By Robyn Doolittle
A man has been arrested in connection with death threats and hate literature found at Ryerson.
Kevin Haas, 21, has been charged with two counts of threatening death, and seven counts of mischief under $5,000. The Crown is seeking the attorney general’s approval to also charge Haas with hate crimes.
Haas is not a student at Ryerson, nor is he a member of the Ryerson community. “Haas has been a person of interest because of his relationship with a couple of people on campus,” said Det. Matt Moyer, the lead investigator in the case, at a press conference held at Ryerson yesterday. Throughout the years, members of Ryerson’s Jewish student group, Hillel knew of Haas from various non-Ryerson events. But the group is not acquainted with him.
Ryerson security had been on alert since late last week, when both the Arab and Muslim Student Associations found death threats slipped under their office doors. Nahla Darkazanli, president of the ASA, discovered a threatening flyer in her office on Thursday evening and immediately called Ahmed Arshi, president of the MSA.
|How it went down…|
|June 23 – Multifaith Centre is spray painted with the Jewish Star of David and the words “Die Muslim Die.”July – Posters threatening death are found around Jorgenson Hall. In one of the posters, a group calling itself “FBC Ridaz” takes responsibility for the June 23 spray paint. “Full Blooded Israelis Brigades,” took responsibility for another poster. More graffiti appears sporadically throughout the summer. August – Ahmed Arshi, president of the Muslim Student Association, finds a note in the group’s mailbox saying “Your president is next.” Oct. 14 – Group calling itself “Notorious Motionz” slips notes under the doors of the MSA and the Arab Student Association saying “Those who follow the Islam faith need to be killed in the worst possible way imaginable.” Oct. 18 – Morning – the ASA is informed by Ryerson Security that the sign by their office was defaced and removed. Oct. 18 – Evening – Ryerson Security catches Kevin Haas, 21, allegedly putting up inciteful literature by the ASA office. He is arrested at 7:25 p.m. and charged with seven counts of mischief under $5,000 and two counts of threatening death|
No one had been in the ASA office since the previous Tuesday. Friday morning, Arshi found the same flyer in his office. The presidents took the flyers to security together, and police were notified that afternoon.
The flyers display a black and white photo of a white male with a caption that says: “Those who follow the Islam faith need to be killed in the worst possible way imaginable.” Of all the hate literature left on campus, the most recent is by far the worst, according to Moyer.
When Darkazanli went to the ASA office Monday morning, her group’s signboard was gone and a message from security awaited her saying that the sign had been vandalized the day before. That night, two plainclothes security officers were patrolling the third floor of the Podium Building around 7:30 p.m.
They noticed a suspicious man pinning a flyer outside the ASA’s office. Security apprehended the man without a struggle. He was later handed over to Toronto police. Police are not seeking other suspects in the case.
But Haas’s mother Sonia is convinced there is more to the story. She said there may have been others involved who left her son to take the blame. Sonia said her son couldn’t have written the flyers the ASA and MSA received, although she said she has never seen them.
After being held overnight on Monday, Haas appeared in court around 1 p.m. yesterday. He was escorted into the courtroom wearing a waist length, black leather jacket and dark, baggy jeans. His mother Sonia sat in the back right row. She wore a pair of large brown sunglasses that hid her eyes. She told reporters she is worried she will never be able to show her face in a synagogue because of the media coverage. Moyer sat with her and quietly answered her frequent questions during the proceedings.
Haas travelled to Israel this past summer and also started attending an Orthodox synagogue because he felt that conservative temples are becoming too reformed. Moyer’s investigation of the hate literature and threats at Ryerson leads back to last summer, when the campus was vandalized with anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic graffiti.
Racist posters were also found scattered throughout Jorgenson Hall. Late last June, the words “Die Muslim Die” and the Star of David were spray painted outside Ryerson’s Multifaith Centre.
Towards the end of July, hateful flyers were posted in Jorgenson by a group calling itself “FBC Ridaz.” In the flyers, the group took responsiblity for the previous month’s graffiti.
Another group posted hate literature that read: “The Islamic infidels have no belonging in Toronto and in the world at all. Islam is a disease that has made its way into the world and it must be eradicated.”
This group called itself the “Full Blooded Israelis Brigades.”
“Hopefully this guy is the one,” he said. “I really hope that it ends here.”
Last night Arshi headed to the Multifaith Centre to close another day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. He intended to tell the other MSA members the good news. But while he’s sure they’ll be happy, he knows the arrest will spark more questions; one of which he is sure will be, “was it a Jew?” He just wants to make it clear that “[Haas is just] one person, it’s not the Jewish faith.”
Despite Muslim-Jewish conflict in other parts of the world, the relationship between the campus religious groups is amicable, said Arshi. During the summer controversy, they stood as one against religious hate.
Hillel President Jon Vandersluis echoed Arshi by saying the Jewish student group condemned all the hateful acts on campus and said he’ll stand by his “Arab cousins.” Haas will appear in court again today for a bail hearing.