A candlelight vigil at Saint Louis University honoring victims of the Holocaust drew an unexpectedly-large crowd after students found two anti-Semitic messages on campus in the last two weeks.
Over the weekend, a student found the message, "Nazis rule!!!!!!!! Fuck niggers and fags," projected onto a screen in a ballroom where students hold events and performances. The Bare Naked Statues, a male acapella group, and WQuizit, the school's hip hop dance group, both performed in the ballroom over the weekend, according to students.
The female student who first stumbled upon the hateful message feels too shaken up to talk publicly, says Amelia Romo, the former vice president of diversity and social justice for the student government. But when the student saw the message, she gathered other student witnesses, took photos and reported it to officials, Romo says.
The week before, students discovered a swastika built out of tealight candles outside the Marguerite Hall dorm and called St. Louis Metropolitan Police.
"It was really horrifying to see a to see a burning swastika outside the building that I live in and realize that this is something that happens on my campus, in my home," says Sarah Nash, a sophomore who lives in the residence hall.
The back-to-back messages of hate seemed even more threatening after the recent news that three people were shot and killed during a former KKK leader's alleged anti-semitic killing rampage at two Jewish community centers in Kansas City, students said.
Hundreds of students, school staff and religious leaders gathered and held candles to honor and remember people who've lost their lives due to hate crimes. Organizing students said they originally anticipated seeing 30 attendees at the event, but that number grew to hundreds as news spread about recent bias incidents on campus.
SLU officials have already set up a disciplinary hearing for students suspected of making the swastika, according to KSDK NewsChannel 5, and they're using surveillance video to investigate the "Nazis Rule!" message.
Here is the school's full statement after the incident with the swastika:
At SLU, we seek to foster an inclusive campus environment where everyone feels welcome, safe and respected. Acts of intolerance are unacceptable and are treated very seriously by the University. A full investigation into this incident is being conducted by our Office of Student Responsibility and Community Standards in conjunction with the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, as well as the Department of Public Safety. Although we are unable to comment in detail with respect to an open investigation, students have reported seeing the candles unlit in a different pattern outside the residence hall earlier in the evening. At this time, we not have determined who originally placed the candles there or for what purpose. We also have yet to determine who is responsible for altering the display, but our investigation is ongoing. At SLU, we're committed to providing a caring, effective and uniform response to anyone who is affected by a bias incident. We also have a number of programs and policies in place to address them. For example, four years ago, we adopted a new Hate Crime and Bias-Related Incident Protocol that ensures that incidents are addressed swiftly and aggressively, and that counseling and other support services are readily available to victims. Under the protocol, these cases also receive priority in our student conduct system.
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