A “direct threat” prompted officials at Evergreen State College to close campus Thursday, June 2, amid a series of heated protests over heightened racial tensions on campus.
College President George Bridges closed the school shortly after 10:30 a.m. after receiving word from police that a person called claiming to be armed and on their way to the Olympia, Wash., campus to shoot so-called “communist scumbags,” local station KIRO 7 reported. The college’s nearly 5,000 students and faculty were notified of the immediate closure and asked to either evacuate or return to their dormitories for further instruction.
The college said it would remain closed Friday, June 2, as the campus is still under “suspended operations.”
The anonymous threat follows multiple incidents of racial tensions on campus, including student protests alleging racism at the school. Some demonstrators became especially incensed after college professor Bret Weinstein, who is white, condemned an April event asking white students to leave campus for a day.
The event idea was pitched by Rashida Love, the director of the First People’s Multicultural Advising Services program, who sent an email asking for some white students to volunteer not to come to campus for an anti-racist “day of absence,” according to KIRO 7. The event was a switch up from the annual “day of absence,” when nonwhite students typically attend programs off campus.
Weinstein was unhappy with the new idea, however, denouncing Love’s event as “an act of oppression in and of itself.”
“You may take this letter as a formal protest of this year’s structure, and you may assume that I will be on campus on the Day of Absence,” the biology professor wrote in a response email. “I would encourage others to put phenotype aside and reject this new formulation — whether they’ve ‘registered’ for it already or not. On a college campus, one’s right to speak, or to be, must never be based on skin color.”
Weinstein’s email sparked intense protests, with students calling for his termination. The professor told Seattle news station KING-TV he was forced to hold his class in a downtown Olympia park on May 25, after the chief of police told him “it is not safe for [him] to be on campus.”
All in all, recent campus demonstrations have involved nearly 200 students forcing their way into classrooms and the college president’s office, the New York Post reported. The Olympian also noted that students filled the third floor of the campus’ library building Wednesday, May 27, chanting “Hey-hey, ho-ho, these racist teachers have got to go.” Some of the protesters held signs calling for the firing of Evergreen Police Chief Stacy Brown while others held signs with phrases like “Black lives matter: End the injustice,” according to the newspaper.
“What started out as anti-Black comments on social media has turned into the dismissal of the rights of students and femmes of color, physical violence by police, and false sentencing of students protesting,” a group of demonstrators said in a statement to The Olympian. “Black trans disabled students are actively being sought out and confronted by campus police constantly, police are refusing to explain their actions and harassment.”
“Students will not stand for this anymore, as students of color have never felt comfortable on campus and have not been treated equally,” they concluded.
Rep. Matt Manweller (R-Ellensburg) has since blasted the demonstrations alleging racism and threatened to cut state funding to the college, KIRO 7 reported.
So far, school officials say it remains unclear if Thursday’s threat has any connection to the recent protests.