Content Warning: homophobic language.
The posters that stirred up controversy and concern last week are back.
More of the posters that say “It’s Okay to be White” were put up on the downtown campus on November 7, as originally reported by Torontoist. The posters are part of an alt-right strategy to promote an agenda of racial tension and conflict in the media, and can be traced back to the online message board 4chan.
According to Torontoist, Winston Smith and another person can be identified from photographs taken on the campus as two of three visible people putting up the posters. Smith’s name is apparently an alias.
Apparently, Smith yelled “faggot” and “fucking commie scum” at the person who captured photos of him.
The posters caused a fervour on campus last week, in part because of a rumour circulating on social media that razor blades were hidden behind them with the intention being to harm anyone taking them down. The Varsity was unable to find proof that any of the posters had razor blades behind them.
The other person confirmed to The Varsity in writing that they were involved in putting up some of the posters after being “invited by a buddy.” However, they denied that there were razor blades hidden behind the posters. “That is the same old accusation that the far left has been making on ANY conservative leaning posters in the past couple years,” they said.
They deny being alt-right, saying they are “a libertarian free speech activist that just likes to stir the pot.”
They wrote that “the reason that this agreeable poster has caused such a ruckus is the very reason why I think its an important message. It’s okay to be who I am.”
Althea Blackburn-Evans, Director of Media Relations at U of T, said that the messages on the posters “are part of campaigns around North America that are antithetical to the University’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, which are among our core values.”
As far as Blackburn-Evans is aware, the posters were not posted in locations that met with university guidelines, and have been removed.
Smith is a member of the Facebook group Students For Free Discourse (SFFD). SFFD is no longer run by members of the Ulife-recognized student group Students in Support of Free Speech (SSFS). SFFD included members of the current SSFS at its founding, and continues to count some SSFS members amongst its membership.
According to Calix Zhang, President of the U of T chapter of SSFS, Smith is not a registered member of the group.
Chad Hallman, a spokesperson for SSFS, said that as far as he was aware, the other person is not a U of T student, but Smith is. “SSFS doesn’t view this type of activism as productive or in line with our goals,” said Hallman.
Smith was present at the 27 October, 2016 rally for free speech hosted by SSFS.
Smith did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment as of press time.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comment from an anonymous source and the U of T administration.
Editor’s note (November 21): One of the people who put up the posters, who was previously identified in this article, has since asked to remain anonymous due to violent threats they claim to have received as a result of their name being identified.