Education

Cal Poly student gets death threat for role in tolerance activism

A leader of Cal Poly’s SLO Solidarity, a group pushing for the university to change its policy to better promote tolerance and inclusion, has received a threat of violence, causing him to fear for his life.

Matt Klepfer, president of the Queer Student Union and a political science sophomore, was sent a Facebook message from a fake account Tuesday night that threatened an attack against him and other SLO Solidarity participants. The message ends with an anti-Semitic slur.

“The day of the rope is coming soon, and you people will be the first to go,” reads the message from an account with the username “Mordecai Shekelburg.” “If you don’t like how it is in this town, you can go somewhere else. We have a nice thing going here, and if you f*** with that you’re going to have some angry young white man on your hands.” The message ends with the slur.

Klepfer was in the University Union when he got the message at 8:39 p.m. Tuesday. He received a police escort ride home that night because of concerns for his safety.

Cal Poly’s University Police Department is investigating the incident, and the university “is very concerned about this threat and is working actively to determine who is behind it and hold them accountable for their actions,” said Matt Lazier, Cal Poly’s spokesman.

On Monday, SLO Solidarity issued a list of 41 demands to the university’s administration, which included increasing student and faculty diversity, and adding more inclusion programming and curriculum. The group says it believes Cal Poly hasn’t done enough to make the campus a welcome place for minorities.

“I was disheartened to receive the threat, but I wasn’t surprised,” Klepfer said in a statement Wednesday. “It saddens me that students like that exist at this campus, but it is not surprising that our campus climate is a breeding group for those who are willing to threaten the lives of others. I’m scared though, both for my life and for my peers.”

The threat prompted about 75 students to gather at the University Union on Wednesday and march through campus, stopping at the administration building. Many held signs with messages such as “White supremacy has no place at Cal Poly” and “Hate is not the Mustang Way” while chanting, “We received a threat. What don’t you get?”

“We’ve had people say things to us about what we’re doing, but this is the worst we’ve ever experienced in terms of being threatened,” Klepfer said at the rally. “This shows what we’re doing is not popular. We’re doing as much as we can so that students in the future don’t have to feel threatened here.”

Mick Bruckner, a SLO Solidarity activist and the Queer Student Union’s vice president for activism, said police investigators have gathered computer “IP addresses, accounts, screenshots and quotes” associated with the search for the perpetrator.

“As far as I know, they have a search warrant and are waiting for cooperation from Facebook,” Bruckner said. “They wouldn’t give us more information. They said it would compromise their investigation.”

Lazier, Cal Poly’s spokesman, declined to comment on details relating to the investigation.

The intent of University Police is “is to identify the person or people behind the threat and hold them accountable to the fullest possible extent,” Lazier said.

Cal Poly continues to monitor social media posts and discussions related to the SLO Solidarity matter, he said.

Bruckner shared a Facebook messaging exchange between the user calling himself Mordecai Shekelburg and a friend of Klepfer’s who posed as someone interested in Shekelburg’s philosophies.

The Facebook user connected with the threat admitted Shekelburg was a fake name, appearing to reference an Internet meme mocking a Jewish man, and encouraged Klepfer’s friend to seek out an Internet chat room for political extremists, saying, “We are the most influential rightist force on the internet at the moment.”

The message exchange included comments from the Shekelburg account such as, “Are you here to help me save the white race?” and “My goal was to impress upon them that they (SLO Solidarity) have real opposition on this campus, and that they can’t turn it into an SJW (social justice warrior) paradise simply through ‘education.’ ” The Shekelburg poster also made reference to fliers on campus mentioning Syrian refugees, indicating the person behind the Shekelburg account may be a local resident.

In the exchange, the Shekelburg poster wrote, “Jews have been a scourge on every civilization since the beginning of their existence” and that he makes friends with Jews as a form of infiltration “to keep an eye on them” because they will be going into positions of power.

“Threats like this have no place on our campus, in our community, or in our nation,” Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong said in a statement Wednesday.

Armstrong added, “We stand united in our determination to find whoever did this and hold them accountable.”

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