This weekend was certainly a rollercoaster in terms of opposing ideologies. A string of similar— yet so far unrelated—events have occurred both on and off university campuses and it can be difficult to try and keep it all straight. Here’s a timeline of the activities:
Thursday morning (Sept. 28): ‘white supremacist’ posters are found at UNB
Don Allen, director of UNB Security and Traffic, says white supremacist posters were reported at two UNB residences a day earlier than the ones found at STU.
“There were three of them, all different from each other. One of the three was the same as one of the ones at STU, which leads us to believe it was the same person(s) responsible.” said Allen.
The posters were only found at MacLeod and Magee House, which are known for housing international students; Magee House is an apartment-style residence that contains many international families, including children.
Senior director of Residential Life, Dean Martin said any intent behind the posters’ location could only be speculated.
“One thing is for sure, we do not tolerate disrespect in any form in our residence community.” says Martin.
While UNBSU vice-president advocacy Madi Banks said “It’s very disappointing to see such things on our campuses… It’s just not something that is tolerated in the UNBSU community,” she also emphasizes the Student Union’s desire to react with positive messages about diversity and education around free speech and hate speech.
Director of communications Sonya Gilks states “The posters and their message are contrary to everything UNB stands for—including our commitment to the creation of a positive campus environment that is free from harassment and discrimination, and welcoming to all people.”
Friday: STU officials say posters also found on their campus
On the second day of STU’s Conference on Truth and Reconciliation, white supremacist posters were found on the Indigenous welcome sign at the edge of campus.
“The three posters were discovered by a faculty member who reported it to the President’s Office,” said vice-president of STU communications, Jeffrey Carleton. The posters were quickly taken down and campus scanned for others before reporting the incident to UNB
Security—but neither university’s administration has made an official statement thus far.
“We made the decision not to—as an administration—not to overreact to the situation.” said Carleton. This decision was made to avoid sensationalizing the actions of the perpetrator(s).
Director of the Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre, David Perley emphasized the importance of engaging in understanding, respectful dialogue between First Nations and New Brunswickers instead. “[The alt-right] it’s a model for just encouraging people to be angry—to be hateful.”
“We don’t want to focus on building that hate,” said STU student Mandy Richard, who helped organize the truth and reconciliation conference. She also said that the parties responsible shouldn’t be sensationalized for their actions.
“The group of people that did this, they’re walking around with a lot of hate. And hate is a dark and heavy emotion—and when you carry that around you’re never going to truly find peace and you’re never going to truly be happy.” said Richard.
Both Richard and Carleton said that it was important to show that the negative actions didn’t lessen the impact or importance of the work done by the STU campus community to promote positivity and inclusivity, through both the conference and the Pride Week that were being held at STU.
“That’s what’s beautiful about all this: that we’re still united and brave and strong because we aren’t tolerating this kind of hate and these kinds of actions,” said Richard.
Saturday morning: news of alt-right ‘BBQ in the Park’ scheduled at Odell
The posters turned out to be just the beginning of this weekend’s incidents, according to Abram Lutes, UNB student and member of No One Is Illegal.
According to Lutes, on Saturday morning word reached the migrant justice group about an alt-right “BBQ in the Park” occurring in Fredericton that day.
Lutes went with around a dozen others to Odell Park to counter-protest the alt-right gathering—and said their group outnumbered the original protesters four to one.
While Lutes and his fellow counter-protesters remained non-violent, he said that the other group left shortly after they arrived. “We also made a note to photograph their license plates, which is an acceptable practice—especially when dealing with potentially violent individuals—and I think that intimidated them.”
Saturday night: Pre-planned silent march by No One Is Illegal
No One is Illegal had planned a silent march for that same Saturday—something Lutes said was organized “well in advance” due to news they had received regarding “some sort of far-right presence entering the province come September.”
“The silent rally was meant to make our presence known and to allow people to participate and have their presence known and to take a public space with our message—but without engaging in any sort of confrontation or disruption,” said Lutes, who added that this was to ensure safety of participants who felt at-risk in other situations.
Lutes called the silent march—which occurred downtown around the Beaverbrook Art Gallery at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon—a complementary event to the counter-protest that had occurred earlier that day.
Sunday night: UNBSU Council decides how to respond in meeting
On Sunday evening the UNB Student Union had their weekly meeting, at which the weekend’s hate propaganda was a prominent point of discussion.
Lutes—who also serves as social inclusion coordinator on the UNBSU—put forth a motion for Council to adopt a position statement on the issue, which executive members advised to be reviewed by the Policy and Advisement Committee.
In the meantime, the executive drafted an email that was sent out to students on Monday condemning the actions from the weekend, while planning for positive reactions and messages the Student Union could put out that would promote their value and belief in welcoming diversity.
“I want to use this opportunity to remind ourselves of how beautiful our diverse community is,” UNBSU president Herbert Bempah said in the email.
“In moments like this, it is our responsibility, as students to stand strongly together and in solidarity to denounce hate, ignorance and rather celebrate our differences.”