Eastern Washington University students held a “unity rally” Tuesday afternoon in response to racist flyers that were left on the Cheney campus earlier this month.
A white supremacist group called Identity Evropa took credit for the flyers and posted photos of them on Twitter on Feb. 18. Some of the flyers bore the group’s logo, and one declared, “Your professor is scared of this book,” above an image of a book titled “White Identity: Racial Consciousness in the 21st Century.”
At Tuesday’s rally, students said the flyers were evidence of deep-seated racism on campus and in the broader community, and they lambasted whoever posted the flyers for doing so anonymously. A crowd of around 200 students heard speeches from several of their peers, and from Shari Clarke, the university’s vice president for diversity and inclusion.
“The national landscape is unfortunately filled with inequities, prejudice, racism, sexism, homophobia and diviseness,” Clarke told the crowd. “Now more than ever, your voices are needed, and we are hearing you, Eagles, loud and clear.”
President Mary Cullinan also condemned the flyers in a statement, saying, “As your president, I want to affirm yet again, Eastern’s commitment to ensuring that we have a diverse and inclusive campus where everyone feels safe to study and work.”
And in a separate statement, EWU’s faculty organization said it’s “committed to diversity in its broadest definition.”
Jasmine Hernandez, a sophomore who spoke at the rally, said she has been encouraged by the response from faculty and administrators.
“This is a community of love and support,” Hernandez said. “Eastern is not a place where anyone has to fight alone, ever.”
EWU students held a similar rally in November 2016, shortly after President Donald Trump was elected, to protest his plan to end an Obama-era program that shielded some 800,000 young immigrants from deportation. Trump has since followed through on his promise to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, leaving the fate of those immigrants up to Congress.
EWU student Marixza Torres spoke at Tuesday’s rally about undocumented classmates who have continued pursuing their degrees despite fears of repercussions from authorities and others in the community.
“Some of my friends have stood up for themselves and demanded sanctuary,” Torres said. “I want to say that this is not an easy thing to do. They have disclosed their identity knowing damn well that they will be targeted. Their thoughts are consumed with ways they can protect themselves.”
EWU spokesman Dave Meany said the flyers were swiftly taken down because people must get permission to post materials on university property. And if the person behind the flyers had asked for permission, “we would have said no because we don’t allow discriminatory or inflammatory materials like that to be posted on campus,” he said.
Meany said campus police looked into the flyers, “but it will be hard to track down the person who did it.”
Identity Evropa, which describes itself as “a fraternal organization for people of European heritage,” routinely plasters university campuses with racist propaganda and then tweets about it, apparently to demonstrate its reach. On Feb. 25 the group hit the University of Washington in Seattle, and last week several of its stickers were found at Gonzaga University.
In a statement to KXLY, Gonzaga said it took the matter seriously and advised people to report any similar materials to campus security “so that the propaganda can be documented, removed and investigated.”
Since the presidential campaign, racist flyers also have been found on several occasions on the Washington State University campus in Pullman. Some that turned up about a year ago targeted “illegal aliens” and appeared to be the work of a white supremacist group called American Vanguard. Last fall, WSU students were greeted with posters declaring, “It’s OK to be white.”
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