Ohio State reports 2 antisemitic incidents against students in 24 hours

Ohio State reports 2 antisemitic incidents against students in 24 hours

Ohio State University said police are investigating two antisemitic incidents that occurred within 24 hours against its students, including an alleged hate crime assault.

The alleged assault occurred off-campus early Friday, around 1:30 a.m., against two Ohio State students, according to an OSU public safety notice.

The victims were leaving a bar when they got into a verbal altercation with two unknown male suspects, Columbus police said.

"According to reports, the suspects yelled a derogatory term and assaulted two students while asking if they were Jewish," OSU's public safety notice stated.

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Columbus police said both victims "believe this to be a hate crime" due to hearing an antisemitic slur and the suspects asking them their religion.

One victim reported being punched in the face, "causing redness and swelling to the left side of his face," and the other reported being punched in the face, "causing a possible fractured nose, as well as redness and swelling," Columbus police said.

One of the victims was treated at the university's medical center and released, OSU said.

The Columbus Division of Police is leading the investigation with assistance from OSU's police division. School officials said the incident is "classified by Ohio law as assault but classified by the [federal] Clery Act as a hate crime motivated by bias against the Jewish community."

PHOTO: In this May 8, 2019, file photo, a sign for Ohio State University is shown in Columbus, Ohio. (Angie Wang/AP, FILE)
PHOTO: In this May 8, 2019, file photo, a sign for Ohio State University is shown in Columbus, Ohio. (Angie Wang/AP, FILE)

Columbus police are also investigating an incident of vandalism reported at the OSU Hillel Wexner Jewish Student Center on Thursday, school officials said.

OSU Hillel said in a social media post that two people vandalized Israeli flags in the lobby and were "shouting anti-Israel statements and threats."

Two female suspects told the front desk they wanted to look around and once inside, one of them began taking small Israeli flags, according to Columbus police. When confronted by staff, she ran out the door yelling, "F--- you," "You support genocide" and "Free Palestine," then dropped the flags and left in an awaiting car with the other suspect, police said.

Security cameras captured the suspects entering the building and the footage has been shared with law enforcement, OSU Hillel said.

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OSU acting President Peter Mohler said in a statement that the university has "offered every resource" to assist police in the two "horrible" incidents, noting that there is a "significant number" of cameras and license plate readers in the areas where they occurred.

It is unclear at this time if Ohio State students are responsible for either incident, Mohler said, adding, "When the perpetrators are identified, Ohio State will take every measure available under the law and university policy."

The incidents come amid heightened tensions on college campuses during the Israel-Hamas war. There have been increased reports of bias incidents against Jews and Muslims in the U.S. since the conflict started, data shows.

Hamas launched a surprise terror attack on Israel on Oct. 7 that killed at least 1,400, according to Israeli officials. Israel's retaliatory strikes in Gaza have killed more than 11,000 people, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. Those numbers have not been independently verified.

Mohler said he understands "people are hurting" at this time but reiterated that "Ohio State will not tolerate violations of the law or university policy" -- including antisemitism, bigotry, Islamophobia, racism, sexism and violence.

MORE: Bias incidents against Muslims, Jews on the rise in US amid Middle East war, new data shows

OSU is increasing its security presence on campus and working with police and other law enforcement partners to increase security presence off-campus, Mohler said.

"I want to be direct and clear -- the university has no tolerance for acts of hatred or violence," Mohler said. "Antisemitism is despicable and has no place in our community. The university will pursue all action possible against anyone committing hate crimes on or near our campus."

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday he has instructed the Ohio State Highway Patrol to immediately provide extra patrols around the campus.

"We will not tolerate hate and violence on our college campuses or anywhere in Ohio," DeWine said in a statement. "These are despicable acts, and as Governor, I will ensure that the State continues our efforts to protect all Ohio students."

He continued, "This includes but is not limited to antisemitism, bigotry, Islamophobia, racism, sexism and violence. We have not and will not tolerate hatred, intimidation or harassment of anyone based on their religious beliefs, nationality or identity."

ABC News' Jason Volack, Matt Foster and Brian Hartman contributed to this report.

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