Hate crime investigation underway at FSU

[Bailey Morrison]

Graffiti was discovered on the third floor of May Hall depicting a swastika along with the words “white pride” and “America 4 whites,” on Oct. 20. FSUPD is investigating this graffiti as a hate crime.

Sgt. Martin Laughlin of FSUPD responded to a call from someone in May Hall. FSUPD was dispatched at 2:48 p.m. to the third floor men’s bathroom in May Hall to investigate the incident.

FSUPD called the facilities department to remove the graffiti and Huddleston sent out a community notice regarding the incident that day.

The Bias Incident Education and Response Team (BERT) and FSUPD will “work in conjunction” to investigate the vandalism in May Hall, Laughlin said.

FSUPD is looking at this vandalism “seriously” and will not write it off as “some kid messing around,” said Laughlin.

There are no cameras in the area, but given the time the incident occurred, Laughlin said he “doesn’t know” if cameras would have been helpful to catch the perpetrator.

The investigation into the incident is still active, said Laughlin.

According to Sean Huddleston, chief officer of diversity, inclusion and community engagement (DICE), this incident was not reported to the BERT but they plan to discuss the hate crime during their November meeting.

Huddleston was informed by FSUPD and Human Resources of the incident on Thursday afternoon. Because this event was not reported to the BERT, it is being investigated as a hate crime by FSUPD.

The BERT does not do any investigating of the incidents reported to them but they use the occurrence to “educate the campus” about the history that might be behind the incident, as well as any current events, Huddleston said.

On Oct. 25, a different incident was

reported to BERT. Someone reported graffiti in a bathroom in the library which read, “black lies matter.” This has not been labeled a hate crime, but is being investigated as another bias incident, said Huddleston.

Joseph Adelman, assistant professor of history, said, “I’m disappointed that someone would deface property with a swastika, which among other things indicates that we still have work to do to educate the community about the history of the symbol and its association with a virulent strain of hatred and racism. Universities should foster free and open dialogue from a range of viewpoints, but widely recognized symbols of hate run counter to that mission.”

President F. Javier Cevallos said, “We try to build a community where everybody respects everybody, and putting swastikas and other things is not a way to show respect. … They carry with them a lot of meaning. A lot of hatred.”

He said the administration hopes students will “think twice about how symbols are perceived by other people and how they affect you as a student and your sense of safety on campus.”

As a member of the BERT team, Huddleston ensures the “investigative process” is occurring relating to the incident. He often meets with the parties affected. The BERT team uses these instances to determine ways to engage the community in a discussion about the event, he said.

He added the graffiti in May Hall is

“particularly troubling” because of the swastika being a “universal symbol of hate” and representative of many white supremacy groups in the United States.

“I’m not sure everyone understands the impact of the swastika. It’s not just about race and religion – it was used to discriminate against people with disabilities before it was used against Jews. It’s also widely known to be used to discriminate against the LGBT community,” Huddleston said.

“When people think they are drawing it freely, it’s really directed at a lot of groups. Doing that also shows an alliance to a dangerous movement. We need to do education around that,” he said.

He added he is glad the University has a program such as BERT to report hate crimes because they often go unreported. “We need our campus to be vigilant.”

Senior Charity Hicks said, “We definitely shouldn’t ignore such acts, but we also need to realize that it’s our reaction and fear that gives them power. … We simply need a better way to deal with such behavior, because posting about it is what they wanted. They’re on the map now, the talk of campus. They have their moment of fame although left unnamed.”

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