Police arrested a person who was hanging anti-Semitic, anti-gun control flyers near the American University campus in Washington, D.C., on Monday morning.
The posters depicted an anti-gun control message along with pictures of Adolf Hitler and one of the students advocating for gun safety after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, FL, according to Dr. Fanta Aw, vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence. The administration did not say which student was pictured, and we reached out to the campus police for more details.
The university police stopped and questioned the perpetrator, and immediately notified the D.C. police, who arrested him for defacing public property. He reportedly had no affiliation with AU.
"Particularly given that these posters were found during a week in which we remember those who were lost in the Holocaust, we understand how hurtful and deeply offensive this can be to our Jewish community and to all who mourn in solidarity with them," Dr. Aw said in a statement. Holocaust Remembrance Day begins on Wednesday night, and Jewish student organizations are planning events to honor the victims. "As I have stated previously, we reject hate, bigotry, intimidation in all its forms and firmly believe that they have no place in our society."
Five of the 17 people killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas were Jewish, as are some of the leaders of the Never Again movement for gun reform. Right-wingers have been attacking Parkland students, such as when Fox News host Laura Ingraham made fun of David Hogg and a candidate for the Maine state House of Representatives called Emma González a "skinhead lesbian."
AU has long been a target for white nationalist recruiting and propaganda, but it's far from the only college in the U.S. where this has occurred. On Friday, we published a report that detailed the growing number of anti-immigrant, racist, and anti-Semitic propaganda at schools around the country, from AU to the University of South Carolina to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. grew by almost 60% in 2017, with incidents on college campuses nearly doubling from 108 in 2016 to 204 in 2017.
In response to previous racist occurrences — such as Confederate-flag flyers with cotton affixed to them hung on campus — AU introduced an ambitious diversity and inclusion plan in January, which includes bias training and hiring more diverse faculty.
"I know personally I'm glad they actually caught the person this time," senior Zoey Jordan Salsbury, who is Jewish, told Refinery29. "But it's still pretty terrifying it keeps happening. It feels like nothing we can do will stop them, other than over-the-top security."
Steph Black, a junior at AU and an educator on feminist and Jewish issues, said she's been working to build relationships with non-Jewish members of the campus community around this issue. "Anti-Semitism is a legitimate form of oppression that is overlooked on our campus, even though nearly 25% of our campus is Jewish," she told Refinery29. "There is a major educational gap about this."
On her website, Black features learning materials about anti-Semitism including topics such as intersectionality and allyship, and she holds workshops for the campus community. "Unfortunately there is not a lot (as in, none) as far as an existing age-appropriate curriculum for teaching anti-Semitism on a college campus. I put it all up on my website in the hopes that others will use it," she said.
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