Study: Racist messages land on campuses in surging numbers

Associated Press

White supremacist groups have targeted college campuses in surging numbers since President Donald Trump’s election, emboldened by political and racial tensions over immigration and other issues, according to a group that monitors extremism and bigotry.

The Anti-Defamation League issued a report Thursday that said racist fliers, banners and stickers were found on college campuses 147 times in fall 2017, a more than threefold increase over the 41 cases reported one year before.

Leaders of the New York-based nonprofit attribute the uptick to a small number of white nationalist groups seeking to recruit members on college campuses that have ramped up their efforts as the nation’s politics grow increasingly polarized.

“Whatever momentum white supremacists felt they had last fall, they certainly are redoubling their efforts,” Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said in an interview.

The league tracked 333 cases since Donald Trump was elected in November 2016. Since then, it has seen increased activity from groups celebrating what Segal called “the divisiveness that was a hallmark of the presidential campaign.”

Dozens of U.S. college campuses have been confronted by far-right groups brandishing racist views over the last year, including an August 2017 rally that drew hundreds of torch-carrying white supremacists to the University of Virginia. Protests there turned deadly the next day, when a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters and killed a 32-year-old woman.

Trump drew criticism from Democrats and Republicans in Congress after he insisted that there was “blame on both sides.”

Other rallies followed, including a November demonstration at the University of Texas at Austin led by 25 masked members of a white supremacist group, including some carrying torches and Texas flags.

“What we’re dealing with on college and university campuses is a reflection of the times. It’s regrettable, it’s unfortunate, but that’s where we are in 2018,” said Terry Hartle, a senior vice president at the American Council on Education, which represents chiefs of nearly 1,800 schools.

Although rallies and speeches have drawn the public’s attention, most of the cases tracked by the Anti-Defamation League are quieter efforts from groups that secretly distribute fliers on campus and then leave before they’re found.

Nearly half of the 346 cases tracked since September 2016, for example, have been blamed on the white supremacist group Identity Evropa, whose fliers with messages such as “Protect Your Heritage” have been discovered at universities from New Jersey to California.

Colleges in Texas have been targeted most frequently, according to the new report, with 61 cases since September 2016. California followed with 43 cases, while Pennsylvania had 18 and Florida had 17.

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