We can’t let fascists build on our campus

November 5, 2018

Molly Seiden reports from SUNY New Paltz on a student speakout organized to oppose a far-right hate group that has been targeting the campus.

STUDENTS AT State University of New York (SUNY) New Paltz are organizing to make sure that racists know they aren’t welcome on campus.

Identity Evropa, a neo-Nazi group, recently posted propaganda on poles and buildings of the SUNY New Paltz campus in an attempt to spread its racist message. In response, the Hudson Valley branch of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) called for an emergency speak-out on October 26 to show that solidarity and a unified left can defeat the right.

At its height, some 50 students attended the speak-out, which was called late on the evening of October 25. Students chanted, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!” and “Whose streets? Our streets! Whose campus? Our campus!” Those who spoke emphasized that our power lies in our ability to organize and focused on the need to continue organizing efforts to fight far-right hate.

Students challenged SUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian to put his money where his mouth is.

Students stand up to the far right at the State University of New York–New Paltz
Students stand up to the far right at the State University of New York–New Paltz (Kelsey Fredricks | New Paltz Oracle)

In response to the Identity Evropa posters, Christian sent an e-mail to students declaring that “as a community, we have the power to combat these messages of hate and division by continuing to promote education and dialogue and striving, together, toward a more inclusive campus.”

While Christian talks about rejecting racism and hate on campus, his administration has made cuts to African American studies and women’s/gender studies programs in order to develop more opulent facilities on campus.

“I’m tired of the fact that, when I’m walking around, I have to look over my shoulder and be sure that nobody is saying something about me, or people who look like me — that we don’t matter,” fourth-year psychology major Emi Lewis told the New Paltz Oracle. “So if you’re really sorry, and you mean what you say in your e-mails, do something about it.”

As ISO member Serena Hale noted, the goal of groups like Identity Evropa “is to recruit and incite violence against people of color, trans people, both documented and undocumented immigrants and anyone who opposes their vile agenda. We need to use our strength in numbers to counter them and send them back into the shadows where they belong.”

Identity Evropa may have felt emboldened by the success of an “American Flag March,” in which 300 people turned out for a right-wing display of patriotism and were confronted by some 30 counterprotesters.

This was far too small a presence and created a safety risk, especially for those from marginalized and oppressed groups. It is important for anti-racists to recognize that we need to confront the far right with our superior overall numbers.

Activists ended the speak-out by emphasizing that we can’t “vote out” white supremacy, but must continue to show up in protest of white supremacist groups united, in large numbers, while we also fight for a society that does not rely on racism and other forms of bigotry to function.

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