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An offensive symbol that appeared on the Rims on Monday was visible across from the Montana State University Billings Student Union building and dorms.

MSUB Campus Minister Rob Kirby was hiking with a student when they came across a swastika painted on the rock face.

"When we were going up yesterday morning, right as we got up on the stairs, there it was," Kirby said on Tuesday.

The swastika was spray-painted above the rocky stairway that leads to the top of the Rims, just across North 27th Street as it curves up to the airport. It was in clear view for university students, staff and faculty, and it didn't take long for them to notice.

Greg Dicharry, president of Associated Students of MSUB, said a member of the student senate brought it to his attention. He said his first reaction was to promote campus diversity.

"We want everybody to feel safe," he said. "Even if it didn't affect many people — if it just affected some, we want everyone to feel safe."

He released a statement on behalf of university students, saying that the Associated Students wouldn't tolerate hateful actions. He said that student government will be "working on constructing a more complete statement on the matter and a further plan of actions."

University spokeswoman Blair Koch said that administration was aware that the symbol was there.

Assistant Campus Police Chief Adam Davis said that they referred the incident to the Billings Police Department, but it can be difficult in these cases to find a suspect. The Rims aren't subject to security surveillance. 

Whether it's random vandalism or a more intentional act, the placement of a swastika in public view may remind some of an incident 23 years ago in Billings. After a Jewish family was the target of vandalism, residents placed pictures of menorahs in their windows to show solidarity.

The episode spurred the founding of the Not In Our Town movement. 

More recently, hateful actions have been getting more attention after a divisive election cycle. Kirby said he's seen it among some students.

“I have been pushing on campus to make sure that any of our marginalized students know that our community stands up beside them and with them," Kirby said. "And to see something like that up above campus really rankled me.”

Earlier this month, Nazi literature appeared on doorsteps in Missoula.

Within hours of Kirby seeing the swastika Monday, someone had scraped most of it from the Rims. Dicharry said he'd heard of no other overt displays of hate or intolerance at MSUB this year.

For Kirby, it's another time to make sure everyone feels support from the community.

“There is an overwhelming number of people on campus and in the larger Billings community that not only tolerate their presence, but celebrate their presence and what they bring to the community,” he said.


General Assignment Reporter

Reporter for The Billings Gazette.