Youths responsible for swastika symbol on Mount Allison football field

University, town disturbed by incident


Published on January 24, 2017

A swastika stamped into the snow of Mount Allison’s Alumni Field Friday night was quickly replaced with the word “Hope”.

©PHOTO SUBMITTED

SACKVILLE, N.B. – Members of the Mount Allison and Sackville community are left feeling saddened and disturbed by an incident over the weekend in which a large swastika was drawn in the snow on the university’s football field.

“Everyone is genuinely very upset that this would happen,” said Robert Hiscock, director of communications at Mount Allison.

Hiscock said the swastika symbol, which has so much history and meaning behind it, can affect people in so many different ways and incidents like these are not taken lightly.

“Any symbol like that is so polarizing. This is not something we like to see. This is the type of thing we don’t tolerate,” he said.

In response to last evening’s expression of hate on Alumni Field, we stand with our community with a message of hope. Mount Allison statement

The swastika was stamped into the snow on Alumni Field sometime Friday night and was erased Saturday morning. Photos of the drawing were being shared through social media platforms such as Yik Yak, Twitter and Facebook.

Hiscock said the university became aware of the incident early Saturday morning and moved quickly to get a message out to staff and incidents to make them aware that it had happened.

The swastika was covered over sometime Saturday morning by the word "Hope" which was similarly stamped into the snow covering the field.

“In response to last evening’s expression of hate on Alumni Field, we stand with our community with a message of hope,” the university’s message read. “This matter is being taken very seriously and is being investigated. We are bringing this to the student affairs anti-racism committee.”

The university proceeded to contact the town and the RCMP to advise them about the incident, and launched an internal investigation into the matter, said Hiscock.

Mount Allison reported Monday afternoon that, as a result of the university’s investigation, “it has been determined that the responsible parties are youth from outside the Sackville community. These individuals have accepted responsibility for the incident and expressed their remorse. And they have been banned from the Mount Allison campus.”

Hiscock said the university remains committed to maintaining a safe and welcoming environment, focusing on racism awareness and education.

Tasia Alexopoulos, a professor of women and gender studies at Mount Allison who teaches about race and racism in her classes, said she was troubled when she heard of the incident on the weekend.

“I was very sad and very angry. I felt very disturbed,” she said.

Youth from outside the Sackville community are believed to be responsible for stamping a large swastika in the snow on Alumni Field Friday night. TWITTER PHOTO

Alexopoulos said with the history behind the swastika, evoking Nazi symbols can be scary as it represents hatred and a desire for violence. She said the fact that someone went out on the field purposely and spent the time to stamp that symbol out shows there was some type of desire to elicit a reaction.

“What they intended may have been a reaction, who knows? But I think that understanding what the swastika means . . . when you go and put something hateful on a wall or in the snow, it’s going to be read as hate.”

Alexopoulos said she was pleased to see the university moved quickly in making the staff and student body aware of the situation and also letting the town and RCMP know about the incident.

“Making sure it’s not isolated is important,” she said, noting that it’s not just a campus issue. “We have to continue to educate people about racism and that it continues to persist.”

People all over the world, including in Canada, continue to experience racism on a daily basis, said Alexopoulos, and current global issues are only contributing to the problem. She said with an increase in neo-Nazi groups worldwide and a rise in racist vigilante, the political climate in the United States over the past year has also added to the troubles. With President Donald Trump spending the last year during the presidential race “courting” some of these racist groups and saying “vile” things against minorities, Alexopoulos said many people around the world who have similar views are becoming emboldened to take action as well.

“When you make those types of statements, you empower those people.”

She said continuing to raise awareness and educating about racism and the history behind it is key to making change happen.

Phil Handrahan, Sackville’s chief administrative officer, said the town was “extremely disappointed to hear about the incident on the weekend.”

“We were advised of the incident by Mount Allison and it’s our understanding that the university is carrying out an internal investigation into this unfortunate event. The university has also been in contact with the RCMP. These racist actions in no way represent the community of Sackville or our corporate organization, and are unacceptable,” he stated via email.