University of Nebraska-Lincoln students and Lincoln community members came together for a “No Nazis on UNL Campus” rally at the Nebraska Union Plaza on Feb. 7.
The rally, which was organized by UNL Against Hate, focused on the self-avowed white nationalist and UNL junior Daniel Kleve and his recent statements about violence, which have been considered by many to be threats.
With hundreds of people in attendance—some wielding signs calling for Kleve’s expulsion—the rally was structured as an “open forum” and allowed anyone to speak their minds on the issue.
“We’re trying to incite a democratic dialogue,” Chris Morton, a UNL sophomore and organizer of the rally, said.
The rally began with a speech by the president of the UNL chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America.
“We are gathered here for the sake of student safety, for college should not entail the anxiety of going outside or the anxiety of being a person and belonging to a culture,” he said. “Students who don’t respect that ought not to study here.”
He argued that Kleve’s comments threatened the safety of students on campus and that the administration needs to act.
“No one should be afraid to be a Husker,” he said. “So, we call on the administration to keep our campus safe and expel Daniel Kleve.”
Following that, several students voiced their opinions on Kleve. Alex Chapman, a sophomore music major, cautioned students to be prepared for any reaction the administration has to Kleve.
“I think it’s important for us to realize that, at the end of the day, the university might decide to expel him, and they might not,” he said. “What we can control is how we react to everything that’s going on.”
At one point during the rally, the crowd broke into group chant affirming the democratic nature of the gathering.
But according to senior management major Jewel Rodgers, those chants won’t go far enough in stopping violence and fear.
“We’ve got to do more than just rally and march,” she said. “It’s doing something, but it’s not quite doing enough.”
Rodgers said she wants the entire system, including legislation, to change to ensure a more equal future.
Jordan Ndam, a Lincoln community member, compared Kleve’s comments to making a threat in an airport.
“Yes, you do have freedom of speech, but I can’t walk into an airport and say, ‘I have a bomb,’” he said. “You’re imposing on their freedom.”
Another Lincoln community member, Michael Funk, carried a sign that called for not only the expulsion of Kleve, but also his arrest.
“Quite honestly at this point I consider him a conspirator for interstate terrorism and that’s a really serious concern for me,” Funk said, “and I want him to be held accountable for that not only by the university but also by law enforcement and in a court of law.”
Dylan Tyrell, a Lincoln Southwest senior who plans on coming to UNL next fall, also spoke against Kleve, and said his presence on UNL’s campus is dangerous.
“That fact that this is going on really scares me,” he said. “It upsets me that our administration is just waiting for something to happen, but I don’t want something to happen, I want something to change, I want action to be taken now.”
UNL junior broadcasting major Devin Wiebelhaus said that while protected speech does not include threats, Kleve’s statement was not specific enough to qualify as a threat.
“We can not limit free speech,” he said. “There’s no way for UNL to expel [Kleve] without getting into legal trouble.”
He added that he wants to ensure that Kleve won’t be comfortable in his beliefs and that his family members didn't fight in war so "we would just sit here and listen to white nationalists."
“We need to make sure [Kleve] knows his ideas won’t be tolerated here,” Wiebelhaus said.
To many, this rally served as a unifying experience, a way to fight back against white nationalism without employing violence.
“It’s our job to make sure that we can be proud of our university, and i think that the way we can do that is to not retaliate with hate, not retaliate with violence, but with love and understanding,” Chapman said.
Ally Sargus and Ben Buchnat contributed to the reporting of this story.