by JESS KIRBY & JOSEPHINE JOHNSON
After a period of inactivity from the group, stickers from the white supremacist group, Patriot Front, were found on the UMW campus the morning of Oct. 9. There were six stickers in total, posted on signs outside of the University Center, George Washington Hall, Mason Hall, Lee Hall, Tyler House and on the Double Drive gate.
According to UMW Police Chief Michael Hall, security footage shows stickers posted around 2 a.m. by two white males in ball caps and whiteface masks. The first sticker was discovered by students and reported to UMW PD on the early morning of Oct. 9. The rest were found by students and UMW police officers throughout the day of Oct. 9, and a sixth sticker was located that evening.
Although the two individuals who posted the sticker were caught on security footage, Hall said that identifying them is a complicated process. Patriot Front is careful to pay attention to where cameras are placed.
“Unfortunately we haven’t been able to identify some of the pictures,” said Hall. “Identifying who the person is, unless someone knows them, becomes very challenging. They’re obviously watching the campus and they know where things are.”
Senior women and gender studies and English major Sarah Parker found and removed a sticker outside of the University Center around 11 a.m. on Oct. 9.
“I was angry, frustrated, irate. I felt sick that, yet again, the Patriot Front has defiled a point on our campus with their hate-filled, oppressive agenda. This is a weak, cowardly group with no purpose other than to attempt to instill fear into those that they refuse to accept,” said Parker.
Many other students wish UMW would do more to investigate these groups.
“This time last year, students asked what would be the punishment for students found to be affiliated with the organization, only to receive silence,” said junior Brianna Reaves, a sociology major and president of the UMW NAACP. “When it comes to the safety and livelihood of Black students on campus, silence will not suffice. The University of Mary Washington should be reading the NAACP UMW’s police report which maps out solutions and demands to create an environment in which bigotry and white supremacy is not tolerated by any means. The University must also be cognizant that emails and open-ended investigations have not aided in the protection of Black students on campus. Rather, it has sent the message that our lives are only watered down to task forces because it is convenient.”
The recurrence of white supremacist groups on campus makes many students feel unsafe.
“I am a Jewish student, but when the Patriot Front stickers start to show on campus each year, I do not wear my Star of David necklace,” said Parker. “But there are many others that aren’t able to take their identity off in such a way, namely students of color.”
Reaves is also affected by the close proximity of these events to her daily life on campus.
“My initial reaction after hearing about the Patriot Front stickers being on campus was that of discomfort. Seeing the stickers scratched off of the UC elevators reminded me that the people apart of this terrorist group and those that align with their values are closer than the University would have us to believe,” said Reaves .
The last time Patriot Front posted propaganda in downtown Fredericksburg and on the UMW campus was March 30, 2020, according to their website.
Because posting these stickers is a form of free speech protected by the first amendment, Patriot Front members cannot be arrested or criminally prosecuted.
“It’s not a criminal offense and that’s where it gets complicated,” said Hall. “It’s an open campus so they can walk where they want to. We’re just careful in… making sure we’re not violating anyone’s rights.”
However, UMW PD, along with other police departments from Virginia colleges and universities, have discovered a pattern in the group’s activity by sharing information.
“We send out the information to other colleges and universities to try and track trends and identify who the people are and just have a conversation about why they continue to post on our campus and other campuses across the nation. They pretty much follow the same pattern. They’ll tag us, they’ll get Christopher Newport, Germanna Community College, VCU, University of Richmond. And they’ll post on their websites,” said Hall.