Far-right groups are targeting small cities and towns in an effort to spread their white supremacist and anti-Semitic messages.
Embattled American white nationalist groups are stepping up their recruitment efforts by posting and distributing racist and anti-Semitic fliers in several cities and towns around the country.
Earlier this week, anti-Semitic fliers were reportedly left behind at a handful of businesses in Whitefish, Montana, ostensibly timed to coincide with the Jewish New Year holiday Rosh Hashanah.
“People are beginning to call us right away about it,” Cherilyn DeVries, a local Love Lives Here organiser, which is affiliated with the Montana Human Rights Network, told Montana Public Radio.
“In the past, people would get them and wouldn’t know what to do with them and so they would either throw them away and feel sickened by them. But they weren’t sure exactly what to do.”
The flier incidents in Whitefish—a town that, in recent years, saw controversy over a lawsuit involving a local Jewish realtor and the mother of white nationalist and alt-right leader Richard Spencer—came only a week after similar incidents in Helena, Montana.
The incident also comes amid a nationwide campaign by Patriot Front, a white nationalist group known for distributing propaganda, targeting university and college campuses with racist fliers and stickers.
There is not currently any indication that the Whitefish incident is connected with the recruitment campaign on campuses.
Over the weekend and into this week, Patriot Front claims to have posted fliers on campuses in cities and towns from Texas to Virginia, according to posts on its Gab social media account.
A Charleston Police Department report noted that fliers ostensibly posted by the group at the College of Charleston in South Carolina stated “Reclaim America”, “One nation against invasion”, and “America first”, the last slogan being a popular refrain by US President Donald Trump.
Similar fliers popped up at Christopher Newport University, the University of Richmond, James Madison University and the University of Mary Washington, among others.
“We condemn these acts of racism and white supremacy and urge political leaders in Montana, South Carolina, Virginia, and nationwide to speak out against the growing bigotry that inevitably results such incidents,” Council for American Islamic Relations National Communications Coordinator Ayan Ajeen said in a statement.
“This chain of incidents should serve as a call to authorities to closely monitor the activities of such hate groups.”
Patriot Front was founded in 2017, shortly after the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12.
Patriot Front was formed out of the ruins of another white supremacist group, Vanguard America, whose members had marched alongside convicted killer James Alex Fields Jr, the man who drove his car into a crowd, injured dozens, and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer during the Unite the Right rally.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based hate monitor, describes Patriot Front as a hate group and “an image-obsessed organisation that rehabilitated the explicitly fascist agenda of Vanguard America with garish patriotism”.
In the wake of similar flier-distributing incidents, TRT World obtained Arlington Police Department documents and emails about Patriot Front activity in Arlington, Texas.
The police report describes Patriot Front as a “neo-Nazi extremist group” and notes that the organisation draped a banner on an interstate in the city in June 2018.
Increase in propaganda
Earlier this summer, Patriot Front held a flash rally outside the Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studio, a popular bar, in Denton, Texas. The protesters chanted “Reclaim America” while burning flares in front of the establishment.
Denton Police Department spokesperson Khristen Jones told TRT World that the police investigators found no connection between the protest and the attack, explaining that the protest – although unpermitted – was not being investigated.
The following day, in an apparently unrelated incident, a group of men, one of whom wore swastika tattoos on his arms, attacked Harvest House Bar Manager Alex Moon in Denton.
“It’s a free country,” yelled one of the men, according to witnesses. “K*ke,” another screamed, deploying an anti-Semitic slur. Then the young men hurled beer on Moon, dousing his shirt. Another picked up a pint glass and smashed in on the side of the victim’s face.
“There are a lot of people who can’t be here today with us because they’re afraid for good reason,” City Councillor Deb Armintor said at a protest the following day, eliciting applause when she called on Denton residents to help make the city safer for “everybody except Nazis”.
“Thank you for standing out here and being here and showing people that Denton will not tolerate fascism, Denton will not tolerate Nazism, Denton will not tolerate racism. And when we do that, and we stand [up], we can help make Denton feel safer for everybody except Nazis.”
During the 2018-2019 school year, the Anti-Defamation League documented 313 incidents of white supremacist propaganda on university campuses. That number marked a seven percent increase when compared to the previous academic year.
Last year, hate crimes rose by nine percent in 30 large US cities around the country, according to a study by the Center for the Study of Extremism and Hate.
Critics regularly accuse President Donald Trump of inciting violence by repeatedly taking aim at immigrants and political opponents, a charge Trump has time and again dismissed.