Tobi Hill-Meyer

Community Responds to Vandalism Hate Crime

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | February 03, 2010 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living
Tags: hate crimes against LGBT people, LGBTQA, Pacifica Forum, queer, rally, swastika, trans, UO, vandalism, white supremacy

On Monday morning February 1st, janitorial staff at the University of Oregon discovered the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Alliance had been broken into; computer screens and the TV were spray painted over and a swastika had been spray painted on the carpet. Being former staff at the student organization, myself, I was one of the many people deeply impacted.

Students responded by swiftly organizing a series of rallies. Only one day after the vandalism was discovered, 300 community members turned out for a vigil and speakout - an impressive number considering Eugene's relatively small size. Many community members came up to the mic to speak, including the mayor.

Public Safety on campus came to collect evidence, which it will be turning over to local police soon. After they cut out a square in the carpet where the swastika was painted, student government quickly replaced it was a message of love and concern to help the LGBTQ population know that the larger campus values them.

As the story gets repeated and spread throughout the news, many people are baffled and wondering why. Locals who know the community, however, aren't wondering at all. There's been a brewing conflict over the past few months with a community organization that is accused of promoting a nazi ideology, the Pacifica Forum.

It is hard to definitively assign an ideology to the Pacifica Forum, listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, as they tend to welcome a wide variety of perspectives. It just so happens that they include holocaust deniers, presentations of NARTH research on homosexuality as a pathology, as well as those who believe the Jews caused the holocaust, those who believe the Jews deserved the holocaust, and at least one self-identified nazi who conveniently posed for a picture doing a nazi salute (see update).

The non-campus group meets in campus rooms reserved for them by a retired professor. Students have recently been organizing to eject them from the space, pointing out that they do more than explore an unpopular perspective but actively threaten students. For example, after a student challenged them on the idea that the Jews deserved the holocauset, her features were scrutinized and she was asked if she was Jewish. More recently, and documented by the local paper, one Pacifica Forum member declared that a community member was "too ugly to rape." When a student pointed out the sexism in his statement, he responded that she wasn't unattractive - the veiled implication being that she could be raped.

There's nothing so far to tie the crime to the Pacifica Forum. It's far more likely that the recent conflict has stirred frustrations among local neo-nazis and white supremacists. But regardless it's clear that this did not happen in a vacuum, and it's no accident that the vandals chose swastikas as their preferred symbol of hate. The intersection of oppressive ideologies was an issue that many of the speakers picked up on. I recorded some of the speakers, and rather than describe their words, I'll close by letting them speak for themselves.

Correction: The woman pictured giving the nazi salute is not the same person who self-identifies as a nazi, Jimmy Marr. The woman pictured above has not publicly identified herself as a nazi.

Women and Gender Studies Professor Ernesto Martinez

LGBTQA co-director Alex Esparza

Ethnic Studies Department Chair Michael Hames-Garcia

Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy

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The break in at the University was in my opinion way to conveniently a staged event. The brewing fuss over free speech makes this whole thing questionable. Sorry folks when measure 9 made headlines back when I had the energy to protest I would be the first to line up to counter the hate to prove that we were hated some of our crowd painted hate symbioses on our sidewalks. A woman in a wheelchair was found to be able to walk just fine when a cross was burned in her yard (she did the burning). So of course we have a rally and a response and it looks like "See I told you so them's is bad people" gotta make them go away any way we can. As a Queer Veteran I served to defend not those I loved but everyone and that should be the issue here.

Rally, a staged event? All based on the fact the lock wasn't broken? Conspiracy theory much? I've seen this perspective out of anonymous commenters at the daily emerald, but I wouldn't expect it here.

First off, out of respect for the victims here, the very ones you're accusing of perpetrating this deplorable crime, please refrain from from slinging around accusations when there is zero evidence -- notice how I'm specifically not accusing the Pacfica Forum of doing this?

Besides, if it were a staged event, why destroy the most valuable things in the office? If you're willing to destroy the most valuable things, why not bust the lock or claim to have forgotten to lock it in order to head off these kinds of accusations.

There's only a couple LGBTQA folks who have keys. The janatorial staff have accidentally left the office unlocked before. Do you really think it more likely that one of the LGBTQA staff -- the same people who have been stressed out, losing sleep, and missing meals to deal with the aftermath -- perpetrated it themselves?

My best guess is that it's white supremacists, neo-nazis, or other bigots not affiliated with the Pacifica Forum who have been angered by recent events. You do know that such folks exist, right? Bigoted thugs have always been in town. They do assault folks somewhat regularly. Swastikas have been tagged around town for a long time now -- or do you think the LGBTQA staff did all those too in order to divert attention. They must have been planning this years in advance.

I wish people would stop pointing fingers. The police or anyone except the people who did know what happened. I know that the Pacific Forum was automatically accused by some at the rally. That is wrong, just turn it around and put the shoe on the other foot. I don't think anyone should just be automatically accused of something.
I do have a problem with banning free speech, hate or otherwise. I do wish that the hate speech would stop, on both sides. People can talk in a very adult manner. We don't need to condemn or call people names or threaten them. I'm glad no one was hurt and I'm sure all can be replaced. I know that for some, the break in can cause some insecure feelings and I hope that they can over come them. It was just terrible what happened.

I'd would have never thought this would have occurred in Eugene, from my brief encounters with that town. But here we are.

I hope that the students there are doing better now, and that this was meant just as an act of vandalism and not a warning of things to come.