From Nazi swastikas on Old Nick’s Pub to fliers proclaiming “Diversity is white genocide” on cars, Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood was plastered with hate in the early hours of Feb. 4, and many in the area are up in arms. Some in the Whit are discussing doing their own policing.
Eugene Weekly first reported the graffiti on its blog that same day.
The Whiteaker incidents occurred only days after Reuters news service reported that “the Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism.”
The program, known as Countering Violent Extremism would would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States, Reuters reported.
Jevon Peck, one of the owners of Old Nick’s, links the local incidents to hateful graffiti that also hit East Coast cities that same weekend.
Peck says at first he thought the graffiti, which tagged his pub as well as punk venue The Boreal, was targeting those specific locations. “We have an anti-fascist sign: If you are fascist, don’t come in.” Old Nick’s was tagged with a swastika and a target sight with the words “we are watching you.” Peck calls the language “kind of like a direct threat.”
But after calling Sam Hahn of the Whiteaker Community Council, he says he discovered the entire neighborhood was hit with the propaganda. Then later Peck saw the news coverage of similar incidents elsewhere, including a New York subway tagging that went viral via Facebook post when people banded together to remove the hate speech. “It’s like the phone call went out: Go out and be a Nazi day,” Peck says.
“It all happened on the same day; it’s my theory that it’s probably a concerted national effort,” he adds.
Fliers were distributed in the Whiteaker emblazoned with “anti-racist is a code word for anti-white” and “diversity is a code word for white genocide.”
Such fliers have been distributed in Eugene before, and the white supremacist message and similar slogans have been put on local banners and on the vehicle of Springfield racist Jimmy Marr, but there is no evidence the recent spate is related to Marr.
However, a photo of Jimmy Marr with several young men wearing white pride symbols is being circulated on social media. Marr himself posted the photo on Twitter Jan. 20, with one of the faces blurred out. Emily Nyman of Old Nick’s says one of young men featured has attended shows at the pub, which features punk and metal music.
Numerous media reports across the country have chronicled a rise in racism and Nazi graffiti since Donald Trump’s election and a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center highlighted the rise as well, and SPLC’s Hatewatch cites reports that Jewish community centers in U.S. received nearly 50 bomb threats so far in 2017. Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was a chief executive at Breitbart News, which is known as a platform for the “alt-right,” a term used to rebrand white supremacists and white nationalists.
According to a Eugene police report only two businesses so far have reported the graffiti, Old Nicks and Jerry and Walt’s Four Wheel Service. EPD says the graffiti at Old Nick’s was in an area that had signs reading “hate free zone.”
The police are asking other homes and businesses to report the tagging and say that, “The material itself may fall under freedom of speech, but how it is being posted and where it is posted may cause it to be a crime.”
EPD says it has no leads or suspects.
Peck says he is discouraged with the police response, calling it laissez-faire. He says the Whit Community Council will canvass the area to see if any of the many buildings with security cameras caught the culprits. “If I think there are people being targeted by wanna-be fascists we will field our own police force if we need,” Peck says, but adding he’d prefer if the police stepped up their enforcement.
Police spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin says that EPD has assigned a detective unit to the two reports that came in and communicated with the FBI about the incidents, adding, “We sent out a news release to seek any other reports from businesses or residences, as well as any tips regarding suspects. We continue to work hard on this case and look forward to any tips or reports that come in.”
Depite the Reuters report, the Countering Violent Extremism mission has not yet been changed, and the FBI would not be affected by the change and puts lists white supremacists (as well as animal and environmental “extremists” and anarchists) on its list of “domestic extremist ideologies.”
On Feb. 5 the website It’s Going Down, which calls itself a “media platform for revolutionary anarchist, anti-fascist and autonomous anti-capitalist movements” published an anonymous screed denouncing the swastika graffiti and other incidents, and alleging the tags and fliers are a form of recruitment by fascists.
Nyman says the graffiti has done the exact opposite of what the perpetrators had hoped. Rather than be intimated, she says, “There has been so much support for our business and our staff. It’s been the direct opposite of direct intimidate and divide.”
“You can’t turn a blind eye to this level of blatant racism,” Peck says of the local graffiti.
To report any swastikas or hate graffiti to the EPD call, 541-682-5111. And to report it to the SPLC for tracking go to splcenter.org/reporthate. In response to the Nazi graffiti Old Nick’s will hold a fundraiser for the Civil Liberties Defense Center Thursday, Feb. 16 with a sliding scale donation of $5-$15. More info at oldnickspub.com.