University of Illinois officials are fighting a new social media group that declares itself the "Illini White Student Union" and has called for the monitoring of African American students, saying it planned to organize against the "terrorism" of Black Lives Matter activists.
The Facebook group, created Wednesday, called itself a "page for white students of University of Illinois students (sic) to be able to form a community and discuss our own issues as well as be able to organize against the terrorism we have been facing from Black Lives Matter activists on campus."
The page, which the school said was removed within hours but has since resurfaced, also called on members to share photos of black protesters in the campus quad "so we know who antiwhites are."
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"That anyone on our campus would think it’s appropriate to create such a site is extremely disturbing," Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson said in a message to students Thursday. "We recognize the right to free speech, and we encourage you to exercise that right when you see examples of racism, discrimination or intimidation on our campus."
Wilson added that the site’s call for monitoring of African American students has some on campus feeling "unsafe."
In a separate message to students, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Renee Romano said the school notified Facebook of the page and asked for its removal, noting that it violated the company’s own standards. She also said school officials reached out directly to those responsible for the posting as the group’s name is "in violation of (the university’s) trademark rights" and the school has ordered them to cease and desist.
"Posts and pages such as these stand in complete opposition to the values of mutual respect and community that define the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign," the message read. "While they may be protected exercises of free speech, they are offensive, divisive and stunningly narrow-minded expressions. Just because someone has the power to make a statement does not mean that we should give those words weight or value."
In an anonymous message to the News-Gazette, the original page’s administrator said Black Lives Matter protests "disrupt student daily life and activity far too much," adding, "We are in the United States and not Africa and we don’t desire to have an African flag on campus."
A similar page bearing the group's name has garnered more than 780 likes since it resurfaced.
Posts on the latest version of the group have included one saying, "Inclusiveness and cultural diversity is when every race has their organization on campus. Racism is when white people have one."
Commenters on the page have voiced messages of both support and disappointment.
One commenter wrote, "you have every right to say what you feel is right without being labeled."
Another said, "By grouping people into white or black groups we are digressing back to segregated ways and days but black lives do matter just as well as latino and aglo saxon (sic)."