From Seattle to Orlando and Los Angeles to Boston, white supremacists are displaying large banners from highway overpasses and in other highly visible locations as part of an effort to promote their groups and ideologies.
While white supremacists have been using banners for some time, the number of banners deployed in the past ten months marks an unprecedented trend, according to new data from ADL’s Center on Extremism.
From May 2017, when the recent proliferation began, through March 12, 2018, ADL counted 72 instances of white supremacists hanging banners from locations such as roof tops and highway overpasses. That’s an average of seven incidents per month.
Groups associated with the alt right segment of the white supremacist movement are responsible for the bulk of this activism, and accounted for 73 percent of the incidents.
Well-placed banners – like the white supremacist fliers appearing on college campuses nationwide -- can garner widespread attention with very little actual effort involved.
In addition to the attention created by the act itself, this form of activism has the secondary function of creating photos and video content for the group’s online presence and recruitment.
Identity Evropa, an alt right group led by Patrick Casey, has used this tactic more than any other group, and is responsible for 28 incidents in 13 different states, or approximately 40 percent of the banner drops. During a December 2, 2017 interview with Red Ice TV, a Swedish-American alt right media company, Casey listed “bigger banner drops” as one of the group’s stated future goals. A few days later, Casey, joined by eight other Identity Evropa members, dropped an enormous banner from the Georgia Tech parkway overpass in Atlanta, Georgia. Afterwards, the group posted images of the banner, which they claimed was ten feet tall and more than 200 feet wide.
Patriot Front, a national alt right group based in Texas, was responsible for the next largest number of drops, with 22 incidents in eight different states, or 30 percent of the total incidents.
Additional banners came from alt-right groups such as Alt Right St. Louis and the California-based Rise Above Movement. A banner hung from a building in Graham, North Carolina, included a symbol associated with the Identitarian (white identity) youth movement in France.
The white supremacist banners appeared in 21 states. Oregon had the most incidents -- which can be traced to the presence of Jimmy Marr, a well-known neo-Nazi activist who uses banners and a placard-adorned truck to broadcast his anti-Semitic views. After Oregon, banner drops were most common in California, Texas and Georgia – states with particularly active chapters of Identity Evropa and Patriot Front.
Most banners, whether delivering an anti-immigration, racist or anti-Semitic message, included a self-promotional element, like the group’s name, website or symbol.
More than 30 percent of the banners contained obvious white supremacist language. Some used blatantly racist language, alluding to America as a “white nation.” Others used slogans or mantras (new and old) promoting the idea that the white race is under attack: “Anti-racist is Code for Anti-White,” “It’s Okay to be White,” “For Race and Nation,” “You Will Not Replace Us” and “White Lives Matter.”
Approximately 35 percent of the banners publicized anti-immigration rhetoric. Identity Evropa’s anti-immigration banners include language that aligns with mainstream far-right anti-immigration groups, with slogans like “Secure borders. Secure future,” “Defend American workers. End DACA now!” and “No more refugees. America First.” These phrases are a sanitized version of the group’s true aim, the preservation of “white American identity” and the promulgation of the idea that America was founded by white people for white people, and was not intended to be a multiracial or multicultural society.
Identity Evropa attempted this kind of mainstream outreach when it used banners to appeal to conservatives who believe that liberals are waging a war against Christmas, and that the “politically correct” use of secular greetings such as “Happy Holidays” is an insult to Christianity. In December, Identity Evropa ran a campaign featuring banners that read “Keep traditions alive. Merry Christmas.”
In contrast to Identity Evropa’s more nuanced style, Patriot Front uses explicit and provocative language. The group opposes future non-white immigration to the United States and advocates for the expulsion of all non-white citizens, with banners that proclaim, “Deport Them All,” “Send Them All Back,” and “Americans are white. The rest must go.” Patriot Front members are avowed American nationalists, who believe their ancestors bequeathed America to them and no one else; their banners often include nationalist messages such as “Strong families Make Strong Nations,” “Reclaim America.” and “We are America,” as well as the self-promotional “Blood and Soil,” a right-wing nationalist slogan that also serves as the group’s website address.
The banners also promoted anti-Semitic messages. Most of the eleven banners that included anti-Semitic language were attributed to Jimmy Marr, and included phrases like “Jews Did 9-11,” “The Holocaust is a Lie,” and “UnJew Humanity.” In July 2017, Vanguard America hung a “(((Heebs))) Will Not Divide Us” banner at the Holocaust memorial in Lakewood, New Jersey.
The remaining banners were misogynistic, anti-Muslim, anti-black and political in nature. A Vanguard America banner bearing the words “Feminists Deserve the Rope” was on display at a January 2018 women’s march in Providence, Rhode Island. In February, Identity Evropa placed an anti-Muslim banner on an overpass near Dearborn, Michigan, warning drivers: “Danger Sharia City Ahead.” During the December Senate campaign in Alabama, the Traditionalist Worker Party used a banner to promote candidate Roy Moore. And last October, Patriot Front hung a banner near the Dallas Cowboys football stadium that proclaimed, “Take a Knee Back in Africa,” a reference to African-American football players who joined a 2017 campaign to kneel as a form of protest against police brutality and racism.