Loyola Marymount University wall with pro-immigrant slogans is defaced

A demonstration at Loyola Marymount University meant to express support for students who entered the country illegally became the site of controversy this week, after a wall that was part of a presentation was defaced. 

Students at the Westside campus had planned a number of activities as part of  “No Human Being Is Illegal” week, which was intended to show solidarity with immigrant students.

Organizers erected a wall made of Styrofoam and foil on a plaza near the library, and spray painted phrases such as “No Human being is illegal,” “stop deportations” and “#Not1more.”

Another phrase, "Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner," quoted a bible passage from Exodus. But some time Monday evening, the wall was vandalized, with the word "Trump" scrawled over the bible quote and "Deport all illegals" written in another area, in reference to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and one of his signature positions. 

The vandalism was first reported in the campus publication the Loyolan.

One of the organizers, Diana Delgado, said that she and other students were dismayed by the hatred. Delgado, who works with a group called Resilience, said the installation was meant to evoke the Berlin Wall, a portion of which is on display at Loyola Marymount, to "create a division on the campus and show everyone what that looks like."

In a campuswide email, university President Timothy Law Snyder said that incidents such as the vandalism “require us to examine deeper our actions and our purpose as a Catholic, Jesuit, and Marymount campus.”

Dean of Students Jeanne Ortiz said in an interview that the administration had not filed a police report and that the school's public safety office is handling the incident as "a university community issue at this point."

Faculty, she said, have used it as a "teachable moment."

The resulting conversations have felt like a potential silver lining, said literature professor Rubén Martinez.

"The community is asking itself a lot of questions about free speech," Martinez said.

He said some of his students felt comfortable "coming out as Republicans" in class.

There's a "real issue on our campus about whether people with contrary opinions who aren't spouting hate ... are scared of being labeled intolerant and racist," Martinez said.

The incident comes as many of the nation's colleges are grappling with how to ensure freedom of speech while also policing incidents of bigotry

At Loyola Marymount, the Bias Incident Response Team issued a campuswide message to be “mindful of our core values of inclusion, respect, and diversity of thought.”

Campus activism in favor of Trump has been ignited by rallies and, more recently, something supporters call #TheChalkening: The scribbling of Trump's name, in chalk. The Daily Caller, a conservative news outlet, described it as a movement to "strike back against college political correctness."

The Chalkening popped up after protests at Emory University in Atlanta in reaction to the appearance of "Trump 2016" in chalk.

But to Loyola Marymount students, that's a different story.

"If Trump had been written in chalk on the sidewalk, that would have been expressing support," Delgado said. "They literally spray painted 'Trump' over a bible quote.... It’s using that candidate as a way to intimidate."

Last week, students at Pitzer College in Claremont reported a similar incident.

According to a Facebook post by political science student Elijah Pantoja, the base of a tower was defaced with red letters that spelled out "Trump."

A mural with the faces of two men, one white and one black, was covered with graffiti that spelled out "Make America," which students understood to be a reference to Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again."

Pantoja wrote, "This is a clear attempt to intimidate students of color at Pitzer College."

Pitzer spokeswoman Anna Chang said an investigation is underway.

In an April 3 message to students, Pitzer's vice president for student affairs, Brian Carlisle, called the incident an act of vandalism that "raise[s] serious concerns of hatred and racism."

You can reach Joy Resmovits on Twitter @Joy_Resmovits and by email at Joy.Resmovits@LATimes.com

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

8:51 p.m.: This article was updated with minor editing.

This article was originally published at 8:12 p.m.

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