3 Oklahoma Residents Linked to Racist Messages Sent to Black Penn Students

Sunday afternoon U. Penn. announced the criminal investigation had concluded and that three Oklahoma residents, including a University of Oklahoma student, were linked to the messages

Three Oklahoma residents have been linked to racist messages that were sent to African-American students at the University of Pennsylvania Friday, authorities said.

Students at The University of Pennsylvania are speaking out after African-American students received racist texts on Friday. Now, a tie to a university in Oklahoma is causing questions.

Black students at Penn received racist texts Friday from an account on an app called GroupMe, with the messages and images causing fear among the student body.

The university said its police and cybersecurity departments were investigating and had determined the origin of the GroupMe account to be based in Oklahoma.

"The account contains violent, racist and thoroughly repugnant images and messages," university spokesman Ron Ozio said in an email. "The University is taking every step possible to address both the source of the racist material and the impact it has had on Black students on campus."

More than 100 students were placed into a group "N----- Lynching" and sent a series of racial epithets and photos of African-Americans hanging from trees by nooses from users like "Daddy Trump." An event invitation called "Daily Lynching" also went out to the students added to the group message.

"I just felt uncomfortable," said freshman Nate Morris, one of the students who received the messages. "What was said was 'We're going to find and hunt down all African-Americans at this college."

Early Saturday morning, University of Oklahoma president David Boren posted a message on Twitter stating a student at his school was involved in the texts and was suspended as a result. He also said, however, the messages originated somewhere other than the University of Oklahoma.

Sunday afternoon, the University of Pennsylvania announced the criminal investigation had concluded and that three Oklahoma residents, including the University of Oklahoma student, were linked to the messages. They also said no students at Penn were involved in the messages.

Students posted on social media about the fear and sadness that they felt upon reading the texts.

The Penn College Republicans called the incident "absolutely despicable" while university President Amy Gutmann called the messages "simply deplorable."

There has been a rash of hate speech and rhetoric across the country in the wake of the presidential election, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes. President-elect Donald Trump spoke out against such incidents in a "60 Minutes" interview that aired Sunday.

A group gathered on the University of Pennsylvania campus Friday afternoon to support each other. Students then filed into Huntsman Hall for a town hall discussion. Media were not allowed to attend the event.

Following the town hall, dozens of students marched through campus in protest of the hate speech and white extremism. They were one of several groups that protested across Philadelphia Friday night connected with the presidential election.

The students marched over to Franklin Field where the Quakers hosted Harvard in a football matchup. They were allowed to enter the field and protest around halftime along the sidelines.

In their statement to students Sunday, Penn officials said that staff members are working with the students who received the messages and providing them the support they need.

Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement that he "condemns in the strongest possible terms the racist activity taking place at the University of Pennsylvania."

"It is heartbreaking to see this type of activity here in the birthplace of our democracy and the city of brotherly love," Kenney said. "I urge the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to investigate and hold all responsible parties accountable for this disgusting behavior."

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A petition from UPenn alumni was created on calling for Trump, who graduated from the Wharton School at Penn in 1968, to speak on the incident. It had nearly 5,000 supporters; Trump's interview was not aired until Sunday night.

The racist messages came one day after students in Bucks County's Council Rock High School North reported swastikas and threats linked to Trump to school officials.

And on Wednesday, pro-Trump graffiti was spraypainted in Queen Village while Nazi graffiti was found in another South Philadelphia neighborhood.

An African-American student at Villanova University reported she was attacked by a group of men who yelled, "Trump," as they ran towards her Thursday.

Chad Dion Lassiter, a leading race relations expert with the group Black Men at Penn, said the disturbing incident at the West Philadelphia Ivy League school appears to be "a microcosm of what we've been seeing in the larger democracy."

"It is no surprise this is occurring on the heels of the victory by President-elect Trump, who didn’t create this environment, but certainly stoked the flames," Lassiter said.

He said black students and white students should come together to support each other in the aftermath of this "very disappointing" episode.

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