Racist graffiti at Olympic College elicits protest

Students gather at the Bremer Student Center to protest racism on the Olympic College campus. - Christopher Carter/staff photo
Students gather at the Bremer Student Center to protest racism on the Olympic College campus.
— image credit: Christopher Carter/staff photo

Olympic College students and staff whooped and hollered at the Bremer Student Center Wednesday afternoon, carrying signs that read “Students deserve to know.” Speakers rallied the audience and caught the attention of the couple hundred people in the building.

The protesters were there responding to racist graffiti left in a campus bathroom at the beginning of the month, calling for the school to treat the incident as a hate crime.

“The response to this incident was terrible,” said Jonathan Bowers, president of the Associated Students of Olympic College. “What we do in treating students of color is a direct reflection on us.”

According to Bremerton police reports, the graffiti found in a stall of the physical education building’s men’s bathroom included two swastikas and phrases such as “white pride worldwide.” Campus security reported the graffiti to police April 21, but students told police it had been there for two or three weeks. Security had photo copies of the graffiti for police records, but it was painted over.

That slow response was not good enough, rally speakers and attendees said.

“It’s a big deal to have stuff like that painted on our wall,” said Bishop Larry Robertson of the Emmanuel Apostolic Church, eliciting cheers from the crowd. “It’s a big deal to have any of us discriminated against.”

Several of the speakers, including Olympic College students and members of the community, said racism is an ongoing problem at the college and the administration needs to do more to address hate crimes.

“The students are completely outraged by it and they want it to change,” said student Anna Reaume, who attended the protest.

Rick MacLennan, vice president of student services, said that school officials should have alerted the police about the graffiti sooner and that the administration will develop written hate crime policies in order to better address future incidents.

“It was an honest mistake on the part of the folks involved,” MacLennan said.

Despite the missteps, he said he was happy to see students and staff collectively respond to the issue.

“This is exactly what they should be doing,” he said. “I’d love to see more of it.”

Those who attended the rally said they were pleased that so many people gathered to address problems of racism on campus.

“We all need to stand together against this sort of violent behavior,” said English professor Sonia Apgar Begert, who stood in the crowd carrying a sign that read, “Silence is defeat.”

Student Marlon Marshall said the success of Wednesday’s event will encourage students to take a stand against intolerance on campus.

“More people will stand up,” he said. “Let it be known that it won’t be tolerated on our campus.”

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