Friday, February 23, 2018

Alt-right posters found on University of Victoria bulletin boards

November 9, 2017 by Adam Marsh, student editor

Posters promoting alt-right websites and displaying a known anti-Semitic symbol were found on bulletin boards in the University of Victoria’s Cornett building in late October. The posters featured an image of a white family with the words “Those who hate us will not replace us,” with the word “those” in triple parentheses, an anti-Semitic symbol. The poster displayed links to alt-right websites and read: “Defend Canadian heritage. Fight back against anti-white hatred. A message from the alt-right.”

University of Victoria Student Society (UVSS) interim director of outreach and university relations Pierre-Paul Angelblazer says the act of putting these posters up is “foul garbage.” Angelblazer says the UVSS is trying to respond to this in an intelligent way that accounts for the motivation behind the poster, which at this point is still unclear, because whoever posted them has not claimed responsibility.

Tyson Strandlund of Anti-Racist Action UVic (photo by Adam Boyle/Nexus).

“How do we reinforce the idea to students who may have been adversely affected that we are, for the most part, a welcoming campus and do value diversity?” he says.

Camosun College Student Society (CCSS) external executive Mitchell Auger-Langejan says it’s surprising people in Victoria have opinions like those on the poster. He calls the appearance of these posters disappointing, especially at a university.

“A university’s supposed to be a place where forward thinking takes place, and it’s good that we have free speech,” says Auger-Langejan. “I don’t think that we should confuse these posters with free speech. Sometimes arguments for stuff like this is that people should have the right to think these things. Certainly they’re permitted to think that. The problem lies in that it’s a very harmful opinion, and it’s documented that it’s been harmful. We don’t need to prove that it is. We already know that it’s hurt people.”

Auger-Langejan says the solution lies in opening up a dialogue with the people whose beliefs are represented on posters like these.

“I think that the people that post them, in a way, must know that they are hateful,” he says. “What we can do to deal with this kind of thing is talk about it. What are these people afraid of? Are they worried that they’ll be replaced by people that are foreign to them? We could pose simple questions to them: has anyone who’s Jewish ever harmed them? Do they know why they feel that way? What’s bringing these thoughts on? Opening a dialogue, even with people who have shocking opinions like this, is, ultimately, the best thing we can hope to do.”

Auger-Langejan says it’s not far-fetched to worry about this happening at Camosun. (He encourages any students to email him if they want to talk, regardless of their beliefs on the matter.)

“If it’s at UVic it’s probably in other places, too. It’s definitely possible this was just one person. It might be that, but it might not,” he says. “If it were to come to Camosun, the concern remains: does this person have really harmful opinions, and do they want to hurt other people? If that’s the case, then we have to consider where their place is at the school. Can we study alongside people that have this, in my opinion, irrational hatred of other people? Is that something we’ll accept as a college? And I think the answer is no.”

Anti-Racist Action UVic organizer Tyson Strandlund says that he has spent an overwhelming amount of time deleting hate messages from the group’s social media accounts since the posters were found.

“We were flooded right away,” he says. “Hundreds of really horrifying, absolutely grotesque statements.”

Strandlund says that he is not sure who these people posting the hateful comments are, or if they are even in Victoria (posters similar to the ones found at UVic have been found at other Canadian post-secondary institutions). The organization has “since banned and deleted many of the comments because they were just so awful,” says Strandlund.

“If it can be said that there’s an upside to any of this, it’s that there’s been a much greater interest in actively fighting racism from the students at UVic,” he says. “I’d like to see, obviously, whatever it takes to be done to stop this from happening and to severely punish anybody who is found to be responsible.”

Anti-Racist Action UVic is holding a meeting in room B025 of UVic’s Student Union Building at 6 pm on Wednesday, November 15; anyone can attend, whether or not they are a UVic student.

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