MEChA Crosses Not Stolen

The recovery of the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/la de Aztlan organization’s missing display of crosses has stirred controversy and spurred MEChA to continue its awareness campaign to dispel the hate and ignorance expressed by some toward immigrants.

The UCSD police have been investigating the defacement of the MEChA display that was located on the Price Center’s grassy area as a hate incident.

The disappearance of the defaced crosses display occurred on Admit Day and has also been under investigation.

UCSD police Detective Nate Floyd said that the crosses from the display were found and that they had not been stolen.

“”The crosses display was removed by the grounds crew in order to cut the grass,”” Floyd said. “”It wasn’t a theft.””

Floyd also said that the identification of the perpetrator who defaced the poster display is still under investigation.

University Centers Director Gary Ratcliff affirmed that the display was unintentionally removed by the grounds crew so that the grass could be mowed.

“”The grounds crew were unaware that the crosses display was an exhibit when they cleared the grounds,”” Ratcliff said.

Ratcliff said that he e-mailed an apology to the MEChA organization.

“”I said that I was very sorry about the removal of the crosses display. I told them that it was an honest mistake,”” Ratcliff said. “”And I also informed them that we revised our space reservations procedures so that our grounds crew is fully informed about exhibits on the green space,”” he said.

Muir junior Jessica Lopez, chair of MEChA, said that she replied via e-mail to thank him for the apology and to also raise some of her organization’s concerns.

“”After discussing this incident with the MEChA board, it is clear that we have not ruled out the possibility that our exhibit was taken down for Admit Day to eliminate anything ‘controversial’ from campus,”” Lopez said in her e-mail.

Ratcliff was adamant in his explanation that the removal of the crosses display was not an attempt at censorship before Admit Day began.

“”The reservations department doesn’t make judgments on content of exhibits; we just schedule,”” Ratcliff said. “”It is an absolute myth that the removal of the crosses display has any connection with Admit Day or has any intent to squelch their message.

“”It is important that student organizations, such as MEChA, have access to this space to build awareness of social issues. The staff here will be fully supportive of such efforts.””

Lopez said that once the display was returned to her organization nearly a week after it went missing, there were three separate comments on their poster that had been covered by either black paint or permanent black pen: “”That’s what they get,”” “”Why commemorate criminals?”” and “”These people are criminals.””

Lopez said that the comments were obviously referring to the statistics provided by MEChA on the poster memorializing the hundreds of immigrants who have died trying to cross the border into the United States.

Yet Lopez said the real issue is not illegal immigration, as implied by the person or persons who defaced the poster.

“”The real issue is that people are dying and that some people think these deaths are justified,”” Lopez said.

Lopez said that in the aftermath of the hate incident and removal of their crosses display, the MEChA organization has responded by putting its display back up in the Price Center grass area, but with one significant change.

Lopez said that MEChA added a separate poster board so that there would be a place for students to make comments.

“”We added a separate poster board so that students could respond,”” Lopez said. “”We’ve gotten a lot of positive comments.””

However, Marshall junior Candace Katungi, who is not a member of MEChA, said she witnessed a student write a negative comment on the response board.

“”The student wrote: ‘Why are you making a memorial for criminals? If you want to prevent deaths, build higher walls,'”” Katungi said.

Katungi said she then engaged the student in a thoughtful and calm dialogue for the next 20 minutes.

“”I asked him what he meant by criminals,”” Katungi said. “”He replied that the emphasis should be on the fact that when the immigrants illegally crossed, they knew the risks.

“”I told him that no death is justifiable. I pointed out that we only use the death penalty for severe crimes. I then asked him if what the immigrants did was severe enough to warrant their deaths. He didn’t say anything after that,”” Katungi said.

Lopez said that the hateful and ignorant reactions by some students to the organization’s attempt to bring awareness to the campus through the crosses display has made it clear that there is still a lot of ignorance that needs to be deconstructed.

“”People at UCSD need to analyze and challenge notions that ‘immigrants are criminals,’ or that ‘immigrants deserve what they get,'”” Lopez said. “”These misconceptions about immigrants are made to seem natural to hide the fact that they are constructed strategically to justify the exploitation of these groups for the benefit of others.””

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