Before a performance of the play “As You Like It” began at the Penthouse Theater on Feb. 15, its actors and crew smelled something odd: spray paint, they thought. They went to check outside for the source, where they saw approximately eight Nazi recruitment flyers had been plastered onto the theater’s doors.
The flyers were promptly removed by those who discovered them, and the police and staff arrived quickly on the scene. As for the play, the show went on and finished without disruption.
But this wasn’t an isolated incident. UWPD Major Steve Rittereiser said these types of posters have been put up around campus since Jan. 17.
“Obviously, the content of these flyers is reprehensible, and this incident is upsetting and unsettling,” said Holly Arsenault, director of engagement for the School of Drama. “This type of hateful rhetoric can never be swept aside or normalized.”
Other places where these flyers have been seen include Red Square, the Atmospheric Sciences-Geophysics Building, Mary Gates Hall, and Sieg Hall.
“We’re really trying to identify who the individuals are,” Rittereiser said. “If there’s another one that happens, we’re hoping for an earlier call where someone sees them doing it.”
UWPD is currently aware of a YouTube video posted by an account called Atomwaffen Division showing the people who put up these posters at night. The video appears to have been edited so it has a grainy filter and faces cannot be discerned.
While Rittereiser didn’t know if UWPD could search for an IP address in association with the YouTube video, Google Inc. states that they can do civil and criminal legal requests from government agencies. Google Inc. bought YouTube in 2006. The most common legal requests to Google Inc. are subpoenas and warrants, allowed under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. A subpoena doesn’t require a judge’s review before it’s issued and it can compel Google to disclose specific information, like the name listed when an account was created, the IP address used at the time of creation, and the date and time the account was signed in or out of.
Rittereiser said the posting of these flyers constitutes vandalism, especially since the UW has to spend money to remove the adhesive. When it comes to fitting a hate crime, however, it might depend on where the posters are, and what the message is.
“Obviously it’s hate speak, and it’s the kind of things that we don’t tolerate and certainly don’t want on our campus,” Rittereiser said. “A hate crime is going to … have an intentionally deliberate threat to an individual. [If people report feeling threatened], I think it certainly could be [a hate crime]. We have to look at each situation on a case-by-case basis and determine whether or not if fits the particular situation.”
A member of the drama department, Allen Miller III, said he wasn’t surprised or concerned by the posters. He would only grow concerned if the very people who put up the posters decided to make a visit. Miller felt the department handled things accordingly.
“I know [neo-Nazis] don’t like me. If I know that you don’t like me, I’m not worried,” Miller said. “If it’s institutionalized, that’s when I get a little sketched. That’s what we, as students of color, go through all the time with just regular people. The Nazis are just the ones we know about. In Seattle, the racism isn’t overt [but the posters] let me know it really is present, so when I saw the posters it was like, ‘oh ok, now they’re making a statement.’”
Miller said he’s willing to talk to the people who put up the posters if the opportunity arises. But he also contended that he’s a bit more radical in that not everyone agrees with his response.
“I like getting to know my enemies as opposed to pushing them away because you get to know how to work around them, become more tactical,” Miller said. “That’s not welcoming … but they’re not going anywhere. Especially with the current state of our country, they’re going to start coming out.”
The posters feature a website link to an online chat room for people to talk about fascism and Nazism.
“As a training ground for artists, we will continue to fight back against hate by celebrating difference and by holding space for people to gather together to witness brave storytelling and to practice compassion and empathy,” Arsenault said of the drama department. She, along with many of her students, does not believe the posters were targeted specifically at the actors or the School of Drama.
UW president Ana Mari Cauce made a post on her presidential blog last week denouncing the flyers and advising students on what to do upon discovery. Students are advised to contact the UWPD for removing the posters, and email firstname.lastname@example.org with the date, time, and location of the posting as well as if it was removed. Cauce also advised students to use the bias reporting tool for reporting hateful flyers and graffiti so that the events can be better tracked for investigation. The UWPD calls for sharing this information with the FBI. If you’re in danger, call 9-1-1. If you see someone putting up these posters, try to get a photo as well.