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White Nationalist Material Found At SDSU, Reservists Lawsuit, Festival Of Books

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White Nationalist material was found posted on the San Diego State University campus during move-in day. Also, a lawsuit alleges the federal government is failing to protect military reservists returning to their civilian jobs and the third annual Festival of Books brings over 100 authors to San Diego.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Move in day on the San Diego State University campus is an exciting time as thousands of students get their first good look at their new school. But campus officials have revealed that new students this week could also have gotten a look at some flyers and stickers posted by white nationalist hate groups. The material which was not described was removed Thursday morning by campus security, but the appearance of the flyers seems to confirm what a new report has documented and that is a growing trend of propaganda and recruitment by white racist groups targeting college campuses. Joining me by Skype is Jessica Reeves, editorial director with the anti-defamation League's center on extremism. And Jessica, welcome to the program. Thanks so much for having me. What do you make of this incident at SDSU?

Speaker 2: 00:48 Fortunately, this is totally unsurprising. I'm to those of us who track white supremacist activity on campus. Center on extremism at ADL has tracked just a skyrocketing number of, uh, extremist propaganda incidents at campuses around the country. We saw a massive increase during 2017, 18 academic year and then again 2018, 20, 19 school year. Another increase. And, uh, we see no reason to believe that this semester will be any different.

Speaker 1: 01:19 Now, according to your research, this material isn't being spread by students, but by outside groups. What outside groups,

Speaker 2: 01:26 there are a number of groups that are particularly active in this realm. One of them is Patriot front. Another one is identity Europa, which has recently rebranded itself as the American identity movement or aim. These are the two groups that we see the most frequent flyering incidents from. And um, you know, it's important to note that a lot of these groups are using not what you would consider traditional sort of racist or white supremacist talking points or um, images in their propaganda. They are using sort of much more refined or coded language. So it might not be immediately obvious that you're looking at white supremacist propaganda, but in fact you are, they will refer frequently to the superiority of western Europe or to defending America. And what they're implying of course, is that white European history and white European culture is superior to other cultures.

Speaker 1: 02:23 And why are they targeting college campuses?

Speaker 2: 02:26 So college campuses represent a great sort of recruiting ground for these groups. If you think back to your own college experience, you know, when we start college we're very open to new ideas or perhaps just figuring out who we are, what we believe a way from the influence of our parents. We are extremely susceptible to group think in a lot of ways and it's just, it's a very susceptible, very open minded population.

Speaker 1: 02:55 Now you just told us that the ADL has documented incidents of white supremacist fliers on college campuses, the number of which is increasing, but you also found it's increasing even more off campus, isn't it?

Speaker 2: 03:10 It is, yes. And we are sort of interested in the trends here beyond, um, obviously it's incredibly upsetting for college students and administrators and staff to see this kind of material on their campuses. But we know that a lot of these groups are now turning to outside opportunities to outside, uh, populations and they're moving more into town centers that are moving more into business districts in cities. Um, and these may be cities where colleges are based. They may not be, but it looks like this is sort of a morphing trend and we're obviously keeping a close eye on on how that develops.

Speaker 1: 03:51 San Diego stay quickly remove the stickers and flyers because they say they violated campus buildings and grounds policy. The school also says it values free speech. And is there an ongoing controversy on campuses as to whether this material should be removed?

Speaker 2: 04:08 There is and it's, you know, it's, it's interesting to see how this plays out on different campuses, campuses that receive federal funding. Um, so a lot of state campuses are much more, they have much stricter adherence policies when it comes to first amendment rules and rights. Private campuses have a lot more leeway in terms of what they can do. If they just say, look, this doesn't fit with our philosophies. This doesn't belong on our campus, that's enough. But public schools will often have to sort of wrestle with, okay, what do we, what do we do to protect first amendment rights on this campus, but also protect our students and protect our staff from having to experience this kind of harassment?

Speaker 1: 04:52 What types of things are schools doing and what should they be doing to combat this problem?

Speaker 2: 04:57 So we often will see colleges and universities respond to these flyers and these propaganda incidents with on campus events that counter these, uh, ideas that reinforce the fact that they are welcoming campuses, that people are, you know, of all races and genders and gender expressions and sexual orientations, et Cetera, are, are welcome and are part of their community. That's the most powerful. And I think a responsible reaction. We at the ADL are very much in favor of free speech. We believe that the best counter to dangerous or hateful speech is more and better and, and positive speech. So that's, that's the sort of reaction that we advocate and we are seeing that around the country.

Speaker 1: 05:45 I've been speaking with Jessica Reeves, editorial director with the anti-defamation League's Center on extremism and Jessica, thank you very much. Thank you so much.

Speaker 3: 05:55 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 When members of the National Guard and reserve are called away to serve in the military, the law protects them from losing their jobs or being denied promotions. KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh says there have been thousands of complaints against employers who don't follow the law and in many of those cases, the employer is the federal government itself.

Speaker 2: 00:21 Marco spent 20 years as a special agent in the U S Drug Enforcement Administration until they retired last year. Coast also spent 30 years in the marines most of that time in the reserves.

Speaker 3: 00:32 Hey one, he's in this defense department. Video shot at Camp Pendleton in 2011 I'm Lieutenant Colonel Mark Coast, the Commanding Officer Battalion 14th Grains Coast Artillery Brigade was practicing in the California desert, only come out for our annual training. We're able to exercise the metals that we need on an artillery battalion that you just can't get done in the two to three days. On a drill weekend.

Speaker 2: 00:58 By 2011 coasted had already served four tours in Iraq as a marine reserve officer. While on leave from the DEA. He's now part of a lawsuit with 15 other DEA agents from San Diego who alleged that their supervisors discriminated against agents serving in the military. Co says, supervisors told him that continuing to serve just took too much time away from their full time jobs.

Speaker 4: 01:21 Never in my wildest dreams did I or any of my colleagues assumed that we would get the most grief coming from our office.

Speaker 2: 01:30 Coast says he and other reservists were denied promotions at DEA. He describes another agent who was moved to an office hours away from his home. Co says one of his supervisors came up to him in the mail room after he had just come back from his first tour in Iraq.

Speaker 4: 01:44 He was asking me about my experience there and I said, yeah, it was pretty hard fighting up to Baghdad and I said, I got wounded at one point and he said, well, you know, if you hadn't stayed in the reserve, this wouldn't have happened. So you pretty much deserve everything you get.

Speaker 2: 01:58 The DEA won't comment on ongoing litigation in the U S Justice Department. Patrick bullae heads the office of the special counsel, which enforces the federal uniform services, employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or you Sarah.

Speaker 5: 02:12 We have an all volunteer military, so obviously this law helps keep our military all volunteer by, you know, giving people employment protection when they're trying to get a civilian job.

Speaker 2: 02:23 The law requires the federal government to be the model employer, but over the last decade, out of the more than 11,800 cases filed through the department of labor, about 17% were filed against the federal government. The agencies named most frequently are those with the closest ties to the military. Civilians in the Department of Defense filed the most cases, about 500 followed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Postal Service and homeland security, which has the coast guard and border patrol.

Speaker 5: 02:53 One could argue that it's because they employ a lot of veterans and service members, but of course we also want those agencies to be doing their best not to violate the law.

Speaker 2: 03:02 Boulay says he believes in the vast reaches of the federal government. There are supervisors who just don't understand the long. One problem with UCRA is it's designed to get relief for individuals. [inaudible] says he can't force an entire agency to change its policies toward reservists. So the same issues keep cropping up. Brian Lawler is a retired marine reserve aviator and a San Diego lawyer who handles you sera cases. He says half of his cases are federal workers.

Speaker 6: 03:29 We represent a gentleman who is a senior officer in the army reserve and a senior civilian employee working for the exact same command who is being denied benefits of his reserve service by the same command for whom he works as a civilian.

Speaker 2: 03:44 You, Sarah cases can take years to resolve and at the moment the process is even slower. The merit systems protection board, which oversees appeals by federal workers, hasn't met in more than a year. The Trump administration was slow to offer appointments and the Senate hasn't confirmed any new members. The board has a backlog of 2100 cases waiting for its review. Steve Walsh KPBS news.

Speaker 1: 04:11 This story was produced by the American homefront project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting.

Speaker 7: 04:32 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's a celebration for readers of all tastes and all ages. The third annual San Diego Union Tribune festival of books takes place tomorrow at Liberty Station. More than 20,000 people are expected at the event which will host more than a hundred authors, including best-selling writers like Sandra Brown and t Jefferson, Parker and acclaimed novelists like Luis Alberto Raya. In addition, KPBS and its partners will announce the winner of this year's one book, one San Diego contest. Joining me is Britain vets skate director of events at the San Diego Union Tribune. And Bert, welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. This is turning into a major summer event in San Diego, isn't it? It is. We're very excited for tomorrow. And you expect the number of attendees to grow this year? It's been growing each year? Yeah, it's been growing out year after year.

Speaker 2: 00:52 Um, I would say that the first year we had about 8,000 and the next year between 10 and 15 so we're thinking between 15 and 20 this year.

Speaker 1: 01:01 Wow. How was the festival of books set up at liberty station? Is it all open air or are there event halls? So there are

Speaker 2: 01:08 vent halls and panel sessions, the um, festivals all out doors, um, right at the Luci Court area. And we actually expanded this year over to the south promenade where most of our children's programming will be as well as an entertainment stage, some games and uh, some food vendors.

Speaker 1: 01:26 Give us an idea of the types of main events taking place this year.

Speaker 2: 01:30 Sure. So, um, we have some great headliners. Um, we have Sandra Brown who is a bestselling thriller romance writer and she'll be, I'm onstage with t Jefferson Parker who's a local thriller writer, so we're excited to put them two together. Um, we also have, uh, Jerry Kraft is a graphic novelist and he, um, comes over from the east coast. He has a syndicated comic and he just wrote this book called new kid and it's really a nice graphic novel that's targeted to middle grade kids. And um, they're saying there's been such reviews as, you know, every middle school grade kid should read this book. Um, and it's about the struggles of moving to a new school and fitting in. So I think that'll be a, a great panel for parents with teenagers that come over to the festival,

Speaker 1: 02:18 but people can just wander around the bookstalls if they want to. Right.

Speaker 2: 02:22 Absolutely. There is hundreds of exhibitors. We also have an area called author alley, which is always a big hit and that's a full tent full of local authors selling their own books. And it was such a hit last year and the year before that we've expanded it. And we have two, uh, one located on the Luci court side and one located over on the south promenade.

Speaker 1: 02:42 Now KPBS will be announcing its one book selection at the book festival. Can you remind listeners about the one book program?

Speaker 2: 02:51 Yeah, the one book I'm program has been going on for 13 years. It's a great way to, you know, nominate a local authors and books and get them recognized in the community. And for the last two years, uh, we have announced the winner at the launch of the event in the morning and, uh, they actually do a big reveal. They have oversized books there and cover them up and then do, you know, take them off and reveal them. And afterwards the books are placed outside in the festival grounds and people could take selfie pictures with the book.

Speaker 1: 03:26 In addition to the famous authors, this in addition to the all the activities that you're having, you're going to have topic based panels with multiple guests. Can you give us an idea of some of the topics that you're going to cover?

Speaker 2: 03:40 Sure. Um, we have, um, for all of the pet lovers in San Diego, um, you know, you walk around San Diego and everybody's got a dog these days or sometimes too, like I do. Um, but one is for the called the, for the love of pets. Um, there's a panel, oh, about travel. Uh, there's a panel about memoirs, a couple of, uh, people that wrote memoirs. There's middle grade and young fiction panels. Um, just to name a few.

Speaker 1: 04:08 What do you have planned for kids?

Speaker 2: 04:10 Oh, tons of stuff. We have a whole children's reading area. Um, the reading stage is, um, actually being moderated or emceed by Dr Zoo. Little from the San Diego Zoo. Um, and he's really fun character and he'll be there, uh, introducing all the authors that'll be reading on stage. And then the zoo's also gonna be bringing creditors on the stage, um, so that the children could see them and, and possibly pet a couple of them. And then we have a children's pavilion area, um, in there. There's definitely, um, lots of, uh, activities for them. Like bookmaking. Um, there'll be doing some science projects, so a lot of activities both in the children's pavilion and the children's reading stage, which are both located on the south promenade right next to each other.

Speaker 1: 04:57 What does it cost to attend the festival of books?

Speaker 2: 05:00 The festival books is free. Um, but if you'd like to attend a panel session, they're $3 each, um, with a dollar being donated to the San Diego Council on literacy. Um, which is a great thing for us to support. We've done that the last two years as well.

Speaker 1: 05:15 And can people go online and look for tickets in advance to those events?

Speaker 2: 05:20 Absolutely. You could go online and get tickets@sdfestivalofbooks.com but you better hurry up cause some of those smaller panels are selling out and tickets will be available on site for those panels that still have tickets. Um, and they, you can find them at the information booth on both sides of the, the footprint.

Speaker 1: 05:39 Any tips for people who plan on going love places to park, best time to arrive, that kind of thing.

Speaker 2: 05:45 The great thing about liberty station and it deserves a lot of great free parking around. Uh, we do have three lots that are dedicated to us and they should be labeled with signage. But I would recommend, it seems like the past two, it's been one of the hottest days I'm in. You're out in the sun all day so it makes sure you bring your hats, your sunscreen and drink lots of water and just have a lot of fun. Good advice. The San Diego ut festival of books begins at 10:00 AM tomorrow at Liberty Station, and I've been speaking with Britain. Yvette ski with the San Diego Union Tribune. Bert, thank you, and good luck tomorrow. Thank you.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.