According to police reports, an altercation between two students, one with a swastika insignia on his arm, the other an African American, broke out near the cafeteria of Mercer’s West Windsor campus at 3:08pm on August 30, 2011. The student wearing the swastika has been identified as Vincenzo Campo. The African American student, Adrian Edwards, was arrested by West Windsor Police for simple assault. Both students are currently suspended, pending final deliberations of the school’s disciplinary board.
Edwards struck Campo in the face twice, according to the West Windsor Police incident report. The assault is credited to “Bias Intimidation;” It appears that Edwards was offended by Campo’s swastika, although Campo’s wearing of the symbol is protected by his First Amendment rights.
Campo has received attention under the nickname the “Hamilton Nazi” and “Nazi Santa” and is known for wearing military attire, often including a Nazi-military style red fez hat and a red armband with a swastika.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that Campo was enrolled at Mercer prior to this year, sometime during the mid-1990’s and that he has lived in and out of various group homes for many years.
“I worked at the Mercer bookstore as a temp, and I actually had to ring the guy up. He had a military outfit with a helmet and the swastika,” said Antonio Rodriguez, a third year Game Design student at Mercer.
In a YouTube video posted online, Campo says, “I can’t call myself a celebrity, that would be conceited.” The video, entitled, “jake triano and the hamilton santa claus nazi 4” shows Campo speaking with a group, answering questions and explaining some of his philosophies. His comments range from candid to incomprehensible. For example, he says that the Dalai Lama is one of “the four horsemen,” presumably referencing the four horsemen of the apocolypse, suggesting a negative view, but in other segments he clearly indicates that the Dalai Lama is someone he respects.
Jake Triano, posted the videos and speaks with Campo in the online footage. Triano freely uses the word “niggers” in the introductions to his YouTube videos and complains at length about the number of “dot head indians” he has to put up with. He did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Campo appears in the videos displaying his red armband, and tells the camera “Get the picture of the peace, love and harmony,” referring to the emblem on his armband. In another video, also posted by Triano, Campo continues to explain that the emblem on his armband is “the symbol of love” and that “it comes from the Buddhist, it comes from Confucious, Mongolia and China.”
Campo is not far off. “The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika,” which means “good fortune” or “well-being,” according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Early images of swastikas date back 5,000 years prior to Adolf Hitler’s use of the swastika as a military symbol in the Nazi army. But the Buddhist version of the symbol looks different from the Nazi version. The black symbol in a white circle on Campo’s red armband is identical to one listed to be sold as “a high quality replica of the NSDAP arm band” and a “Nazi Arm Band” on AryanWear.com.
“If he came decked out as a buddhist monk and had the symbol people would still be hesitant,” said Alex Albarran, a third year Game Design major. Albarran is familiar with Campo and his nickname from seeing him around Hamilton. “I know about that guy. You see him all the time,” said Albarran.
Albarran explained his confusion about Campo’s attire, saying, “If [the armband] is for peace that’s fine, but the gestapo get-up? There’s nothing peaceful about it.”
Campo tells the camera “I’m with the Dalai Lama” and that he “has nothing against the American Indians…I have nothing against gays, lesbians, or homosexuals.” Clearly Adrian Edwards did not take it that way.