CORVALLIS — An Oregon State University student has been arrested for allegedly placing racist stickers on cars outside a Corvallis co-op in June.
Police on Monday arrested Andrew Joseph Oswalt on two counts of misdemeanor third-degree criminal mischief. The-27-year-old Oswalt and another man allegedly affixed stickers with racist messages to cars at the First Alternative Natural Foods Co-op on Third Street.
Two people whose cars were vandalized reported the incident to police on June 21, four days after the incident.
The stickers read "Racism is a horrible disease. You catch it from n-----s."
Oswalt was booked into the Benton County Jail on Monday and released the same day on his own recognizance.
In an interview with the Gazette-Times on Wednesday, Oswalt said the media has inaccurately portrayed his views and that white people should be able to speak freely without fear of retaliation. He declined to comment on the criminal case.
Prosecutors have not filed charges against Oswalt. Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson said his office is reviewing the case.
“We’re taking a very close look at this case and we’re considering a wide range of charges, including intimidation,” Haroldson said.
Second-degree intimidation is a hate crime under Oregon law. The law states a person commits the crime if they tamper or interfere with property “with the intent to cause substantial inconvenience to another because of the person’s perception of the other’s race, color, religion, sexual orientation, disability or national origin.”
Oswalt will be arraigned at 1 p.m. on Feb. 12 at the Benton County Courthouse, Haroldson said.
The people who had the stickers placed on their cars were members of a Corvallis group called Showing Up for Racial Justice and had been attending a meeting at the co-op, said Corvallis Police Lt. Dan Duncan.
Faith Reidenbach, a member of Showing Up for Racial Justice, said she is glad Oswalt has been arrested.
"I deplore Oswalt's sneaky, bigoted individual acts,” she said. “But I hope my fellow white people will pay just as much attention to the institutionalized racism that's still prevalent throughout the mid-valley and Oregon."
Reidenbach said she thinks putting racist stickers on cars is a hate crime. She said Showing Up for Racial Justice is “asking people to pack the courtroom” during Oswalt’s arraignment.
After the stickers were reported to police, officers obtained surveillance photos from the co-op, which show two men walking around outside the store. Police posted the photos to Facebook in July asking for the public’s help in identifying the men. Police received multiple tips and officers interviewed suspects, Duncan said. He said police received a tip regarding Oswalt and “confirmed it was him.”
Police have not identified the second suspect in the case, Duncan said.
On Friday, police carried out a search warrant at Oswalt’s apartment, where they found matching stickers to the ones that had been put on the cars, Duncan said. Officers also found other racist flyers and propaganda matching materials that were found in the area of the co-op when the stickers were placed on cars, he said.
Oswalt wasn’t home at the time and was ultimately arrested at 11:57 a.m. on Monday at the south entryway to Gilbert Hall, Duncan said.
Oswalt is still an enrolled student at OSU and the university has not taken action against Oswalt, spokesman Steve Clark said. The Department of Chemistry's graduate student directory, which listed Oswalt's name as recently as last week, no longer listed his name Tuesday. Clark said Oswalt may have requested to have confidentiality regarding his student directory information.
Oswalt is a graduate representative in the Associated Students of Oregon State University's (ASOSU) House of Representatives.
Oswalt said he was arrested in front of students as he was attempting to teach a class on Monday. He said he has not taught since Monday but also said he has not received any notice from the university pertaining to his enrollment.
He said the public should consider whether or not the timing of his arrest is “pure coincidence.”
The Daily Barometer, the university's student newspaper, published an article Monday associating Oswalt with the alt-right political movement, which claims white nationalist views.
“Oswalt’s stated views regarding differences between races and sexes are incongruent with both OSU’s and ASOSU’s core values and missions,” the article states. “Members of ASOSU have stated their opposition to Oswalt’s ideology, and the student government’s leadership intends to have him removed.”
Oswalt said he feels the media has twisted his views "to portray me in a light so that the public is not sympathetic to what I am trying to say.”
“I am trying to say that white people have a right to self-determination, the right to association and that we should have the right to speak our minds on any matter without fear of retaliation,” he added.
Oswalt said he is speaking about the “fact that there are differences in IQ distributions of different populations.”
Oswalt said he fairly teaches and grades the work of all his students regardless of their race.
“I have never discriminated and I would never discriminate,” he said.
In an emailed statement to the Gazette-Times, Oswalt describes himself as an “ethno-nationalist.”
“The foundation of a nation is its people, and we in this modern United States are experiencing the inevitable conclusion of radically different peoples attempting to coexist under shared governance,” Oswalt states. “I will not claim that the attainment of a harmonious nation under such circumstances is impossible, but it is clearly the more difficult path.”
He asserts the United States “began to fail when it was extended to a pan-racial model.”
As for why he chose to run for a position in OSU’s student government, Oswalt said his main concern is to find ways to reduce "the financial burden universities are imposing upon their students.”
The Daily Barometer states a member of ASOSU’s House of Representatives may make a formal motion to expel Oswalt, which the representatives would discuss and put to a vote. The group would need a two-thirds vote to remove Oswalt from his position, the newspaper reports.
It was unclear when that vote, if it were to take place, would happen.