Antisemitic banners displayed at UC Davis prompt campus police investigation

DAVIS, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Students cycle past Kearney Hall on the campus of UC Davis where a student lived that has shown symptoms of coronavirus. (Photo by Nick Otto for the Washington Post)
Kearney Hall on the UC Davis campus. (Nick Otto / Getty Images)

Campus police at UC Davis are investigating an incident in which four white men in black clothing displayed antisemitic statements Sunday on the campus, according to university officials.

Chancellor Gary May said in a statement that campus police determined that the act was a "hate incident of concern to our campus community."

"We are sickened that anyone would invest any time in such cowardly acts of hate and intimidation," May said. "We encourage our community to stand against antisemitism and racism."

"White supremacy, hate and intimidation have no place here," he added.

A banner was displayed over a bicycle overpass on Highway 113; May said there was a similar incident reported a week earlier. The Sacramento Bee reported on the banners and said photos of them were shared on social media.

One said, "The Holocaust is an anti-white lie”; the other said, "Communism is Jewish.”

A UC Davis employee confronted the men around 3 p.m. after she saw them hanging several signs on a chain-link fence, according to a university police report. She called the men racist and told them to leave the area, the police report said. The men argued with her, and as she approached the fence to remove the signs, they surrounded her. She allegedly pushed one of the men by the face, according to the police report, and while on the phone with police, started to back away.

As she walked toward the campus, the men followed, asking for her name and address. After a few minutes, they walked away.

Police approached the men, but they refused to speak with the officers. One of the men, described as white and between 25 and 30 years old, recorded his interaction with the officers on his phone and walked away, according to police.

The content of the banners was included in an alert sent out by police Sunday evening, according to a UC Davis spokesperson.

Barry Klein, president of the board of directors for Hillel at Davis and Sacramento, called the incident "disturbing" and said the sign about the Holocaust was most disturbing.

"The most egregious thing about this — that the 'Holocaust is a lie' — well, there isn’t a person I know who hasn’t been personally touched by the Holocaust," said Klein. "The sign is particularly hurtful. There is nothing that is more sacred than remembering the horrors of the Holocaust and making sure that doesn’t happen again."

Klein said he hopes the people of Davis and Sacramento show support to the Jewish community.

"We’ll be there for you," Klein said. "Please be there for us."

Congregation Bet Haverim, a synagogue in Davis, said it requested more police patrols on its campus but has not reported vandalism or any specific threats.

"Seeing such hate so close to our community is undoubtedly upsetting," the synagogue's leadership said in a statement posted on Facebook on Sunday.

Davis Mayor Lucas Frerichs, in a statement on social media, said he was "disturbed" by the banners.

"Hate has no place in Davis, and a common denominator to Holocaust deniers is Anti-Semitism," Frerichs said. "As Mayor, I stand in support w/our Jewish community in Davis, UCD & beyond."

The incident is not the first reported act of antisemitism at the campus west of Sacramento.

In September 2019, fliers linked to a white supremacy group were found at the campus; they were stamped with the logo for the American Identity Movement, formerly known as Identity Evropa. The Anti-Defamation League has labeled the group as white supremacists.

In 2017, fliers with the message “It’s okay to be white” were found on the campus, including in cultural safe zones. The same message was plastered on college campuses throughout the country, including UC Berkeley, Harvard and Tulane.

In 2015, Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi at UC Davis was defaced with swastikas.

Times staff writer Colleen Shalby contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.