An AUT student election poster showing candidates who call themselves "Modern Day Panthers" has led to claims that it is linked to an American civil rights group.

Two students have contacted the Herald saying the posters have made them feel unsafe.

"They're claiming to be 'modern day panthers' in reference to The Black Panthers, a racist group from the US that encouraged violence against groups based on race and religion," said a student, who did not want to be named.

"They are also performing the 'Black Power Salute', making it clear they are referring to The Black Panthers.

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"I do not feel safe with posters around the uni promoting a racist group, the same as it were a neo-Nazi party or Hezbollah group," the student said.

"AUT is not a platform for racist groups."

Two students have complained about a student election poster they say is making them feel uncomfortable. Photo / Supplied
Two students have complained about a student election poster they say is making them feel uncomfortable. Photo / Supplied

The Black Panther Party was a militant political organisation founded by Bobby Seale and Huey Norton in 1966 in California. It was active in the US until 1982, and had chapters in many cities and international chapters operating in the United Kingdom and Algeria.

While complainants have cited the Black Panthers, the poster may instead be referencing the Polynesian Panther Party - an anti-racism organisation founded by Pacific Islanders living in New Zealand in the 1970s. That group was influenced by Black Panther ideology and both feature the raised fist salute gesture.

The student wanted the posters to be taken down and the candidates involved to be barred from running.

Another student who called the Herald said the posters were "inappropriate", especially after the Christchurch attacks.

"They think it's cool to be associated with a racist group, but it is wrong to be doing so in a student election," she said.

"AUT is supposed to be an inclusive institution and the posters must be taken down."

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Voting for AUT's Student Representative Council (SRC) is now on, and campaigning will carry on until the ballot closes on October 11.

An AUT spokeswoman said it would be letting those involved know that the posters had made two people uncomfortable enough to complain.

"AUT encourages a range of perspectives and critical, respectful debate. We also work to ensure it is a place where people feel safe," the spokeswoman said.

"We do not believe that the posters are racist or there is any suggestion anybody on campus is not safe as a result of them."

The university said on its website that the SRC would keep AUT up to speed with student needs and also hold AUT accountable in providing the best for students.

"The strength of this feedback is only as good as the representatives, which is why this election is so important," it said.

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