12 Apr 2019

White supremacist movement growing at Auckland uni, students say

12:05 pm on 12 April 2019

A group of Auckland University students are so afraid of a growing white supremacist movement on campus they are thinking of dropping out.

White supremacist poster put up in University of Auckland library toilets

A poster put up in the toilets in the library at the University of Auckland. Photo: Supplied

The students said disturbing and distressing behaviour had been going on for years, including xenophobic comments on social media, threats and graffiti on campus.

Dotted along the walls of Auckland University sit small posters with the slogan "zero tolerance for racism".

More recently, since the Christchurch terror attacks to be exact, white supremacist graffiti, posters and stickers have appeared on those walls too.

Dozens of students told RNZ they no longer felt safe on campus because of an increasing number of people with extreme white supremacist views.

One female student, who asked not to be named, said one of those students threatened to fill laboratories with gas.

"You know they've made terrorist threats to our workspaces, when they do come into our workspaces they go out of their way to physically intimidate ethnic minorities, women, trans people."

Another, who also asked not to be named, said she no longer felt safe going to university.

"I have refused to come to campus. I do not feel safe on campus, I do not feel safe in my workspace and I don't understand why the university hasn't done anything to protect our safety or even listen and believe that this is how we're feeling."

This student said she was considering leaving.

"I hate coming here, I am re-thinking my plans with regard to my relationship to Auckland University, it is that level, it has come to that extent, because it is almost every day ... then one day we were just going out for dinner and suddenly there's white supremacist graffiti all over the place."

No stranger to white supremacy

An image on the European Students Association Facebook page.

File photo from 2017 of the Facebook banner for the disbanded European Students Association. Photo: Facebook

In 2017, the Auckland University European Students Association was accused of promoting white supremacist values.

The student club claimed its purpose was to celebrate European culture and to promote events such as medieval reenactments and themed activities. The group also planned to hold a stall at the university club expo during orientation week.

At the time, on 2 March, the president of the association - who wasn't named - told RNZ there were many groups on campus that promoted Pacific Island, Māori and Indian Culture.

"They all use their iconography, so why can't we use European iconography?"

Students, staff and members of the public grew increasingly concerned by the group and its branding.

Posts featured the slogans "strength through honour" and "our pride is our honour and loyalty", which many likened to Nazi mottos, were posted to the club's social media pages. The 19th century painting The Proclamation of the German Empire was featured prominently on its pages too.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page - which has since been deleted - the association said its members were not fascists, racists or Nazis.

At the time, the university defended its decision to allow the club to attend the expo, saying it was normal practice even if the club hadn't been formally affiliated.

The following day, 3 March, the group announced it was disbanding.

"The constant threats to our safety, exposure of privacy, and general abuse the group and individuals have received is simply unacceptable, dangerous and extremely worrying. It is truly saddening that these actions go entirely against what those who have had a problem with us support and promote on their respective platforms and outlets."

One student told RNZ people involved with the association were now part of a white supremacist resurgence.

"These people have continued to organise, but under the radar on campus and we continually see stickers for the Dominion Movement, which is another white supremacist movement plastered around campus, this is a regular occurrence and yeah we've heard reports of students feeling frightened and intimidated by them and they're actually quite well known."

Immediately after the Christchurch mosque shootings the Dominion Movement said on Facebook it was closing down as a result of the attacks.

Formal complaints laid

Graffiti on the underpass near the library at University of Auckland.

Recent graffiti at the underpass near the library at the university. Photo: Supplied

Students have complained to the university about the behaviour but said those complaints have fallen on deaf ears.

"We have tried to take every single avenue, we have talked to management, the proctor, other managers, different faculties, we've talked to almost everyone and nothing has come of it, I just cannot fathom it, we have gone with good faith that they would, you know, ensure our safety."

Some students met with a senior member of university management yesterday afternoon to voice their concerns.

"The general vibe was that he did not believe any of what I was staying and it was very much a case of actually trying to get him to, trying to convince him that this was a problem."

RNZ understands multiple complaints have been made to the university about one student's behaviour, with some dating back to 2013.

One complaint was made after the student wore a jacket with a swastika on the sleeve to class. Students said he has previously described himself to them as a Nazi.

University unaware of increased incidences

The university would not comment or confirm those complaints.

In a statement, a spokesperson said it received a number of formal complaints about the behaviour of a current student yesterday.

"We were able to and have acted on these."

Offensive propaganda, including graffiti, is always quickly removed, and the university was not aware of significantly increased incidences of this in the past month, they said.

"We are aware that following events such as the Christchurch mosque attacks there will be in an increased awareness of racism and offensive behaviour. The university will respond to concerns raised."

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