MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — Posters showing a photo of the Columbia University student activist who accused a classmate of rape emblazoned with the words "Pretty Little Liar" were plastered near campus on commencement day Wednesday.
The posters — seen pasted on everything from construction plywood to streetlights — featured the image of Columbia senior Emma Sulkowicz posing with the mattress she has been carrying around campus for months as a performance-art protest.
A Twitter account with the handle @FakeRape began tweeting photos of the posters — which varied in size and advertised the hashtag #RapeHoax below Sulkowicz's misspelled name — at about 2 a.m. Wednesday. They were pictured pasted all along Broadway between West 112th and 117th streets.
Sulkowicz has continued to accuse fellow senior Paul Nungesser of rape, despite both the university and police clearing him of any wrongdoing. He sued Columbia for permitting Sulkowicz's protest, saying the act amounted to bullying allowed by the school. In the suit, Nungesser claimed Sulkowicz accused him of rape after she said she loved him and he did not reciprocate.
There were also posters featuring actress Lena Dunham, who accused a college classmate of sexual assault in her memoir, next the words "big fat liar" posted in the same area.
The person or persons behind the account defended the campaign on Twitter Wednesday, calling it "an art project" and describing it as a way "to educate people about fake rape claims & how damaging they are."
By mid-afternoon Wednesday, only a couple of the posters remained after many had been torn down.
The campaign comes a day after Sulkowicz carried her dorm room mattress across the stage at her class graduation ceremony with the help of fellow students.
Sulkowicz started carrying the mattress in September to protest Columbia University's handling of her case, in which the school found Nungesser "not responsible." The demonstration also served as her senior thesis.
The project is now over, said her friend and classmate Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, who has led protests calling for better sexual assault policies on campus, including dumping mattresses in front of President Lee Bollinger's home.
Bollinger declined to shake Sulkowicz's hand at her class day graduation Tuesday, she said.
A university spokeswoman said Tuesday that the school had no information about the posters.
"Our consistent message to our own university community has emphasized the importance of mutual respect for all graduates and their guests on these days of shared celebration," she said in a statement.
The owner or owners of the Twitter account did not respond to a request for comment. Sulkowicz, Nungesser and his lawyers also did not respond for comment.
The posters elicited strong reactions on online and on campus.
@fakerape Shame on all of you.— Rayna C Sussek (@RaynCS14) May 20, 2015
Lindsay Zhao, 23, who graduated with a masters degree in actuarial science on Wednesday, said the posters made her angry.
"You should look for the facts instead of calling her a liar," she said.
Zhao added that whoever hung the posters "should have some proof" before making the claims.
Dunham's reps did not immediately return a request for comment.