Radnor police, Villanova investigating: White males yelling 'Trump' knock down black female student

Radnor police and Villanova authorities are investigating a report of a crowd of young white men charging a black female student, shouting "Trump! Trump! Trump!" and knocking her down.

The unidentified student, who said her head and face hit the concrete of a SEPTA tunnel at the Villanova train station near campus, was badly shaken after the Thursday night attack. A friend said she suffered nausea, vomiting and dizziness afterward.

The males, also unidentified, disappeared into the darkness after the alleged attack, the woman told her friend.

A university official with knowledge of the incident confirmed that the university and Radnor police were investigating. The university promised "serious consequences" for those found to be responsible.

"The University finds this conduct deplorable and considers this racist behavior that runs completely counter to our values," the school said in a statement.

The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, Villanova president, said in recent days he has been "deeply disturbed by several reports of members of our community using our nation's political process as a justification for behaviors and language aimed to intimidate or humiliate other people.

"This type of behavior is not acceptable and will not be tolerated at Villanova," he said.

Donohue's statement came the day after officials at the University of Pennsylvania and University of Oklahoma began investigating a text messaging cell phone app that targeted dozens of black Penn freshmen.

Just hours after the alleged Villanova incident, racist hate messages appeared on Friday morning on a cellphone app under the chat group name "N- Lynching."

A student at the University of Oklahoma was temporarily suspended Friday night after Penn officials said the messages appeared to originate in Oklahoma. The FBI joined campus police at Penn and OU in investigating; other people were believed to be involved, Penn officials said.

The post-election incidents - not believed to be specifically related - have shaken area schools amid reports of numerous incidents of bigotry across the country.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said Friday it had counted more than 200 incidents of "election-related harassment and intimidation across the country."

The Montgomery, Ala.-based civil rights organization said the reports - from news accounts, social media and direct reports - "range from anti-Black to anti-woman to anti-LGBT incidents."

The SPLC said it had not independently verified each report.

At Villanova, the young woman, described by her friend as "very, very afraid," was initially reluctant to report the attack to campus public safety officials.

A Villanova employee reported the incident to the Inquirer. The young woman said the alleged attack happened about 9 p.m. Thursday as the male students came through the transit tunnel on their way to West Campus - apparently on their way to an off-campus formal.

Student presidents from several Philadelphia universities met Saturday afternoon to discuss what to do in response.

In interviews, the student leaders from Drexel University, La Salle University, Saint Joseph's University, Temple University, and the University of Pennsylvania described campuses that have become increasingly tense since Tuesday's presidential election victory by Donald Trump.

They described politically fractured student bodies, with previously cowed Trump supporters emboldened by the election results - and equally frustrated Trump opponents protesting in the streets and on campus.

La Salle student president Beckett Woodworth said that there has been a rise in hostile social media posts since the election - and that student groups had organized to resist a Trump presidency.

An anti-fascist league had also formed on campus, he said.

Students and officials at Penn - and around the city - were shocked and disgusted by the text attacks, some of which scheduled "N- Lynchings" in the app's calendar.

The messages came from a person posting under the name "Daddy Trump," since identified as the OU student who was suspended.

The Oklahoma FBI referred all inquiries to the Philadelphia office. The Philadelphia FBI office did not respond Saturday.

Penn president Amy Gutmann said her counterpart at the University of Oklahoma, David Boren, had called her Friday night to report the disciplinary action. The suspension came early in the investigation by the FBI and campus police at both universities.

"Penn Police will continue to work with the FBI and University of Oklahoma Police in completing the investigation, as additional individuals may be involved," Gutmann said Saturday.

"The University of Oklahoma has made it clear that we will not tolerate racism or hate speech that constitutes a threat to our campus or others," said Boren, president of that university. "It would appear this matter did not originate at the University of Oklahoma, but started elsewhere," he said.

The group chat also included references to "SAE" - the abbreviation often used to refer to the national fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon. The fraternity's OU chapter was shut down after another racist incident in 2015.

Penn's SAE chapter denounced the GroupMe racism on Friday.

A second message in the GroupMe chat, from someone who posted under the name GORT, said "message Heil Trump."

One posting displayed an old image of a lynching with the note, "I love America."

In all, the messages named 161 people, including those who created the group and the students who were targeted.

Northwestern Oklahoma State University Campus Police said they were aware of an investigation involving Oklahoma students. They said they did not know if any current students at the school were responsible.

For a handful of the GroupMe participants, social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter went dark Friday night as the Penn investigation got under way.

A feature of the GroupMe chat app, is that individuals can be added - whether they want to be or not. That's apparently how Penn students became targets.

Oklahoma State student Kasey Hendrick, who was added to the chat, told The Inquirer in an email: "I do not go to Penn nor do I know anyone that does. I immediately left the group chat and didn't even read anything about it. I am sorry I couldn't be of more help. It also seems that the chat was completely shut down so I can't even look at it anymore.

"I do not even know who added me to it."

OSU spokesman Gary Stutt said he only learned of the GroupMe targeting Saturday morning. He said that currently there is no evidence the chat was started by an OSU student.

Penn's campus was jolted Friday when the first GroupMe messages began appearing on student cell phones under the group name "MudMen."

Penn officials immediately decried the messages as "utterly repugnant" and "simply deplorable," and said they did not know how Penn students' accounts were accessed. They said the university had asked the FBI to help Penn police and information security officials identify the perpetrators.

Mayor Kenney called the activity "disgusting behavior" and urged the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to investigate.

One African American student who was targeted said on Facebook that "Quite honestly I just can't stop crying. I feel sick to my stomach. I don't feel safe."

The student, who asked for anonymity in fear for his safety, said, "Literally, every single black freshman was added," to the chat.

A female Penn student from Massachusetts said last week that she was repeatedly called an anti-gay slur by three students. Another student reported patrons at a campus bar screamed "build that wall" early Wednesday as it appeared Trump had won the election - a reference to Trump's promise to wall out Mexican immigrants.

"The university is taking every step possible to address both the source of the racist material and the impact it has had on black students on campus," a Penn spokesman said.

rheilweil@philly.com 215-854-2771 @RebeccaHeilweil