A black man has been arrested in connection with a string of racist graffiti incidents at Eastern Michigan University that were protested by students on campus last fall.
Eddie Curlin, 29, was arraigned Monday, Oct. 23, in Washtenaw County District Court on three counts of malicious destruction of property, four counts of identity theft and one count of using computers to commit a crime, reports MLive.
The charges are related to three incidents of vandalism that appeared to be targeting the black community at EMU. In September 2016, EMU discovered “KKK” and “Leave N***ers” spray painted in red, white, and blue paint on a wall in the courtyard of Julia Anne King Hall.
In late October, the administration found another “Leave N***ers” message painted in black on Ford Hall. A third incident took place last spring in a men’s restroom.
EMU’s police chief confirmed after Curlin’s arrest that it was a “self-serving” crime and that it was “not driven by politics” or race.
After the first messages appeared in September, students marched in the streets in protest for hours, eventually ending up at the home of EMU president James Smith. After an EMU football game several days later, a group of students stormed the field and raised their fists in a display of “black power.”
The administration’s response to the graffiti amplified after the incident in October, with Smith stating that there is “no place on our campus for these kinds of hateful actions.” He offered a $10,000 reward for tips leading to an arrest.
“The deeper and systemic issues that are behind these incidents continue to be a focus for our student leaders, our faculty, our administration and all who care about this institution and the welfare of our students,” Smith said in an email to the EMU community. “These incidents run counter to the values and mission of the University and our actions over the past several weeks and going forth have and will continue to reflect that.”
EMU even created a website to track updates regarding the vandalism. Those updates included holding a day-long teach-on on racism, diversity, and inclusion; creating the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, another day-long teach-in called “Know Justice, Know Peace”; promoting a campus-wide unity rally; providing psychological and counseling services to students affected by the vandalism and more.
Curlin was arrested in connection to the vandalism on Monday. He was a student at EMU from 2014 to early 2016, but is currently serving a one to five year sentence for receiving and concealing stolen property.
In response to the arrest, EMU president Smith stated, “The incidents of vandalism on our campus created significant pain, fear and distress among our students, faculty and staff. I joined with many of our community in my own personal anger over these incidents.”
Smith also indicated that the many initiatives put into place as a result of the vandalism would continue “regardless of the outcome of the criminal proceedings.”