ANN ARBOR, Mich. – University of Michigan police are investigating alleged hate speech on campus after someone wrote “Trump 2016,” “Build a Wall,” and other messages in chalk in a courtyard knows as the Diag.
Student Banen Al-Sheemary told the Michigan Daily – the student newspaper – that she and other students encountered the “hurtful and disturbing” chalk messages on the sidewalk and other areas and immediately contacted university police.
Al-Sheemary said students found the messages Wednesday morning and it took until evening for university police to investigate the incident.
— Nour (@Nour_Ibrahim17) March 30, 2016
“I’ve been getting bounced around from one person to another, and I understand it’s after hours, but there should be some kind of emergency number besides the police because a lot of students of color don’t feel comfortable calling the police,” she said.
“They’re our only resource and that, I think, is ridiculous.”
A university police officer arrived on scene around 6:45 p.m., but just sorta shrugged off the chalk messages. The frustrated and offended students then decided to wash the chalk off themselves, Al-Sheemary said.
“It’s irresponsible of the administration that we are actually out here with buckets of water and napkins to clean off these hateful messages and the administration isn’t taking care of it,” she said. “And not only is the administration not taking care of it, they are putting us through a really difficult process. That perpetuates these really racist and hateful stereotypes that turn into violence and turn into students of color feeling unsafe on campus.”
The “hurtful messages” included “Trump 2016,” and “#stopislam,” Mlive.com reports.
U-M Division of Public Safety and Security public information officer Diane Brown told the news site the university sent an officer to the Diag to document the destruction, and campus police “will continue to monitor campus and work with our campus partners to ensure our students have a safe environment to live, learn and dialogue.”
The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations also condemned the chalk messages, according to the news site.
“We are concerned that these recent anti-Islam and anti-immigrant messages are creating an environment in which some students, teachers and other university faculty members feel unsafe on campus,” executive director Dawud Walid said.
U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald highlighted the #stopislam message in a carefully worded statement about the chalkings Wednesday night.
“Attacks directed toward any member or group within the University of Michigan community, based on a belief or characteristic, are inconsistent with our values of respect, civility and equality,” he wrote. “We all understand that where speech is free it will sometimes wound. But our message is this: We are fully committed to fostering an environment that is welcoming and inclusive of everyone.
“Tonight we are reminded there is much work yet to be done.”
Al-Sheemary and company, meanwhile, think the administration is all talk.
“This is so reflective of our student campus and the depths of racism and the things that students of color have to endure and that the administration is continuously silent on,” she told Michigan Daily. “This is just another example. This is happening year after year and we’ve been telling the administration the same things over and over again.”
“It’s nothing new,” Al-Sheemary continued. “Maybe it has just been heightened with the election, but this is just something that happened before 9/11, spiked with 9/11 and it’s not anything new and it affects a lot of students of color.”
It’s hate speech, she said.
“When speech can incite violence and aggression and hatred towards another group, that’s when it becomes hate speech,” she said.