The Phoenix: Fight Spurs Controversy

A fight among several Loyola students erupted on Oct. 22. At 3 a.m. the fight was reported by several of the students who were involved to the Chicago Police Department. According to the police report filed, a group of individuals exited Hamilton’s Bar and Grill on Broadway as another group of four individuals walked toward Sheridan Road and Devon Avenue.

The altercation began when the two groups exchanged words at the corner of Sheridan Road and Devon Avenue. An intoxicated individual from the group leaving the bar used the terms “Big Israel” and “Fucking terrorists” toward the members of the other group, which included two students of Arab-Muslim descent and two of Jewish descent.

According to Dennis McGuire, lieutenant of investigations of Loyola’s campus safety, one individual of the group of four knew the intoxicated individual who made the discriminating remarks.

At that point, pushing and shoving occurred at the corner of Sheridan Road and Devon Avenue. The intoxicated individual from the group leaving Hamilton’s then headed to a friend’s home at 6419 N. Magnolia Ave., where the intoxicated student went into the alley behind the apartment with the four students following behind him. An altercation ensued in the alley among seven to nine people from both groups. A larger group gathered and watched the fight.

Police officers were then called to the scene.

“It’s being investigated now by the Chicago Police Department’s Area 3 detective division for violent crimes,” McGuire said. “The police report is classified as an aggravated battery and a simple battery.”

“We are investigating [the incident with the students involved. We are doing an internal investigation and student affairs will take all actions necessary.”

However, at this point many of the details of this altercation still remain unclear.

“[There are] two opposing groups, two groups of victims,” McGuire said. “The question is, do we have two groups of victims or a group of aggressors and a group of offenders? At this point, it is still under investigation.”

Two sides of the story

Although this incident was not labeled a hate crime by the Chicago Police Department, Yaser Tabbara, the director of the Chicago chapter for the Council on American Islamic Relations, believes it cannot be labeled as anything but a hate crime.

The mission of the Council on American Islamic Relations is to “enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.”

One of the four students who was a target of the racial slurs contacted Tabbara a little over a week ago.

The student told Tabbara his version of what happened: The four students were walking back from one of their houses after watching a baseball game. As they were walking by a fraternity house, a member of the fraternity shouted, “Here comes a big Israel.” The students stopped and turned around to inquire what the individual was talking about.

“Then [allegedly], four more [people] came out and [the individual] repeated [the racial slur],” Tabbara said. “When he found out two were Arab Muslims, he proceeded to say, ‘You fucking terrorists.'”

The student who allegedly made the racial comments punched one of the other students and a fight ensued among the individuals. Allegedly, more fraternity members came out of the house and joined in to kick and beat up the four students.

“One guy was injured because three people were kicking him,” Tabbara said.

Once the fight stopped, the assaulted students reported the incident.

“The Chicago police did a report and transferred it to campus safety [since it is] under their jurisdiction,” Tabbara said. “[The students] met with McGuire. He was very hesitant to classify it as a hate crime; it hasn’t been classified as one yet, as far as I know. McGuire doesn’t think it fits the requirements.”

Despite Tabbara‘s allegations, the Chicago Police Department does not consider this incident a hate crime. According to Patrick Camden, deputy director of news affairs for the Chicago Police Department, for an altercation to be considered a hate crime it must meet certain criteria.

“[To be considered a hate crime], the crime is motivated by hate, plain and simple,” Camden said. “Another important fact is there has to be a further onset of hate. There has to be [some] kind of a racial epithet thrown in or something. The crime itself has to be [motivated by] race, gender, sexual preference, those things. When you have different races involved in a situation, while it is criminal, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a hate crime. Specific elements must be present; the crime itself must be motivated by hate.”

Tabbara is asking for three things to result from this situation. First, he is asking for the incident to be taken seriously and for the perpetrators to be caught and charged. Second, he wants this incident to be dealt with as a hate crime. Third, he would like the administration to come out and speak against these types of actions and publicize the incident.

“We want people to know that this cannot happen on campus,” Tabarra said. “We think this [incident] has been buried, and that is wrong.”

According to Tabbara, one student in the group of four who were allegedly discriminated against went to the hospital where he found he had a deviated septum. As of Friday, no one had been charged or apprehended.

According to McGuire, the incident is still under investigation.

Tabbara also has contacted the local FBI since it is under its mandate to report this incident as a possible hate crime.

“I’ve always had a different idea of Loyola,” Tabbara said. “It is a school that prides itself in its diversity and tolerance and hopefully I won’t change my idea of what Loyola is about. There is a question mark right now that will hopefully be filled with [a] positive.”

Junior Steven Snyder, president of the Interfraternity Council, had several close friends involved in this incident.

“As far as I know, there were some words exchanged at Hamilton’s by both parties,” Snyder said. “But I do not know whether some were racial [or if] some were political. I don’t know why it started.”

According to Snyder, after leaving Hamilton’s, four of his friends walked back to a friend’s house on Magnolia Avenue. On their way to the house, according to Snyder “both groups were scattered and intermingled.” Apparently, the situation escalated and it “came to blows” for two of the individuals involved, according to Snyder. Then, another one of Snyder’s friends went over and tried to help and stop the fight. The group arrived at Magnolia Avenue and continued the fight in the alley behind the apartment.

Although he was not there to witness the incident, Snyder was told that allegedly more people joined in the fight and then tried to break into the apartment.

“At one point, my friend was on the ground in the fetal position with his hands on his head and was being kicked by three or four other guys,” Snyder said.

After hearing about the incident, Snyder arrived at the apartment and saw that the group had destroyed parts of his friends’ car and was told that the group had tried to break into the apartment. To prevent the group from entering the apartment, the residents had moved a refrigerator in front of the door.

“When I got there, there was a large black man outside on his phone [and he was with another guy],” Snyder said. “We walked up to the alley [behind] Magnolia and they asked us if we ‘knew the mother fuckers who lived in this apartment.'”

Snyder and his friends denied knowing those who lived in the apartment. They immediately called the police who showed up within five to 10 minutes. They then filed a police report and Snyder and a few friends accompanied Snyder’s roommate home.

“I had to walk and pick up my roommate with three friends because he was afraid to walk back to our apartment,” Snyder said.

After Snyder left the apartment on Magnolia Avenue, another group of individuals came back and tried to break into the apartment again. Snyder’s friends residing on Magnolia Avenue called Snyder and his roommates again who called the police a second time that night. According to Snyder, the residents that lived on Magnolia Avenue were afraid to stay in the apartment for a couple of nights after the incident occurred.

The university’s stance

According to Father Richard P. Salmi, S.J., vice president for student affairs, this incident is being investigated as a fight.

“It was classified as simple battery from the Chicago Police Department,” Salmi said. “We are certainly looking into other factors as well. The Chicago Police Department has not classified it as a hate crime. This was a fight off campus and we are exploring it as such. Campus safety is working with the parties involved.”

Once a conclusion is made as to the nature and guilty parties involvement in this situation, the administration will take another look at the facts and individuals at fault.

“We would explore violations of our handbook if it is reported to us,” Salmi said. “In our handbook, discrimination does not rise to provision of a hate crime.”

In community standards of the university handbook, the university defines discrimination as “adverse treatment of a person or group based on race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, age or any other characteristic protected by applicable law and not individual merit.”

At this point, no one has been charged with a crime. However, if members of the fraternity were to be found at fault, they would be held accountable for their actions by their chapter as well as the university.

“It isn’t the place of IFC to reprimand these members, but IFC would surely look into suspension of [the fraternity] if they were to be found at fault,” Snyder said. “[The fraternity] would certainly suspend these members if they were to be found at fault.”

copyright © 2004,