White Supremacist Propaganda Invades College Campuses: Report

"They see campuses as a fertile recruiting ground," said Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

White supremacist group Vanguard America vandalized a Black History Month poster at Middle Tennessee University last week with propaganda, along with "plastering college campuses with fliers, demonstrating the trend shows no signs of stopping," according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).


The civil rights and human relations organization released a report on Thursday indicating that incidents of white supremacist propaganda appearing on campuses across the country has more than tripled in 2017. The ADL has recorded 346 incidents since Sept. 1, 2016, about two months before the presidential election. A total of 290 of the 346 incidents occurred in 2017.

The findings show that each fall when students begin the school year, the amount of propaganda increases:

  • 41 of the 346 incidents occurred during the fall semester of 2016 (Sept. 1-Dec. 31, 2016)
  • 147 of the 346 incidents were recorded during the fall semester of 2017 (Sept. 1 – Dec. 31, 2017)

In 2018, so far, 15 incidents have taken place, according to the ADL. The propaganda includes fliers, stickers, banners and posters. The campaigns targeted 216 college campuses, from Ivy League schools to local community colleges, in 44 states and Washington, D.C.

The most active states include Texas with 61 articles of propaganda found, California, 43, Pennsylvania, 18, Florida, 17, Virginia, 16, and Ohio, 14.

"White supremacists are targeting college campuses like never before," ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. "They see campuses as a fertile recruiting ground, as evident by the unprecedented volume of propagandist activity designed to recruit young people to support their vile ideology."

Neo-Nazis recruited on the University of Maryland's campus in 2017, as there were several reported incidents of white nationalist posters being found on campus. The posters led to the website of Vanguard America, which formed in 2016. Slogans used included "We have a right to exist" and "Defending your people is a social duty not an anti-social crime."

On May 20, 2017, Sean Urbanski, a University of Maryland student murdered Second Lt. Richard Collins III, 23, who was Black, as he waited for an Uber ride. Urbanski was part of the Alt-Reich Facebook group, which carries racially and sexually charged material.

Collins died days before he was to graduate from Bowie State University, a historically Black university in Maryland. A grand jury indicted Urbankski for murder on July 13, and authorities are still investigating Collins' death as a hate crime.

Christian Picciolini, who renounced his ties to the neo-Nazi movement in 1996 when he was 22 years old, co-founded Life After Hate, a nonprofit that advocates for peace. In an interview with NPR, Picciolini said that a "young person who feels disenchanted, or disaffected" is especially vulnerable to hate group recruiters and their propaganda.

People like Richard B. Spencer are making the grounds of college campuses fertile for white supremacists. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) describes him as an "academic racist" who backs the creation of an Aryan homeland.

Spencer, 39, leads the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist and nationalist think tank. He was present at the torch-lit protests at the University of Virginia, his alma mater, which preceded the white supremacist rally in downtown Charlottesville on Aug. 12. Heather Heyer was killed by a white supremacist that drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters at the rally.

In May, and in October, Spencer led tiki-torch filled protests in the city's Robert E. Lee Park against the removal of the Confederate statue.

The University of Florida allowed Spencer to speak in October, but chants of "Say it loud! Say it clear! Nazis are not welcome here!" greeted the white nationalist.

Eli Mosley, leader of Identity Europa, joined Spencer on stage.

According to the ADL report on propaganda:

"Among the most active group is Identity Europa (IE), a white supremacist group focused on the preservation of 'white American culture' and promoting white European identity.

"The group, which ADL tracks on an ongoing basis, was responsible for 158 of the 346 incidents, or almost half the total at 46 percent."

Spencer was also scheduled to appear at a "White Lives Matter Rally" at Texas A&M University on Sept. 11. But the university cancelled the rally of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other extremist groups "because of concerns about the safety of its students, faculty, staff and the public," according to a news release.

Spencer gave a speech at Texas A&M in December 2016, which was met with protests by about 1,000 students and activists. In April, Alabama's Auburn University canceled Spencer's campus speech.

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