Education

CSU, Stanislaus students call for action, plan protest against white supremacist

Modesto-area white supremacist caught on video punching woman at Berkeley rally

Nathan Damigo, the leader of an alt-right group attending California State University, Stanislaus, was caught on video Saturday punching a woman in the face at a protest in Berkeley. (Clip from We Are Change)
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Nathan Damigo, the leader of an alt-right group attending California State University, Stanislaus, was caught on video Saturday punching a woman in the face at a protest in Berkeley. (Clip from We Are Change)

An online petition calls on California State University, Stanislaus to take a stronger stand against a white supremacist on campus, and sets a protest against hate speech for noon Wednesday.

It comes one day before the Peace Pole Dedication, at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, where Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, will speak.

“My grandfather would be sad at the depth of anger in the world today. But he would not despair,” writes Arun Gandhi in a prelude to the speech he will give following the dedication.

The Change.org petition was set up April 20, five days after Stan State student Nathan Damigo took part in a violent clash in Berkeley. A video of Damigo punching a woman in the face that day went viral.

The petition had 96 signers as of Monday, saying they do not feel safe on campus because of the administration’s lack of action or dialogue with students around Damigo’s presence on campus. After the Berkeley melee, it says, “many students have stated they feel unsafe and unwelcome on campus due to his presence and due to University administration’s passive response.”

It goes on to quote state regulations for disciplining students based on conduct that threatens or endangers the campus community, but leaves to inference if that means Damigo and what conduct the writers believe applies.

Students of color make up about 75 percent of the student body here at Stan State. Why is it that we have not had a say in what’s going on?

Natalie Vargas

“I do not believe that hate speech is free speech. I do not think that young people should have to go to school with known racist,” wrote signer Jessie Ornelas of Merced.

“Students of color make up about 75 percent of the student body here at Stan State. Why is it that we have not had a say in what’s going on? We need to feel supported and protected,” posted Natalie Vargas of Ceres.

Other comments came from New York, Texas, the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

“Providing a safe and secure learning and working environment for the entire campus community remains the top priority for the University. The University Police Department continuously monitors for activities involving any group that may target our community,” said a university spokeswoman via email Monday. She said counseling and other support is available to students by emailing StanCares@csustan.edu.

“Most importantly, President (Ellen) Junn wants to assure the campus community that we understand that we must establish effective strategies for addressing acts of prejudice and intolerance and that the University will hold seminars, trainings and programs designed to address underlying mindsets that threaten our core values of diversity and inclusion,” she wrote.

... the University will hold seminars, trainings and programs designed to address underlying mindsets that threaten our core values of diversity and inclusion.

President Ellen Junn

Damigo did not respond to Bee requests for comment. He is the founder of Identity Evropa, a website and organization he created in March 2016 that proclaims the superiority of European heritage and promotes the alt-right. His Twitter page @NathanDamigo has 13,600 followers.

A former Marine, he served two tours in Iraq and was less than honorably discharged after a post-traumatic stress disorder incident while on leave: he held up a cab driver he mistook for an Iraqi. It was while serving his prison sentence that he began reading books on European heritage and white supremacy, he said in an October interview, meshing those arguments with his own observations of the sectarian violence in Iraq.

“This idea that diversity is a good thing has just been made up,” he said.

In September, Damigo posted a video on #ProjectSiege, describing his plan to go to college campuses all around to give them the alt-right’s alternative view. In later videos he advises fellow recruiters verbal strategies to counter what he calls a false narrative on college campuses.

He was among hundreds who clashed April 15 in the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley. Billed as a free speech rally organized by alt-right groups, the event also drew far left groups protesting hate speech. Groups calling themselves anti-Nazi (on the left) or anti-communist (on the right) telegraphed their intentions to fight on social media posts before the event, notes an analysis of the confrontation by community news site Berkeleyside.

Damigo traveled to the event from Stanislaus County. The woman he hit, Louise Rosealma, drove up with the Oak Roots Collective from Southern California. She has since turned publicity from the punch into a fundraising opportunity for Democracy@Work.

Nan Austin: 209-578-2339, @NanAustin

PEACE POLE DEDICATION

WHAT: A Peace Pole will be dedicated in the Stanislaus State Quad with a speech by Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Ghandi

INFO: April 27, dedication 10:30-11 a.m. at the Quad, speech “The Gift of Anger” 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Snider Hall. The events are free. Use Parking Lot 3 for both. Find more and RSVP at www.csustan.edu/event/special-event/peace-pole-dedication.

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