White Nationalists Harass Black AU Student as FBI Investigates Nooses Found

Online threats against American University's student president were encouraged by a neo-Nazi website publisher who endorsed the candidacy of Donald Trump.

Taylor Dumpson

Taylor Dumpson, the first Black woman to be elected as student body president at American University (AU), is now under campus police protection.

As the FBI continues to investigate racist displays on campus that took place May 1, the same day Dumpson took office, the university announced Friday that a white supremacist wrote a post asking people to harass Dumpson online.

Doron Ezickson, director of the Anti-Defamation League's D.C. regional office, alerted school officials Thursday evening that Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, encouraged his followers to troll Dumpson and "any related social media accounts," according to The Eagle, the student newspaper.

In April, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a lawsuit against Anglin. The lawsuit alleges that he used his website to encourage his followers to terrorize a Jewish woman, Tanya Gersh, a real estate agent living in Whitefish, Mont., as well as her husband and 12-year-old son.

Anglin wrote a February blog post in admiration of President Donald Trump.

"Donald Trump wants to remove us from undue federal scrutiny by removing 'white supremacists' from the definition of 'extremism,'" he said. "Donald Trump is setting us free. It just… It just couldn't ever get any better than this, I am telling myself. But I know that it is just going to keep getting better."

Teresa Flannery, AU's vice president for communications, said in a statement that the school is ensuring Dumpson's security:

"Earlier this week, the threats were on campus. They continue online. American University will not allow any member of our community to be intimidated. We are working closely with Taylor to ensure her security and to support her throughout this process."

The FBI said on Wednesday that a suspect hung bananas from nooses at various locations on campus May 1. Messages were written on bananas, such as "AKA free," apparently referring to the sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc., of which Dumpson is a member. "Harambe Bait" was also written on bananas. Harambe is the name of the gorilla killed at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2016.

Campus police released two surveillance videos to assist in suspect identification. They also tweeted a bulletin offering a $1,000 reward for information leading up to positive suspect identification.

On Friday, students participated in a demonstration on campus providing a list of demands to university administration:

  • The creation of a "sanctuary" space for people of color in the Bridge Cafe for the remainder of the spring semester
  • Extensions for students of color on their final exams and no penalties for finals taken after the racist incident
  • A separate investigation team of "non-biased expert contractors" that can investigate cases of racism and discrimination brought against AU

Provost Scott Bass met with students, and according to a Twitter post, the university has agreed to all of the demands.

Dumpson shared her thoughts at a town hall meeting on Thursday.

"I called this town hall because as the first African American female president, I am appalled; as a student second, I am outraged; as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, I am nauseated; and as a target, I am numb by the vile act that a member of our community decided to take during a historic moment for our campus," she said.

Taylor Dumpson with members of Congress and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. members./Twitter

"What has brought us together is a cowardly and despicable act," AU president Neil Kerwin said. "It has created for this campus a period of great difficulty and great distress."

Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus are calling for the Department of Education and the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the nooses incident on campus.

"In the dark of night, an angry person that does not recognize that we, too, are America decided to take a symbolic fruit and hang it in a noose," Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said.

Racial Incidents on College Campuses Post Election

According to the SPLC, in the months following the presidential election, white nationalists have been targeting college campuses "as a wave of hate speech and harassment swept the nation."

"White nationalists really enjoy campus activism," said SPLC analyst Keegan Hankes. "They're often trying to put an intellectual veneer on things, so it makes sense to peddle that on a college campus where you're dealing with people who may be just starting to form their ideas about the world."

In September, students at AU called for the suspension of two white males in response to allegations they had thrown a banana at a Black woman. And in a separate incident, the same students left a rotting banana outside another Black woman's door and left obscene messages on the whiteboard attached to her door.

American University has an undergraduate population of approximately 7,094 students, and students are 58 percent white, 6 percent Black, 11 percent Latino, 7 percent Asian and less than 1 percent American Indian.

The SPLC has recorded more than 150 reports of white nationalist fliers and recruitment materials on college campuses nationwide.

"Intended to frighten minority students as well as to persuade whites to join their causes, these orchestrated campaigns reveal that white nationalists see colleges as an important battleground in their war on a diverse and tolerant United States," states the SPLC.

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