Signs of Hate
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
SIGNS OF HATE: Students began classes this week at Western Washington University under dark clouds after posters representing the white nationalist group Patriot Front were discovered plastered on light poles and walls around campus.
Three stickers with messages of hate were logged by University Police before another poster was discovered fixed to a wall near the Wade King Student Recreational Center. Another was observed along the walkway between the Fine Arts and Engineering Technology buildings on campus. A third was noted near the Viking Union on Garden Street. A fourth poster, pasted on a light pole near Parks Hall, was removed by university staff.
Patriot Front posters were also reported in Fairhaven in August.
The Patriot Front is a neo-Nazi, neo-fascist group that utilizes imagery of patriotism, liberty, and espoused American values to promote an ideology of hate and intolerance. Part of the broader alt-right movement, the group split off from Vanguard America in August 2017 in the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, according to the Poverty Law Center, which tracks fringe hate groups.
“Patriot Front is an image-obsessed organization that rehabilitated the explicitly fascist agenda of Vanguard America with garish patriotism,” the Center reports. “Patriot Front focuses on theatrical rhetoric and activism that can be easily distributed as propaganda for its chapters across the country.”
“Western Washington University strongly condemns the white nationalist beliefs of the Patriot Front,” university officials said in a statement. “Hate will not be tolerated in our community. University officials are on heightened alert for any more of these stickers, which when found will be removed as soon as possible in accordance with university policy.”
In August, Ferndale Police began an investigation after similar recruitment posters were found plastered around parks and parade grounds. Ferndale City Council strongly condemned white supremacy and racism following the incidents by resolution, affirming that city is a welcoming community to all people,
“We stand united against racist, xenophobic groups that promote bigotry and hatred. We reject all forms of racism and white supremacy and speak out against anyone who wishes to divide us by prejudice,” Ferndale Council members resolved.
Yet, we predict these won’t be the last racist hate attacks in Whatcom County in coming weeks. The Christian patriot movement has long simmered here, and has strongly influenced county elections.
Deepened ideological divisions in tandem with a coarsening of political language have escalated overall intolerance for the views of others—and this is true across the political spectrum. The Sheriff’s Office reports that signs and literature once left alone are increasingly defaced, ripped up or removed.
The uptick in vandalism took on a more sinister aspect last week with the destruction of a campaign sign for County Executive candidate Satpal Sidhu near the Valley View Road and Birch Bay Lynden Road that rose to the level of a hate crime.
“During the election season, the Sheriff’s office sometimes receives complaints regarding the vandalism or theft of campaign signs,” Sheriff Bill Elfo told the Bellingham Herald. Elfo admitted that even one of his own campaign signs had been recently destroyed. “However, in this instance, the clear message is one of hate and attempted intimidation. We have classified and are investigating this matter as a hate crime,” Elfo said.
The matter has similarly been referred to the FBI.
The sign was defaced with paint on one side and had a racial slur painted on the reverse side, Elfo said. Deputies also found what appeared to be bullet holes in the sign.
“We have a pending investigation of another incident that has been turned over to the prosecutor, someone stealing one of the large campaign signs,” Elfo reported. He did not give additional details of a pending investigation.
“We hear about damage to signs in every election cycle, and it appears to be on a spectrum,” Elfo said. “Candidates generally don’t report it to law enforcement, but it is certainly noticeable. We have reports of signs actually chopped up and torn apart, as frequently as they’re simply knocked down.”
Sidhu noted that more than 100 of his signs have been defaced, cut down or damaged since the start of the primary season last spring. Only the recent events were particularly aggressive and egregious in his view.
Candidate TonyLarson has amassed a war chest of more than $150,000. Only a fraction of that amount has been reported spent to the state’s campaign finance watchdog group, the Public Disclosure Commission, which portends late hit pieces and similar election shenanigans.
We may predict the general outline of late smear attacks against Sidhu arriving from clandestine sources, based on documents that have circulated in conservative camps since at least 2015 that slyly question his citizenship and fitness for office. Typical of local Republican tactics, these attacks arrive late and underreported; resulting fines levied by the PDC are laughably small and absorbed as part of the game.
Larson’s financial support is characterized by contributions of $500 or more from heavy-hitters in FIRE—finance, industry and real estate—in the amount of $131,000. Those contributions comprise about 87 percent of his overall financial support, according to PDC filings. By contrast, Sidhu has reported $105,000 in contributions to date. Of that amount, nearly half of the financial support to Sidhu’s campaign has arrived in the form of contributions in amounts under $500—in our view a strong indicator of grassroots support from ordinary voters. The overall number of contributions to Sidhu’s campaign outpaces Larson’s by nearly two to one.
These are telling signs about the status of these campaigns, but late hits may take their toll.