Another hate message has turned up in a restroom at the University of Washington.
Just a week after an Oct. 30 incident in which someone left a graffiti threat in a restroom at the UW Law School, nine business-size cards bearing a swastika and the words “Black Crimes, White Victims” were found in a restroom at the UW School of Social Work.
The printed cards, which a university employee found Nov. 7 and reported to university police Nov. 13, bear the address of a white supremacist website run by Gary Lauck and his U.S. unit of the National Socialist Democratic Workers Party based in Lincoln, Neb.
Margaret Spearmon, the school’s associate dean, describes the cards as recruitment pieces that can be purchased online. University police are investigating, but have few leads to work with, she says — but they don’t believe the incident is related to the one at the Law School, where administrators restricted access to the building but did not disclose the exact wording of the threat.
“It’s a public building and people come in and out,” Spearmon says of the School of Social Work, which is located in a hall on 15th Avenue Northeast not far from the Law School. The incident, she adds, “was very unfortunate... we are taking it very seriously.”
According to the website, the NSDAP/AO was founded in 1972 by Lauck, who uses the name “Gerhard” and is pictured on the site in a Nazi uniform. The group advocates legalizing the Nazi Party in Europe, where it has been banned since World War II, in order to create “a future for Whites only,” in Lauck’s words.
It’s unlikely, however, that it was an actual follower of Lauck’s who put the cards in the restroom, says Devin Burghart of the Center for New Community, a Chicago civil rights organization that tracks hate groups. While there are a handful white nationalist groups operating in the Puget Sound area, Burghart says, Lauck has few adherents in Seattle. The organization is small, he says, and primarily prints a newsletter, stickers and other propaganda materials that are often used by other neo-Nazi groups.
Such materials, Burghart says, are “used to try to intimidate folks and scare them about the presence of white supremacists in the area.”
University Police Assistant Chief Ray Wittmier says swastikas or other hate messages are reported three or four times a year on campus — a frequency he has not increased over the years, he says. Even if a suspect were identified in this case, however, it would be difficult to prosecute the matter as a hate crime, he says, because there was no threat or intimidation directed at a specific person in a protected class such as race, gender, or sexual orientation.
The best way to prevent further incidents, Burghart says, is for the community — including the university — to mount a visual response that such activity is unwelcome. Shortly after the cards were found, Spearmon says, school administrators sent out an email to faculty, staff, students and community groups decrying the incident. The entire school was also invited to a meeting with university police.
Spearmon says students are now working to develop an anti-hate poster for distribution on campus. But, given it’s a public building, she says there’s little else the school can do. “It’s been turned over to the police. We’ll probably leave it at that,” she says.
Burghart says the school ought to do more. “What folks who distribute this material are hoping for is silence. Silence is seen as the green light to continue their activity and their campaign of intimidation,” he says.
“Over and over, administrators will tell you the way to deal with it is to get it out in the open,” Burghart says. Otherwise, “it leads to escalation, the problems get worse, and it has more of an impact on the communities being targeted by that kind of bigotry.”