UCLA community members voice concerns over white supremacist rally flyer
UCLA students and faculty expressed concerns about the university’s response after the Asian American studies department received a flyer regarding a white supremacist rally that was meant to occur Feb. 14. (Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)
By Loan-Anh Pham and Hyeyoon (Alyssa) Choi
Feb. 21, 2022 5:06 p.m.
The UCLA community expressed concern after the Asian American Studies Center received a flyer declaring that a white supremacist rally would be held on campus on Feb. 14.
The rally did not occur, but AASC received the flyer in the mail Feb. 9, according to an email sent to the Asian American studies department from Natalie Masuoka and Keith Camacho, the chair and vice chair of the department, respectively.
Upon receiving the flyer, the department immediately notified campus authorities and university administrators, according to the email.
On the same day, Masuoka and Camacho notified the faculty, staff and students of the department. In the email, they urged people to be cautious on Feb. 14 in light of the recent events.
[Related: Students express concerns about UCLA’s handling of safety amid threats to campus]
The Daily Bruin obtained a copy of the flyer directly from the AASC. The flyer contained xenophobic language against Asian Americans as well as slurs and derogatory terms referring to the Black and LGBTQ+ community.
The flyer also contained anti-Asian and sexist slurs referencing the 2021 Atlanta spa shootings, in which six Asian women and two others were killed. An image of the perpetrator was accompanied by the message, “GOOD JOB!!!”
In a campuswide email on Feb. 13, Chancellor Gene Block stated that the investigation into the incident did not call for change to campus activities.
“We have investigated this incident and do not see a need to modify campus plans at this time,” Block said in the email. “At the same time, additional Community Program/Security Officers and UCPD officers will be monitoring campus tomorrow out of an abundance of caution.”
Matt Ellis, manager of the Community Service Officers program, said UCLA hired private security officers from Professional Security Consultants in preparation for a demonstration Monday. James Echols, a UCPD spokesperson, said in an emailed statement that UCPD deployed officers to Murphy Hall and Campbell Hall in the case of possible protests, but no protesters showed up. UCLA spokesperson Bill Kisliuk also confirmed the rally did not take place.
Karen Umemoto, the director of the AASC, said the center received hate mail in a similar incident in 2014. Nonetheless, incidents such as these underscore the necessity for ethnic studies research, Umemoto added.
“Because (these letters are) so vile, they impact people in deep ways. … It just reaffirms the importance of our work,” Umemoto said. “My reaction to the flyer was that we just double our resolve to get the history and stories of our peoples out there to the American public so that this next generation of people … will have more empathy towards people who are different from themselves.”
Hearing about the flyer was disturbing in light of anti-Asian attacks throughout the pandemic and recent violence committed against Asian Americans, said Kaitlin Alcontin, director of the Asian Pacific Coalition.
“Before all of this, the community was still reeling from the recent high-profile killing of Michelle Go, an alum in New York who was pushed in front of a subway,” Alcontin said.
The dayslong silence from UCLA administration also caused concern among student leaders, who were unsure what safety measures to suggest to community members in terms of attending class or hosting club events, Alcontin said.
“There is a conversation to be had about how students should not be learning about these things via social media, where the possibility for misinformation and confusion and panic is higher,” Alcontin added.
Eric Tran, the external vice president of the Vietnamese Student Union, said the lack of transparency also impacts students’ sense of safety and wellbeing, as students only received departmental communication regarding the situation until Feb. 13’s campuswide email.
“Regardless of whether it targeted Asian American students specifically and the Asian American studies department, it’s something that affects all students on campus and their safety,” Tran added.
Despite safety concerns amongst some community members, Umemoto added in an emailed statement that UCLA must continue to support its ethnic studies departments and centers.
“We remain adamant that categorical hate has no place in our society,” Umemoto said. “And we will not be silenced in our efforts to share the histories, cultures and contemporary experiences as a Center at UCLA dedicated to education for a more inclusive, democratic and just society.”