By: Alex Budzynski, Acting Editor-in-Chief
Hunter Ellis, Managing Multimedia Editor
Chloe Salveson, Show Manager
Multiple “Black Lives Matter” banners in front of Bellarmine Chapel were vandalized yesterday evening by the same White supremacist group which targeted Xavier two months ago. Immediately following the incident, a replacement banner was installed.
The vandalism took place on Good Friday during the university’s Easter break, meaning campus was relatively empty. One of the few remaining students was sophomore RA Zack Wilson, who reported the vandalism around 10:15 p.m. while walking his dog.
“I noticed a sticker on the Kuhlman Hall sign,” Wilson said. “I know I remembered that name from before and how they vandalized the Black Lives Matter flag in front of the chapel. So, I turned my head, and sure enough, it was vandalized again.”
Wilson added that approximately 10 of the community-made yard signs in the Peace Circle were knocked down along with three destroyed banners.
The first sign featured the same message as the originally-vandalized banner, “Racism is a Sin: Black Lives Matter.” This banner was allegedly slashed twice with an unidentified item. Another sign showing support for the BLM movement was torn on one side. The third banner was the flag of Colombia, displaying a message of support on behalf of the LatinX community. This flag, coordinated by the Hispanic Organization and LatinX Awareness, was ripped in half.
In addition, stickers with various messages promoting the group were strewn across the ground in flower beds and stuck to lamp posts around the Xavier Yard.
Wilson noticed that Bellarmine’s Stations of the Cross yard signs, which had been placed around the chapel to commemorate Holy Week, were also knocked over.
Attendees of Bellarmine’s Good Friday Mass departed the service around 9:30 p.m., and 45 minutes later, Wilson reported the vandalism. This led him to hypothesize that the incident occurred between 9:30 and 10:15 p.m.
By 10:30 p.m., two XUPD officers were assessing the scene and removing all stickers from the premises.
An XU Alert Me message regarding the vandalism was sent around 15 minutes later at 10:47 p.m. In part, it read: “The Xavier University community condemns these acts. These acts are an attack against us all but are particularly injurious to students, staff and faculty of color. We must therefore, once again, stand together as a community.”
XUPD Chief of Police Robert Warfel arrived on scene around 11:05 p.m. He noted that XUPD is actively collecting evidence and reviewing security camera footage as part of their investigation.
However, Wilson thought that more proactive steps should have been implemented months ago.
“They wanted to put cameras up after it happened the first time, which I think they already should have been there. But now, [the police say] they will for sure be looking into that deeper,” Wilson said.
A handful of students congregated around the scene to inquire further, including the President of the Black Student Association Mareea Beasley and other Black student leaders.
“[The Black students were] clearly frustrated as they should be,” Wilson said. “They have every right to be frustrated, sad and heartbroken because they don’t feel safe here.”
Eric Sundrup, the pastor of Bellarmine Parish, was quick to replace the slashed banner with a backup he ordered. The other two signs are going to be stitched up and reinstalled soon.
Within an hour of the incident, several students and Xavier-affiliated organizations took to social media to decry the vandalism.
The Center for Faith and Justice posted a statement late last night which read: “These acts cause particular harm to our students, faculty and staff of color. These acts cannot be understood outside our nation’s history of anti-Black violence and terrorism, and so cut deep. And again, Xavier condemns these actions.”
The statement continued, “On we will go, repairing signs and making more, ever more resolved and undeterred in our journey towards solidarity and justice. We know we have a long way together, but we are in it together. Racism is a sin. BLACK LIVES MATTER.”
The Office of Student Affairs (@lifeatxu) released a similar statement condemning the act.
“We will, once again, stand TOGETHER as a community. Racism (in all its forms) is a Sin and Black Lives Matter!” the statement read in part.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the group, which has targeted several college campuses across the United States, was responsible for 4,105 separate reported incidents of propaganda distribution in 2020. This accounted for 80% of all reported White supremacist incidents that year. Members of the organization have been particularly active on social media platforms, posting about incidents of graffiti, demonstrations and property destruction from across the country.
Any community members with more information on the vandalism are encouraged to contact the XUPD non-emergency number, 513-745-2000.