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Poly student organizer for SLO Solidarity receives death threat

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The organizer for a group of student activists pushing for more diversity and tolerance at Cal Poly SLO was the subject of an online death threat Dec. 1.

Matt Klepfer, a Cal Poly sophomore, is an organizer for SLO Solidarity, a group of students who have publically raised concerns over a lack of diversity, noticeable intolerance, and other social justice issues at the university. The message was sent to Klepfer from the Facebook profile using the name “Mordecai Shekelburg,” and included a direct threat on his life as well as an anti-Semitic slur.

“The day of the rope will be coming soon, and you people will be the first to go,” the message reads. “If you don’t like how it is in this town, you can all go somewhere else. We have a nice thing going here, and if you fuck with that you’re going to have some pretty angry young white men on your hands. Kike.”

In a written statement, Klepfer said he reported the threat, and that the university’s administration and police department were investigating and “taking it very seriously”.

“I was disheartened to receive the threat, but I wasn’t surprised,” he wrote. “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.” 

SLO Solidarity came to prominence after they protested hateful comments written on a “free speech” wall on campus in November. Messages left on the wall included a drawing of the Islamic prophet Muhammad holding a machine gun saying, “Don’t draw me. I’ll jihad your face.” 

The group contains students from a number of campus groups, including Black Student Union, the Queer Student Union, and Triota. The day before the threat was made, SLO Solidarity released a list of 41 demands to the university, which they say has failed to live up to its commitments of diversity and inclusiveness.

“All of the members of SLO Solidarity feel threatened and fearful of their safety on campus right now,” Klepfer wrote.

Despite those concerns, Klepfer and other SLO Solidarity members held a demonstration on campus within hours of news of the threat going public.

The threat is one of a spate of similar online threats made at universities across the nation. On Nov. 11, two college students were arrested for making violent threats to black students at the University of Missouri via the online messaging app Yik Yak. Those threats came after highly public protests by students over issues of race that lead to ousting of the UM system president. On Nov. 30, police arrested a 21-year-old man who threatened to kill students and employees at the University of Chicago. On Dec. 1, police arrested one man who made threats on Yik Yak that prompted the shutdown of Western Washington University. 

Cal Poly President Jeff Armstrong released a statement on Dec. 1 condemning the threats, saying the university was “no place for hate.”

“We stand united in our determination to find whoever did this and hold them accountable. We will not tolerate this behavior,” Armstrong wrote.

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