Student protesters disrupted a fall welcome address at California State University, Stanislaus on Monday, Aug. 21, demanding that a self-proclaimed white nationalist be expelled from the school.
Protesters urged university President Ellen Junn to immediately expel Nathan Damigo, a 31-year-old former Marine and ex-convict who helped organize the Aug. 12 rally in Charlottesville that left one woman dead and 19 others injured, the Modesto Bee reported. Damigo made headlines earlier this year after he allegedly punched a woman in the face during a protest in Berkeley.
At Monday’s event, students carried signs that read “Don’t let what happened in Charlottesville happen here!!!” and “When you give Nazis a platform, they bring torches. Expel Damigo.” They were also head chanting, “Stand against hate at Stan State.”
Despite the disruption, Junn applauded the students for “proclaiming their passion against hate speech and hate activism.”
“They were shouting and passionate and wanted to express their views, which is fine,” Junn told the Modesto Bee long after the protest had ended. “That’s why universities are here, to promote lessons of inclusion and strengthen civil discourse. I appreciate everyone’s patience in giving them the opportunity.”
She declined to comment on Damigo’s status at the school, however, saying state law prevented her from doing so.
“We are trying to put her in a position where she needs to take a stance,” graduate student Laura Machado told the newspaper of Junn. “Various students on campus have repeatedly addressed her and tried to raise the issue of having white supremacists on campus where they can openly recruit, [which] is a danger to our student body.”
Damigo is the founder of white nationalist group Identity Europa and has been linked to campus posters urging students to embrace their European heritage, Higher Ed reported. He has also participated in several white nationalist rallies, including the one in Charlottesville.
Last week, Junn’s office confirmed that Damigo was still enrolled at the university.
“If a line is crossed, I as president will take swift action,” Junn told the audience.
University spokeswoman Rosalee Rush said the president would work with students and the campus community to come up with messaging that combats hate. There’s no word on whether university leaders are considering the protesters’ demands.