, ‘Hate is not a UMW value.’ Our campus is [a] diverse in thought and background, and we want people to feel safe here.”
The UMW Young Democrats club did not respond to a request for comment.
“I honestly wasn’t that fazed by it,” said senior and wildlife conservation major Maddie Reid. “It isn’t because I’m okay with what happened. I’ve just become really numb to all of the awful things that happen now. It seems so normal now for people to be targeted or hated or mistreated. I know that white supremacy goes against our core values as UMW students, but it also goes against my core values as a human being. When someone uses their right to [free speech] to create a world where others feel trapped, then it’s not okay.”
Senior biology major Bekah DeBell agreed.
“I think this act is completely unacceptable. It should be investigated but I’m also not sure we handled it in the best way possible. They clearly wanted attention which is exactly what [UMW] gave them,” she said.
Although this act was not illegal, this is the sixth related incident that has occurred on UMW’s Fredericksburg campus in the past three years. In 2015, one hate crime regarding a religious bias was reported. In 2017, four hate crimes regarding sexual orientation, race, religion, and gender were reported.