Neo-Nazi posters found on University of Washington campus

SEATTLE -- Neo-Nazi posters have been found in several spots on the University of Washington campus, police said Friday.

The posters, some of which read, "LOOK OUT! THE NAZIS HAVE COME TO TOWN!" were discovered this week outside a theater and near the large open plaza on campus, Red Square.

Police have not seen an increase in hate crimes on campus, but have seen a jump in language and fliers targeting different races or minorities, said Maj. Steve Rittereiser with the University of Washington Police Department.

"What we're seeing though is an increase in some language and posters -- some things that are certainly concerning behaviors," Rittereiser said. "Putting up handbills is certainly legal. We want people to be able to promote freedom of expression and freedom of thought, but we have areas to do that."

Officers found a Neo-Nazi poster placed on a sculpture on the south end of Red Square, he said. Several posters were also put up outside the Glenn Hughes Theatre, where students were staging a performance of Shakespeare's "As You Like It."

"My castmate asked if I smelled something and she said, 'I think someone's spray-painting the walls outside,'" said one of the students involved in the show, who asked not to be identified. "We were smelling the spray adhesive that they'd used to put up the posters."

The fliers were removed immediately, she said.

"It was a little bit of just a shock," she added. "I know for me and a couple of the other castmates, it has certainly set in as time has gone on -- just kind of how disturbing this was, how unnerving it was."

Similar fliers have turned up at the university library and at other lecture halls, authorities said. At this point, there is no reason to believe the play was somehow targeted, said Holly Arsenault with the UW School of Drama.

"There are absolutely no facts to support the idea that this was a target on our show," Arsenault said.

Officers first began noticing neo-Nazi posters on campus around the time of the presidential inauguration, Rittereiser added.

"For some people, [those flyers are] going to be clearly offensive. For others it's going to be seen as not offensive," he continued. "We are an open campus that respects freedom of speech, freedom of expression, so we will let people judge that in a way they want to."

"Obviously, if you find it offensive you'll want to stay away from that," he said.

The theater student who was among the first to discover the posters said she put information about the incident on social media to let friends and colleagues know what had happened.

"I think we’re in a position right now where instances and actions like this can be normalized and are being normalized," she said. "I don’t accept that. I don’t tolerate that. And I won’t tolerate that. This can’t be made normal."

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