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Kamala Harris signs UNR anti-racism petition

Updated October 11, 2019 - 7:39 pm

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has signed a petition at the University of Nevada, Reno calling for the school’s administration to take action against instances of white nationalism on campus, including a swastika found painted on a wall at Wolf Pack Tower last month.

The petition, addressed to UNR President Marc Johnson, has gained more than 1,300 signatures from students, staff and community members since the beginning of this week.

It describes the administration’s “inadequate response” to the presence of the conservative organization Turning Point USA, whose members the petition links to instances of intimidation of other students. Turning Point founder Charlie Kirk spoke on the campus Tuesday.

Other specific concerns listed in the petition include a lack of apparent consequences for the people responsible for racist vandalism on campus, including “swastikas, items with Ku Klux Klan insignia, and anti-black messages.” Flyers from a white nationalist organization were found on both the UNR and Truckee Meadows Community College campuses in September.

The university confirmed Friday that another swastika was found on campus in a stairwell of the Church Fine Arts building on Thursday.

Harris signed the petition Friday, in a statement condemning white supremacist violence as “a real, persistent threat to communities across America, including our college campuses like UNR.”

“No one who is the subject of hate should ever be made to fight alone. That’s why I’m joining the call for UNR officials to take action to address the racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBTQ sentiments on campus,” Harris said in a statement. “UNR students, and students across the country, deserve nothing less than a safe, supportive environment to learn and realize their full potential.”

Harris added that her administration would devote resources to “fight and disarm hate before it turns violent.”

A statement from UNR said the university understood that the Turning Point USA event was “troubling and unsettling” for some on campus.

“We remain committed to establishing an environment that nurtures respectful dialogue and promotes positive inclusiveness of everyone in our community,” the statement said. “It is important to note that there were alternative events held throughout the day on Monday as an effort by students, faculty and staff to bring the campus together.”

A spokesperson for Turning Point USA said the inclusion of the organization in the UNR petition was disappointing or willfully ignorant, as it put student members of the group on the campus in danger. For a presidential candidate to sign it is reckless, he said.

The spokesperson invited Harris to meet with the organization, particularly members of the group’s Black Leadership Summit and Latino Leadership Summit, who are hurt by the allegations of racism.

Contact Aleksandra Appleton at aappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0218. Follow @aleksappleton on Twitter.

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