ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca police are investigating a possibly racially motivated assault that occurred this weekend in Collegetown involving Cornell University students. One person has been arrested.

At about 1:38 a.m. Friday, Ithaca police responded to Eddy Street to investigate a reported fight on the sidewalk. The person who called 911 also said racial slurs were being yelled during the fight. Police say “no significant” injuries resulted from the incident.

When officers arrived on the scene, they spoke to witnesses and acquired a recorded video. One person has been charged with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor.

The Ithaca Police Department has not released the name of the person charged or whether they are a student.

The Cornell Daily Sun has reported that a black Cornell student was returning home when he found a fight taking place on his front lawn and attempted to break it up. As four or five men white men left the property, they repeatedly shouted racial slurs and expletives at him, the student told The Sun. When the student confronted them, he said he was attacked.

Black Students United at Cornell has released several statements since the assault. In the latest, the organization said “The continual assault on the mental, physical, and emotional health of Black students, will no longer be tolerated. BSU is fully prepared to work with organizations and task forces to dismantle the deeply rooted structures of white supremacy on this campus. We wish to work toward devising an effective, inclusive, accurate, and educational training program that can be implemented university-wide, for staff, faculty, and students.”

Jamie Williamson, public information office for the Ithaca Police Department, said police are investigating whether or not the incident was a hate crime.

“We’re still gathering the facts to determine if a hate crime in fact occurred,” Williamson said.

Several individuals involved were Cornell University students, police said. The IPD is working with the Cornell University Police Department.

In a statement Sunday, Cornell University President Martha Pollack condemned recent events at the university, including an incident in which fraternity members reportedly chanted “build a wall” outside a Latino Living Center .

“I will not tell you ‘this is not who we are,’ as the events of the past few weeks belie that. But it is absolutely not who we want to be,” Pollack wrote.

She went on to say Cornell officials have worked to develop and implement steps to make Cornell a more “equitable, inclusive and welcoming university.”

Pollack said she has also been in talks with local leaders in the Ithaca community.

“For the vast majority of Cornellians who abhor these recent events, our community needs your help,” Pollack said. “Please speak out against injustice, racism and bigotry, and reach out to support one another. Ours must be a community grounded in mutual respect and kindness.”

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick said he wishes it went without saying that hate and intolerance are unacceptable, but that it has become clear that racial bias is still and “important, potent and toxic part of culture.”

“Racial bias expresses itself in many ways,” Myrick said. “When tied directly to physical violence, it can serve to intimidate and terrorize all people of color.”

Myrick said the Ithaca Police Department is working hard to investigate and bring the perpetrator to justice, but said “it’s the job of all of us to do what we can to make racial justice and equity goals of the community.”

Anyone who may have information about the incident is asked to contact the Ithaca Police Department.

  • Police Dispatch: 607-272-3245
  • Police Administration: 607-272-9973
  • Drug Tipline 607-330-0000
  • Email Tip Address: http://www.cityofithaca.org/FormCenter/Ithaca-Police-Department-5/Ithaca-Police-Department-Tipline-47
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Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.