Recruitment flyers from the white nationalist group the American Identity Movement were found on the UC Davis campus this week. The flyers depict an American eagle, an American flag, the name of the group and the phrase “Nationalism, not globalism.”
“It was a little recruiting for their organization,” said university spokesperson Andy Fell, who added that the flyers violated the school’s policy against hate speech and were removed. “Many students find this upsetting. It’s something we take seriously and something we are going to respond to.”
The handbills were discovered Monday in at least two publicly accessible locations on campus, Fell said in an interview during the students’ first week back on campus. Classes for the fall semester began Wednesday.
School chancellor Gary May strongly condemned the racist postings in a statement.
“We are sickened that any person or group would invest any time in such cowardly acts of hate and intimidation,” May said. “They have no place here.”
The school said the flyers were coded with neo-Nazi and white supremacist language. The terms globalist and globalism are are often associated with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
The American Identity Movement, in addition to being openly anti-Semitic, is also virulently anti-immigrant and racist, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. One of its founders, Nathan Damigo — who started the group while a student at Cal State Stanislaus — said during a 2016 radio interview that the book that most inspired his activities was “My Awakening” (1998) by the neo-Nazi, Holocaust denying, former Ku Klux Klan “Grand Wizard” David Duke.
This wasn’t the university’s first incident of far-right extremist postings. In 2018, handbills from the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer blamed Jews for “anti-white” and “anti-American” acts — calling out Jewish Democratic members of Congress, including Sens. Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein, in the midst of the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination fight.
In 2015, two swastikas were found spray-painted outside Alpha Epsilon Pi, a predominantly Jewish fraternity at Davis, and an anti-Semitic message was etched into a bathroom wall. The incidents were discovered around the time of a Jan. 29 vote by the student government asking the university to divest from “corporations that aid in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”
Asa Jungreis, a Jewish student leader at UC Davis and current president of AEPi, said members of the university’s Jewish community were “deeply saddened” and angered by the flyers.
“We fully condemn this cowardly act of hiding hateful rhetoric and intolerance behind anonymous flyers left around campus,” he said in a statement. “No community at our university should have to contend with this form of virulent bigotry, particularly as many Aggies are beginning their college careers this month.”
The S.F.-based American Jewish Committee also condemned the propaganda posters.
“Acts of white supremacy and bigotry are severely damaging — particularly to campus communities where student groups are often the intended targets,” read a statement emailed by AJC Northern California regional director Rabbi Serena Eisenberg. “We thank Chancellor May for his swift condemnation of these acts and hope that the coming school year brings only acts of tolerance and community-building on campus.”
The Anti-Defamation League calls the American Identity Movement (formerly Identity Evropa) a white supremacist group whose members traffic in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, including Holocaust denial and the notion that Jews control the media. The group was heavily involved in 2017’s deadly “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The incident reflects a trend of far-right recruitment at colleges and universities in recent years. In June, the ADL released a report showing that the distribution of “white supremacist propaganda” on campuses increased during the 2018-2019 school term for the third straight year. From Sept. 1, 2018, to May 31, 2019, the ADL documented 313 incidents. (Hate speech is chronically underreported, multiple studies have shown.)
The data “clearly demonstrates that white supremacists in the United States are emboldened by the current political and social climate,” ADL director Jonathan Greenblatt said. “Our campuses and communities should be places for learning and development, not places for racists and bigots to propagate hate speech and search for potential recruits.”
The spring semester this year set a record for reports of white nationalist recruitment on campus — and the group tagged most frequently was the American Identity Movement, the ADL reported, with 115 incidents identified from January through May. Other contributing groups were Patriot Front and Vanguard America, whose messages were geared toward college students using “veiled white supremacist language” and “explicitly racist images and words,” according to the ADL.
Another report of American Identity Movement flyers surfaced in August at Sierra College in Rocklin.
Extremists “target campuses because they provide them with opportunities to recruit new, young followers,” the ADL said, “essential to the growth and sustainability of any movement.”