On Saturday evening, University of Utah President Ruth Watkins released a statement informing the public of stickers and a banner posted on campus by two different groups which are described as white supremacist organizations by the Anti-Defamation League.
The stickers, posted at various locations around campus, contained the logo and name of Identity Evropa, an American neo-Nazi group. The banner, which was affixed from the George S. Eccles Legacy Bridge, read, “Strong Borders, Strong Nation,” and advertised a web page for another group, Patriot Front.
A bystander took a snapshot of the banner and anonymously sent it to The Daily Utah Chronicle. She claimed she saw men wearing masks put up the banner.
Under Utah code Utah Code 72-7-503, hanging banners from overpasses is illegal. In her statement, Watkins said that she “directed our facilities personnel, law enforcement, and student affairs staff to remove these postings immediately when they are discovered and asked the Office of the Dean of Students and the Office of Equity and Diversity to help the campus respond to and monitor these types of actions.”
According to the university, any students who may have been involved in posting the banner or stickers would be subject to disciplinary action.
“Campus police are reviewing the situation and if the individuals are students or have some connection to the university, they’d be referred to the dean of students for action,” said U spokesperson Chris Nelson.
University Police Chief Dale Brophy said if the culprits are found, criminal charges may be pursued.
“We will be looking into this incident to try and identify any parties that were associated with hanging the banner,” Brophy said. “If we locate any information leading to the identification of the individuals, we will explore all options at our disposal, including enforcement of any applicable criminal codes or university policies.”
This is not the first time racist or divisive messages have been discovered on campus. In April 2016, some event posters featuring talks about peace between the U.S. and Islamic nations were defaced with anti-Muslim messages. Flyers reading, “Stop the rapes, stop the crime, stop the murders, stop the blacks,” were posted around campus in August 2017. In October of the same year, the construction site for Gardner Commons was vandalized with racial slurs. Posters stating “It’s okay to be white” were discovered around campus the next month.
Following those instances, the U administration assembled an Anti-Racism Task Force. A statement released by the university at the time said it would “work on developing and deploying actions on our campus that can increase dialogue and understanding among students, staff, and faculty from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.”
This story will be updated as more information is made available.