Nationwide, instances of white supremacist groups handing out leaflets and posting flyers in public places more than doubled last year, and Texas is one of a handful of states leading the pack.
Those are among the conclusions included in an Anti-Defamation League report on white supremacist propaganda released this week. In the report, the organization documents a 120% uptick in reported instances of white supremacist propaganda between 2018 and last year.
Although the group documented instances of white supremacist propaganda in every state but Hawaii, they found it at highest levels in Texas, California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, Washington and Florida, according to the report. A Texas-based alt-right group, Patriot Front, was responsible for nearly two-thirds of the white supremacist propaganda incidents nationwide, distributing leaflets and flyers in every state but Hawaii and Delaware, according to the report.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League's CEO, said in a statement that white supremacist groups see posting flyers and stickers and handing out leaflets as a convenient, practically anonymous way of spreading their message.
“While we know extremists and hate groups are emboldened by the current environment, this surge in flyering and propaganda distribution powerfully demonstrates how bigots are able to spread their message without compromising their anonymity," Greenblatt said.
Nationwide, there were 2,713 reports of white nationalist groups distributing propaganda in 2019, up from 1,214 cases the previous year, according to the group. In Texas, the group documented 287 instances of white supremacist propaganda last year, up from 114 cases in 2018.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, most of those incidents involved members of white supremacist groups showing up in public places to hand out leaflets or flyers, but some were more elaborate. In one case in July, about 12 members of Patriot Front staged a flash demonstration on a Dallas overpass, holding a banner that read "Reclaim America." The following month, about 15 members of the white supremacist group American Identity Movement dropped an anti-immigrant banner from the Ronald Kirk Bridge.
Some incidents seemed designed to target specific groups, like when members of Patriot Front distributed leaflets labeled "Reclaim America" at a Dallas synagogue.
Holding demonstrations or distributing leaflets or flyers serves two purposes for those groups, said Cheryl Drazin, the Anti-Defamation League's regional director for North Texas and Oklahoma. It further marginalizes racial minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ people or whatever other group they're seeking to target. It also allows them to take photos and videos of themselves and post them to social media, which can help them recruit like-minded people, she said.
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In one particularly ugly incident, about 15 members of the white supremacist group Shield Wall Network disrupted a Holocaust memorial ceremony in Russellville, Arkansas, chanting "six million more," a reference to the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. Some waved swastika flags and carried signs with slogans like "The Holocaust didn't happen, but it should have."
White supremacist groups continued their campaign of targeting college campuses for propaganda distribution in 2019, according to the report. Nationwide, there were 630 reported incidents on college campuses last year, up from 320 in 2018. Nearly a quarter of all reported incidents nationwide last year were on college campuses, according to the report.
That uptick in visits to college campuses is part of a coordinated effort by Patriot Front, Drazin said. But it doesn't necessarily mean they're gaining any kind of foothold on the campuses they do visit. In most cases, those groups don't visit any single campus more than once or twice, she said.
"They go a couple of times and don't make much headway," Drazin said. "They're going more places but not garnering a lot of success."