Earlier today, students discovered a series of recruitment posters for the white supremacist group Identity Evropa plastered on University buildings.
Photographed on the College Avenue, <g>Douglass</g> and Livingston campuses, these flyers featured the phrase “Our Generation, Our Future, Our Last Chance,” with the organization’s name dominating the bottom third of the page.
The flyers are the same ones that prompted a heated protest at New York University in late September.
Identity Evropa is a relatively new "alt-right" organization with direct ties to the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville this August, which ended in violence. The group’s leader was reportedly inspired to create Identity Evropa after reading the autobiography of <g>Ku</g> Klux Klan grand wizard, David Duke.
Mere hours after the original poster was reported, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior Christopher Leet recorded a video of a hand-written “Black Lives Don’t Matter” sign glued to the inside of <g>an EE</g> bus. He shared his account of the incident in an interview with The Daily Targum.
“I saw an ugly note on the wall of the bus when the driver came to the back to investigate. I initially had no idea it was there but someone complained to the driver, prompting me to investigate what was going on. I was immediately disgusted by what I saw,” Leet said. “The note looked like it originally said ‘Black Lives Don’t Matter,' but the ‘don’t’ was crossed out with <g>black</g> sharpie. It looked as if it was then edited again to say ‘Black Lives Matter Only to Blood and Crip thugs.’ This was even more disgusting as it implied that multiple people felt this way towards the black community.”
A spokesperson from Identity Evropa said although the two incidents took place within hours of each other, they were not related.
Leet said students on the EE bus alerted the driver to the situation before taking action to remedy it. His video depicts a group of students using a pen to black out parts of the sign until only “Black Lives Matter” remains.
“I am sad that there are still people, even at Rutgers, who feel this way towards their fellow peers but happy that we as a community can still work together to silence this hate and show each other support,” Leet said.
To the Rutgers community, the series of incidents that transpired today may feel familiar.
Last spring the white nationalist group Vanguard America facilitated a flyer-based recruitment campaign at the University, similar to the one now being endorsed by Identity Evropa. On Feb. 14, police investigated the origins of a poster on the Paul Robeson Cultural Center with the slogan “Imagine a Muslim Free America.”
The bottom of the flyer featured Vanguard America’s name, website and twitter handle.
On March 1, less than a month later, The Daily Targum discovered that a flyer posted to several official class Facebook pages on behalf of the Rutgers Conservative Union (RCU) was copied nearly word for word from Vanguard America’s website.
Dylan Marek, a member of the RCU and a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, initially denied allegations that the two “Take Your Country Back” flyers were connected but admitted to another publication that he had come across the template on Vanguard America’s website.
When asked about the flyer last month, RCU President Nick Knight said the e-board approved it but did not know where it had come from.
“Members can come up and have a say in what they want for certain flyers. We didn’t ever hand out any of the 'Take Your Country Back' flyers, (Marek) just posted one on two Facebook pages,” Knight said. “We didn’t give approval of where it came from, we just said, okay you have this flyer and it looks okay — it is a little eye catching when you look at it but it's not inherently racist.”
Marek resigned earlier this semester under threat of impeachment, Knight said.
“Most people I talked to were like, ‘it was a mistake, you shouldn’t have done that,’” Knight said. “It was a fluke, it shouldn’t have happened, but there were also people who were like, ‘oh yeah this is awesome.’ I mean the controversy gave us a lot of attention, even if it was in a negative way.”
New Jersey is frequently recognized as a diverse region, but the state remains a hotbed for white supremacist groups. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, New Jersey is ranked number four on the list of states with the highest number of hate groups.
There are a total of 44 hate groups residing in the Garden State, most of them with ideologies based around neo-Nazi and white supremacy rhetorics.
Nathan Damigo is a self-proclaimed white supremacist and the founder of Identity Evropa. Damigo made headlines in recent months after a video of him punching a woman in the face at the Berkeley protests went viral.
Despite being a relatively new organization, Damigo made it clear that he intends to expand the influence of Identity Evropa beyond California. In an interview with The Tab US, Damigo listed off the different universities that his organization plans to target.
“We got people at <g>Rutgers ...</g>” Damigo said. “We’ve got people at around 60 to 70 schools across the country. We’ve probably got around 300 members, last I checked. We’ve been growing extraordinarily fast.”
In response to everything that happened on Monday, the University released the following statement:
"Rutgers University–New Brunswick condemns all acts and statements of bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism and white supremacy, which have no place in our society or on our campus. The flyers - and the handwritten sign found on a campus bus - do not represent the principles and values of the university, which include diversity, inclusivity and respect for people of all backgrounds. The flyers were not posted by a recognized university organization, and were in violation of our posting guidelines and policy. They have been removed from all university facilities and vehicles."
Editor's Note: This is an ongoing story. We will continue to report on it as more information becomes available. This story has been updated to include a statement from Identity Evropa.