WSA, Administration, and Students Respond to White Supremacist Posters

Earlier today, I received a tip from a friend that yesterday (April 23), a group of older white “protesters” were demonstrating in the 100 block of Washington Street (between High Street and Main) around 2-3PM, and were displaying signs with messages like “White America is the real America.” After I updated today’s post with that information, Wesleying received several anonymous tips confirming that there was indeed a white nationalist demonstration on Washington Street yesterday afternoon.

Those submitting the tips said that they overheard the group of white nationalist demonstrators planning an “anti affirmative action” demonstration outside of the Office of Admission at 9PM tonight. But that’s not exactly how it panned out.

Around 8:50PM, students began gathering on the sidewalk in front of the Office of Admission, many with the intention of shutting down any white nationalist demonstration that might occur. Others were interested in staging a counter-demonstration. The students didn’t seem to be from any particular group but were rather a collection of people who had heard rumors of the potential white nationalist demonstration.

A public safety vehicle was parked in the Office of Admissions parking lot when I arrived. Dean Mike Whaley and Dean Antonio Farias were gathered with a Public Safety officer and another person (who I assume worked for Wesleyan) in the parking lot adjacent to Fayerweather. They said that they hadn’t seen any white nationalist demonstrators and that they had only witnessed the group of students gathering for a counter-demonstration.

At around 9:40, a group of masked Antifa (Antifascist Action) activists joined the group of students, which numbered around 30 at that point. The Antifa activists were wearing mostly black and had several Antifa flags as well.

The Antifa members appeared to be mostly a collection of non-students. After speaking with several of them, I learned that they appeared to have found out about the posters through the Wesleying post, but did not say how they found out about the potential white nationalist demonstration in front of admissions. One of them mentioned that there were several white nationalist groups calling for actions at campuses nationwide today and referenced the white nationalist postering at the University of Pennsylvania that also happened today.

There were several rumors circulating mentioning that the masked Antifa were white nationalists, but this isn’t the case. Antifa groups trace a lineage to antifascist activist groups in Britain from the 1980s. They have been increasingly active since President Trump’s election and inauguration. These groups have praised the punching of white nationalist Richard Spencer on inauguration day, and have been threatening to block Ann Coulter from speaking at UC Berkeley this week.

Students remained outside of Fayerweather, across from the admissions parking lot, alongside the collection of Antifa activists until around 10:15 and then began to disperse as it became clear that the demonstration would not be happening.

In addition to the administrative response to the rumors of a potential white nationalist demonstration around Wyllys Ave, Dean Mike Whaley and Dean Antonio Farias sent out an all-campus email regarding the posters that were put up earlier today. Here is the full text of their email:

Dear Wesleyan community,

We have received reports of anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and white nationalist flyers vandalizing traffic signs on the periphery of campus. The Middletown Police Department has been contacted.

We support undocumented students and reject all aspects of bias in our community. As we have stated previously, our campus has no place for speech that targets individuals or groups based on religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, citizenship status, gender, disability, sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression. We are a campus that welcomes and celebrates every member of our community; we will not be divided.

If you encounter any posters or flyers that denigrate any member of our campus community, or witness incidents involving verbal harassment based on someone’s identity or background, or are subject to such harassment yourself, please report the incident online through the Incident Reporting Form or contact theOffice for Equity & Inclusion and/or Public Safety. Additionally, if you wish to discuss these incidents in person, please contact the Office for Equity & Inclusion and/or Student Affairs.

Mike Whaley
Vice President for Student Affairs

Antonio Farias
Vice President for Equity & Inclusion, Title IX Officer

The email states that Middletown Police were informed of the posters that went up overnight. It also reiterates that there should be no place for hate speech of any kind on Wesleyan’s campus and that any incidents should be reported via a variety of institutional channels.

President of the WSA Rebecca Hutman ’17 sent a letter to Wesleying editors regarding today’s incidents on behalf of the entire WSA leadership board. The statement recognizes the hateful nature of these posters and the very real disruptions they are causing to students’ senses of safety. The statement also commits to supporting the response of the Wesleyan community to these events, whether that be in the form of “conveying student needs to administrators, organizing forums for discussion, or providing financial support to student-led initiatives in response.” Here is the full text of their statement:

Dear Wesleyan Community,

You may have seen a Wesleying post regarding the posting of white supremacist posters on campus, or you may have seen these posters and stickers for yourself. The presence of such heinous and hateful sentiments anywhere is unsettling, but the proximity of these statements at this time is particularly threatening. The administration is aware of the posters and will be surveying the premises to understand their reach. It is undeniable that the sentiments expressed make many on our campus feel unsafe. These hateful, racist, and xenophobic messages are a direct violation of the inclusive community that we strive to create.

The Wesleyan Student Assembly wishes to support the actions that our community decides upon as we confront the bigotry made visible on campus today. Whether that means conveying student needs to administrators, organizing forums for discussion, or providing financial support to student-led initiatives in response, we hope to remain a resource to you. If you think of ways that we can be helpful during this time, please let us know through this portal or feel reach out directly to Rebecca Hutman (rhutman[at]wesleyan[dot]edu), Nila Ravi (nravi[at]wesleyan[dot]edu), Lizzie Shackney (eshackney[at]wesleyan[dot]edu), Emma Austin (eaustin[at]wesleyan[dot]edu), Keyonne Session (ksession[at]wesleyan[dot]edu), Izzy Linzer (ilinzer[at]wesleyan[dot]edu), or Azher Jaweed (ajaweed[at]wesleyan[dot]edu).

In support and solidarity,

The WSA Leadership Board

Rebecca Hutman, Nila Ravi, Lizzie Shackney, Emma Austin, Keyonne Session, Izzy Linzer, and Azher Jaweed