Student alleges anti-Muslim hate speech

This article has been corrected. You may view this article’s correction here.

Several male students, one wielding a wooden plank, broke into the suite of an anti-war activist in Calhoun College March 27 and wrote a hateful note on her bedroom message board, said the victim, Katherine Lo ’05. Lo said the incident occurred a day after she hung an American flag upside-down from her bedroom window to protest the war in Iraq.

Yale Police Lt. Michael Patten confirmed that a group of students entered Lo’s suite, wrote a message on her whiteboard and left without confrontation. Patten would not confirm additional details because the incident is still under investigation.

After the group of students attempted several times to enter her bedroom, Lo said they wrote an inflammatory message on her whiteboard that was aimed at Muslims and anti-war protesters.

The message contained a violent call for the killing of Iraqis and Muslims, Lo said. She said the message ended with the words, “I hate you, GO AMERICA.” Police would not comment on the content of the message.

Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg called the incident “heinous.”

“People have a right to express themselves,” she said. “People do not have a right to break in and harass students where they live.”

Prior to the incident, Lo said, she anticipated others would disagree with her act of protest and would search out her room in order to engage her in debate. She said she left a message on her bedroom door that defended her right to express herself.

In addition to contacting police and University officials, Lo said she e-mailed the intruders’ note — which she first saw the morning after the incident — to friends active in anti-war demonstrations and warned them of possible reprisals.

Lo, who said she attended anti-war demonstrations during spring break, hung the flag — from the side of Calhoun that faces Berkeley College — partly out of frustration with President Bush’s disregard for anti-war protests.

“It was more of a symbol of distress. I’m very upset about the war our government is waging on the Iraqi people,” she said. “I am upset that Bush has completely ignored public opinion of the nation and of the world.”

Lo said that on the evening of the incident, she was working in her bedroom when she heard a group of male students enter her common room and say, “This is the room.” She said she immediately locked her bedroom door and remained silent so as not to attract attention from the trespassers.

After she locked her door, the intruders approached her bedroom door and attempted to open it, Lo said. The intruders remained in her suite about seven to 10 minutes, she said.

After they left, Lo said, she remained in her room until the morning of March 28, when she contacted authorities and the dean of Calhoun College. Police said Lo contacted them at 10 a.m.

“During the time I was quite frightened in my room,” she said. “I stayed in my room the rest of the night. I didn’t know if their intent was just to remove the flag or to be violent.”

On April 3, Laura Hess ’06 e-mailed the Yale Peace mailing list, urging students to respond by hanging upside-down flags outside of their windows just as Lo did.

“This action will be a symbol of our right and ability and determination to exercise our political voices, and a demonstration that we will not be shut down,” Hess said in the e-mail.

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