Hundreds of people are demanding that an Ohio State University administrator be fired after she called for compassion for the student who drove into a crowd of students and faculty Monday morning and slashed at people with a butcher knife.
Eleven people were hospitalized after the attack, which sent screaming students fleeing for safety and barricading themselves in classrooms. Abdul Razak Ali Artan, a junior at Ohio State, was fatally shot within a minute by a university police officer.
The post by Stephanie Clemons Thompson, assistant director of residence life at Ohio State, included two demands that it not be shared. But it spread virally by people who were outraged by it shared it.
Stephanie Clemons Thompson, There is TROUBLED and Then There Are MONSTERS Who Choose to Murder People, Based On an Ideology!!! HIS PAIN?!!! pic.twitter.com/JzFmdx9XGk
— he'sMYpresidentTRUMP (@lellygal) November 29, 2016
In the aftermath of the attack, some people shared photos of Artan after he was killed. They praised the officer’s action, which they felt had saved lives.
Although some celebrated those photos as signifying the swift end to the attack, others were troubled by them, finding them gruesome or counter to efforts to focus on campus unity and healing.
A petition calling for Thompson’s termination at Ohio State had gathered more than 900 signatures by Thursday afternoon.
It read, in part, “Stephanie Clemons Thompson used Facebook as a public platform to shame those who were grateful and relieved the terrorist was taken out so quickly, preventing even more unthinkable terror and destruction in his wake. Because this man was taken out so quickly his goal of murder was foiled and his victims will live on. Stephanie Clemons Thompson, however, condemns this sentiment of relief by prioritizing the feelings of the terrorist over his innocent victims, their families, and the Buckeye community as a whole.”
The petition also objects to her use of social media hashtags invoking the Black Lives Matter movement and calls to hold police accountable for violence against black men. It deems those references racially divisive.
Thompson did not respond Thursday to requests for comment.
She no longer appears to have an active Facebook page under her name.
Benjamin Johnson, a spokesman for the university, said the post “clearly is not an official statement of the university and represents her own personal viewpoint.”
A faculty member said Thompson had gotten hate mail and death threats and that some colleagues were concerned.
There were also efforts to support Thompson on social media, including comments such as “How is it wrong to ask for compassion?”
This Buckeye supports #StephanieClemonsThompson and her call for compassion and MH awareness in the aftermath of Artan's attack and death.
— Professor Stewart (@DrDLStewart) December 1, 2016
Last time I checked, asking people to refrain from celebrating a death wasn't something you could be fired for #Buckeyes4Stephanie
— WOMEN'S CENTER!!!!!! (@Capittalism) December 1, 2016
We know Stephanie Thompson's dedication to students, and won't be turning against our own bc she spoke some hard truths #Buckeyes4Stephanie
— Leila //ليلى (@leilantelope_) December 1, 2016
But many expressed disbelief at her words, saying she seemed more concerned about Artan than the students, faculty and police who were endangered by him.
Law enforcement officials have not determined a motive in the attack, but FBI leaders said Wednesday that they believe Artan might have been inspired by the Islamic State militant group and by radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a top leader for al-Qaeda in Yemen who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2011 and whose rhetoric has been cited in recent terrorist attacks. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday that there is no evidence of official links between Artan and terrorist organizations and that Artan appeared to have been “self-radicalized.”
Artan left Somalia with his family as a child and lived in Pakistan for several years before moving to the United States in 2014 as a refugee. He had recently started classes at Ohio State after graduating from Columbus State Community College this spring. According to law enforcement officials, Artan is believed to have posted on Facebook shortly before the attack Monday morning calling Awlaki, the radical cleric, “our hero,” and expressing anger about the treatment of Muslims.
When a local news site, 614now, wrote about Thompson’s post, readers’ comments were deeply divided. One woman wrote: “I don’t see a problem with what she said. This was clearly a troubled young man, and we in this country need better mental Heath facilities and support for all people. This was an upsetting event, and nobody wants these things to happen, but a young man was killed and his death celebrated. That’s sad in any circumstance.”
Someone else responded: “UPSETTING EVENT ???!! OSU had a TERRORIST attack…….. Did YOU have a child that was hit by his car, or slashed by his knife !!? Yeah…… my heart goes out to him !!”
Gerard Basalla, a senior who is president of undergraduate student government at Ohio State, said students were amazed by the police response. “It was a tragic event. Things could have been a whole lot worse,” he said.
When they learned how quickly police had acted after the campus community received the alert Monday morning to “Run Hide Fight,” he said, “most students were exceptionally impressed by that.”
Basalla said that he hasn’t heard much from students about Thompson’s post but that as time passes, issues of guns on campus, religion and other topics are being debated and that he expects many more such discussions. “One thing we’re all working toward is to make sure everyone feels they’re loved here,” he said. “Wherever you’re from, whatever your beliefs are, you’re valued, you’re a member of the community.”
Another petition is circulating among faculty, alumni, students and staff at Ohio State, decrying bigotry and intimidation of minorities.
“All students deserve a safe campus environment,” it reads in part, “which includes assurance that bigotry against students because of their race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, immigration status, gender or sexual identity, or ability status will not be tolerated.”
By Thursday afternoon, it had more than 600 signatures.
Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.