Four connected antisemitic statements and symbols were found on the Downtown Phoenix campus on Wednesday morning, highlighting photographer Dmytro Kozatskyi, who has a history of posting antisemitic material.
The graffiti outside the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication appeared on signs promoting the photo exhibition "Relentless Courage," which includes images from the war in Ukraine on the second floor.
A swastika and the white supremacist symbol 1488 were painted on an upright sign in Taylor Mall. The phrase "Canadian war hero inside" and the name "Dmytro Kozatskyi" were painted on the window of the Cronkite building.
That evening, ASUPD arrested law student Denis Zyalik and charged him with aggravated criminal damage, a class 5 felony, according to an ASU spokesperson.
The vandalism was taken down early Wednesday morning, and an email was sent to students from the Senior Associate Dean of the Cronkite School, Rebecca Blatt, that said the school apologizes for any distress the vandalism caused.
The symbols were found a day after the opening of the "Relentless Courage: Ukraine and the World at War" photo exhibition, which is set to be displayed from Tuesday, Sept. 26 to Friday, Dec. 22. The exhibition features a collection of photos from photographers on the frontlines of the war in Ukraine.
One of the photographers who contributed to the exhibit is Dmytro Kozatskyi, a member of the Ukrainian Azov Brigade who was taken captive by Russia in May 2022. Kozatskyi has a history of posting Nazi symbolism on social media, including a swastika on a pizza and a sweatshirt with the code "1488."
There are dozens of other antisemitic-related tweets by Kozatskyi archived on the internet.
A Cronkite dean said at a Cronkite Town Hall on Thursday, his photography wasn't a part of the exhibit and his work wasn't on display. One of his photos is used on ASU's website to promote the event, and the same photo was displayed on a sign in front of the exhibit inside Cronkite. His name was also listed as a contributor inside the exhibit.
In November 2022, Kozatskyi posted a thread confirming that he did post Nazi symbolism and said the posts were taken out of context and were posted in "mockery." In the same thread, he said he did not support the "terrible actions" of the Nazi regime.
"These photos and posts were indeed published by me, but you need to know the context of Ukrainian humor to understand that it was a mockery of Russian propaganda about so-called 'Nazism in Ukraine,'" Kozatskyi said on X. "In no way I would ever support and do not support the terrible actions of the Third Reich and Hitler. Especially when nowadays we are fighting the direct successor of Nazism in the world - the Russian Federation."
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Government has spread disinformation about Ukraine, saying the invasion is about the "de-Nazification of the country," which was denounced in a letter from Scholars of Genocide, Nazism and World War II in the Jewish Journal.
"We strongly reject the Russian Government’s cynical abuse of the term genocide, the memory of World War II and the Holocaust, and the equation of the Ukrainian state with the Nazi regime to justify its unprovoked aggression," the letter reads. "This rhetoric is factually wrong, morally repugnant and deeply offensive to the memory of millions of victims of Nazism and those who courageously fought against it, including Russian and Ukrainian soldiers of the Red Army."
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has served as Ukraine's sixth president since 2019, is the nation's first Jewish President, who lost three relatives in the Holocaust, according to the Washington Post.
The State Press contacted ASU regarding Kozatskyi but didn't provide a statement in time for publication. The story will be updated if they provide one.
Regarding the hate symbol that was sprayed in front of Cronkite, the University said that while ASU supports free speech, it denounces antisemitic rhetoric.
"While Arizona State University supports and protects freedom of expression and the First Amendment, the University strongly rejects and denounces hate speech and antisemitic rhetoric, including acts of intimidation whether they occur on campus or in the community," an ASU spokesperson said.
ASU President Michael Crow wrote a statement reaffirming the University’s values.
"Let there be no confusion that while ASU vigorously protects freedom of expression for all members of our community," Crow said. "We recognize the difference between that constitutional right and activities orchestrated to provoke, incite or agitate with the intention of creating an environment of intimidation and fear."
Abraham Mogelson, a sophomore kinesiology student and outreach specialist at Hillel at ASU, says while he's disappointed, he's happy with how ASU handled the situation.
"I am disappointed, not in the school, but in the ignorance that is still prevalent in our community," Mogelson said. "At the end of the day, it sucks, but it doesn’t affect how I am going about my day. I don’t feel unsafe. In fact, I feel very safe in the Jewish community we have at ASU."
Emily Fox-Million contributed to this reporting.
This is a developing story and may be updated.
Edited by Shane Brennan, Walker Smith and Grace Copperthite.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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