In Everett, hateful signs of the times

People are distributing fliers, some pasted on yard signs, promoting a neo-Nazi group.

A passerby in the north Everett neighborhood of Wetmore Avenue and 10th Street recently saw two people posting fliers from the Texas-based white supremacist group Patriot Front on tri-colored yard signs that welcome support for diversity. Similar fliers were found on the Everett Community College campus. (Photo by Megan Burger)

A passerby in the north Everett neighborhood of Wetmore Avenue and 10th Street recently saw two people posting fliers from the Texas-based white supremacist group Patriot Front on tri-colored yard signs that welcome support for diversity. Similar fliers were found on the Everett Community College campus. (Photo by Megan Burger)

Megan Burger saw them, two people attaching fliers to yard signs in her north Everett neighborhood. In essence, she saw them plaster a message of hate over expressions of love.

You’ve seen those yard signs. With three colors and in three languages — English, Spanish and Arabic — they say “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.”

Out walking last weekend in the Wetmore Avenue and 10th Street area, near Everett Community College, Burger and her husband, Matt, saw two “adult-sized individuals” put a flier on a yard sign.

The flier said “Will Your Speech Be Hate Speech?” At first glance, “it didn’t seem that bad — but then we looked it up,” Burger said Tuesday. The bottom of the flier credits its message to Patriot Front, and its website bloodandsoil.org.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch effort, Patriot Front was created by Texas-based neo-Nazis as “a blend of traditional white-supremacist ideology, alt-right sensibilities and activism, and militia-style armed insurrection.” Patriot Front arose after a split within its original organization, Vanguard America.

“Blood and soil” reflects a philosophy from Nazi Germany, “Blut und Boden,” dating to the 1930s. It was chanted by torch-carrying white nationalists who marched last year at the University of Virginia, and at a “Unite the Right” rally that turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In a post on the Nextdoor website, Burger wrote that she and her husband didn’t get a good look at the pair. It was getting dark, and they ran off when spotted, she said.

The couple, who posted pictures of the defaced signs on Nextdoor, saw more Patriot Front fliers on the EvCC campus. Saying “Keep America American,” those fliers were on a sandwich-board sign advertising a Ramadan event. On Monday, EvCC’s Muslim Student Association hosted the Ramadan event in the Henry M. Jackson Conference Center.

According to a notice on the college website, the event was “an open platform for EvCC students and staff to learn about the Muslim community.” Ramadan, an Islamic holy month, is a time of fasting and prayer.

John Olson, EvCC’s vice president for college advancement, said the fliers — “probably a dozen or so” — went up over the weekend when custodial staff weren’t working. They were removed with the help of a campus security officer. Olson recalled no similar incidents at EvCC.

Twice last November, “It’s OK to be white” posters cropped up at Washington State University in Pullman.

Along with the Ramadan sign, Patriot Front fliers were attached to pillars and artwork at EvCC. “We’re aware of what the entire organization is trying to promote,” Olson said.

Burger, 45, has lived in the neighborhood nearly 11 years. She and her husband, parents of two teenagers, have watched the nearby college grow to include housing and many international students. They appreciate diversity.

Looking up Patriot Front online, Burger said she was upset to find a group “that centers around hate and building a white America.”

“The more I read about it, the more disturbed I was,” said Burger, who called a non-emergency police number to report the fliers. Her husband removed the fliers they saw, she said.

Officer Aaron Snell, an Everett police spokesman, didn’t find any record of a call related to the fliers, but said that could be because it wasn’t associated with a particular address. Snell does recommend “calling 911 if something like this is found.”

Tim Knopf, retired from teaching at Mariner High School and Explorer Middle School, also lives near EvCC. On Nextdoor, he saw that his yard sign had been targeted.

“It rang a bell for me, thinking they would use my sign, take my self-expression, like a parasite,” Knopf, 68, said Thursday. “Their unwanted neo-Nazi flier is repulsive.”

In April, Knopf attended a Holocaust Remembrance Day gathering at Temple Beth Or, an Everett synagogue. I was there, too.

Presenters from a Seattle group called If You Don’t They Will led discussions about neo-Nazi and alt-right groups, and their push to reach students and spread vile views through white-power rock bands. In small circles, we talked that night about scenarios that included the appearance of “white pride” posters.

And then it happened — here in Everett, at EvCC and a few blocks from my house.

“It really ticked me off,” Knopf said. “They feel a greater license now, given the current administration. It’s scary.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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