UNC students will rally this afternoon to oppose a rumored white nationalist demonstration on campus.
The rally, at 2 p.m. outside the South Building administration offices, comes in reaction to an email received by a faculty member who who says he was confronted and threatened by alt-right activists outside his office last week.
According to an email sent by Dwayne Dixon, a teaching assistant professor in the Asian Studies department, a pair of men chased him down an academic building hallway last week, trying to provoke him into violence while videotaping him.
“They were video recording me with a phone the whole time and were clearly trying to provoke a reaction they could use to smear me as a ‘violent antifa,’” Dixon wrote.
Dixon wrote that one of the men was Noel Fritsch, a conservative campaign consultant.
Fritsch, a self-described “unsolicited accountability partner to elected officials” and “political lackey” tweeted that he was assaulted by Dixon on Feb. 7.
Dixon reported the incident to the UNC Police, who have been investigating since.
Dixon is active in left-leaning political protests. He was at the Charlottesville rally last August as part of the Redneck Revolt group promoting armed self defense against racist groups and was charged with bringing a semi-automatic rifle to a protest in Durham last year. That demonstration was organized to counter-protest a rumored KKK protest in that never materialized. The charge against Dixon was dismissed earlier this month.
Dixon said he received an e-mail last Friday from someone calling himself Kevin Cormier who threatened a “rally for nationalism” outside his office unless the university investigated Dixon for his political demonstrations.
In an email to colleagues, Dixon quoted from the e-mail:
“To protest the continuing employment of several radical left wing subversives by your department, my group (Kool Kekistani Kids) & Identity Evropa will be holding a rally this coming Wed. 21. outside your offices. The only way we will stop is if the department investigates Dwayne Dixon and all his known associates.”
Identity Evropa is a white supremacist organization founded in 2016. It has been active in white supremacist recruiting on college campuses and its members helped organize the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, where violence resulted in the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer.
“Kool Kekistani Kids” appears to be a reference to an alt-right and white supremacist online meme but the group – if it exists – does not seem to have an active web presence.
“We realize that these beta male anti-intellectual Marxists enter the education system because they know that naive young kids are the only people stupid enough to buy in to the tenets of Marxism,” Dixon quoted from the email. “Enough is enough. We demand our grievances be heard and we will confront the students to make sure they are aware of the brainwashing and lies being forced on them by your institution.”
Wednesday’s rally will be the first such major demonstration on UNC’s campus since the UNC Board of Governors passed a controversial new free speech policy in December. The policy sets out steps for punishing students, staff or faculty if they take part in any activity that “substantially disrupts” the function of the university or “substantially interferes” with others’ free expression.
The university acknowledged the rumored rally and planned counter-protest Tuesday.
Kevin Guskiewecz, the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, sent an email to department chairs and deans at the university on the issue, emphasizing that those who have threatened to rally against Dixon on campus are “not affiliated with UNC-Chapel Hill.”
“As a public university, we regularly have demonstrations from groups exercising their First Amendment rights,” Guskiewecz wrote. “And our police officers are always prepared to ensure that those demonstrations transpire in a safe manner and do not disrupt our university operations.”
It isn’t clear whether the rally will actually happen, he wrote, but preparations are being made.
“We hope that people will continue with their normal activities,” Guskiewecz wrote. “However, if any individual on our campus feels their safety is threatened at any time, we encourage them to contact UNC Police by calling 911 immediately so that we can provide appropriate public safety measures.”
Michelle Brown, a UNC student helping to organize the counter-protest, said many students, faculty and staff on campus feel the need to stand up to this sort of rally.
“We can’t have this happen and do nothing,” Brown said Tuesday. “We have to stand up to this, even if our chancellor and administration won’t.”
It is particularly vital in light of Chancellor Carol Folt’s and the UNC Board of Governors’ refusal to take action on removing the Silent Sam Confederate statue from the campus, she said.
Last year, UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken wrote a memo in which he said he believed Silent Sam, as the only Confederate monument on a UNC campus, is a magnet for “extremist” groups and that students may be caught in the fight between these groups. He also warned that it would only be a matter of time before students tried to remove it themselves. He said the statue poses an “uniquely dangerous situation” and asked for any help possible to “mitigate” it.
Brown and others in the movement to remove the statue have repeatedly warned of the danger of extremists drawn to the conflict around the statue, as they were to the conflict around the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville.
Brown said the planned counter-protest will begin at the South building. Those planning the rally are debating whether to then take it to the Silent Sam statue.
“Given what happened in Charlottesville, we want the statue down but we do not want anyone to get hurt,” Brown said.