A campus club known for racist and anti-Semitic comments started a charity fundraiser for Kyle Rittenhouse's legal defense fund, leaving ASU students feeling unsafe and wondering if the University is following through on its promises of inclusion.
College Republicans United at ASU, a conservative political activism club, described as a "far-right extremist group" by ASU College Republicans, said half of the funds collected this semester would be donated to Rittenhouse.
The 17-year-old was arrested in Kenosha, Wisconsin on two counts of first degree homicide and one count of attempted homicide after being charged with fatally shooting two protesters and injuring another at a demonstration demanding justice for Jacob Blake, the Black man shot and paralyzed after walking away from police in the same city.
Rittenhouse's legal team said he was defending himself from attackers, rhetoric CRU has already adopted.
The club said it does not condone the deaths of his victims, but notes they were "not model citizens" and that Rittenhouse "does not deserve to have his entire life destroyed," according to the fundraiser page.
In an email to The State Press, CRU said it does not "give interviews with people who have pronouns in their email signature." On a second attempt for comment, the organization reiterated the message and called The State Press a "smear group" and demanded editors meet with them to issue an apology for previous coverage.
The email responder did not identify themselves or answer questions about the amount raised or if an event Monday featuring Maricopa County Sheriff candidate Jerry Sheridan was expected to bring in more money.
The planned event has since been canceled because CRU did not submit a request through the special event registry, which is required for outside visitors, a University spokesperson said.
The University said it does not support the fund and will meet with students from CRU to "learn more about this decision," a spokesperson wrote in an email. The spokesperson said there is no policy prohibiting student groups from raising funds for a specific cause.
Students feel the University's statement, which was posted on Twitter Saturday, does not go nearly far enough. They described their reactions to the situation as shocked, scared, disturbed and mad.
D’Andrea Lattier, a junior studying biochemistry, said she was incredibly frustrated by the fundraiser, especially as COVID-19 cases rise at ASU.
"I wish (the University) could say this is a moral thing that we just can't let (CRU) do," Lattier said. "But they are just going by the book."
Several students posted comments of disgust on social media after finding the fundraiser. The same day, the Black African Coalition released a statement that said University policy and a conversation with administrators warned them not to host a protest on Sunday.
While the group cannot host the protest, an ASU spokesperson said that the group understands “conduct expectations do not prohibit us from individually and peacefully participating in a protest or march.”
BAC's intern, Jasmin Murphy, a sophomore studying psychology, said the club was disappointed in ASU because of its response to the fundraiser and that CRU is hosting an in-person event when the BAC was denied one.
"In everything we're working for, we get so much pushback from the University," Murphy said. "They've done nothing to let students of color know this type of behavior is not accepted, this type of behavior is not allowed ... it just raises so many red flags that ASU is not really here to protect students.
"The BAC does not feel very included right now, I don't feel very included right now."
Cameron Adams, president of Young Democrats at ASU and a junior studying global studies, said she was "disturbed" by content from an organization that "shouldn't be a registered club at ASU."
Some students laughed at the University's statement and said reasoning with CRU did not seem possible.
"I really don't know what I would tell them (CRU)," Lattier said. "They are just so disillusioned to the truth, so there's really nothing that I could say to get them to believe otherwise."
Joe Pitts, president of College Republicans and a sophomore studying economics, tweeted that 90% of his job is clarifying that the two clubs are not the same.
"Our interest is in getting things done, not stirring up controversy," Pitts said in a text message.
College Republicans later issued a letter and video featuring Pitts calling on the University to investigate CRU. The two officially split at the beginning of 2018, with CRU serving as a Trump-oriented alternative to College Republicans, the club's president at the time told The State Press.
CRU has since faced backlash from other political-oriented organizations on campus for racist, anti-Semitic, sexist and white supremacist comments and behavior.
"An organization that repeatedly does things that support racism and white supremacy goes directly against the idea of an inclusive campus," Adams said.
Murphy said she feels the University's response to the BAC and to CRU's fundraiser are not fair and have "targeted organizations of color."
Justin Remelius, a chair of Young Democratic Socialists of America at ASU and a senior studying political science and philosophy, said the fundraiser made him and other members of the club feel unsafe to be on campus.
"I think this is just another sign of where Michael Crow's priorities are and it's not protecting students, particularly the Black and brown students here at ASU," Remelius said.
Editor's Note: This story was updated at 10:25 p.m. to include new information about CRU's in-person meeting and the BAC's protest.
Piper Hansen is a digital managing editor at The State Press. She is a reporting intern at the Arizona Capitol Times. Outside the newsroom, you can find her backpacking in Kentucky or working at summer camp.