NEW YORK – White supremacist groups are plastering their propaganda on U.S. college campuses at a rapidly increasing rate, according to data released Thursday by a Jewish civil rights group.
The Anti-Defamation League said it documented 292 cases of white supremacist propaganda, including fliers and other racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic material, found on campuses from last September through May. That's a 77 percent increase over the 165 cases documented the previous academic year.
The New York-based ADL has counted a total of 478 cases since Sept. 1, 2016, on 287 campuses in 47 states and the District of Columbia. It says one group, Identity Evropa, was responsible for 230 of those incidents. The ADL attributed 70 incidents to another group, the more recently formed Patriot Front.
Oren Segal, director of the ADL's Center on Extremism, said the groups view the fliers, posters, stickers and banners as effective tools for generating publicity and stirring up outrage.
"I think they see it as a cheap and easy way to create fear and anxiety on college campuses," Segal said.
Colleges and universities in Texas and California collectively were targeted in more than a quarter of the 478 cases. In December, for instance, police issued criminal trespass warnings to eight people suspected of posting racist flyers on Texas State University's campus in San Marcos. The suspects weren't students and didn't have permission to post the fliers on campus, police said.
"White supremacists have been actively targeting U.S. college campuses since January 2016, but the practice failed to gain any real traction until the fall semester of that year. Since then, propaganda efforts have steadily increased," an ADL report says.
The report says groups also use the propaganda as a recruiting tool, with language and imagery that isn't always explicitly racist or hateful. Identify Evropa, for instance, circulates posters with messages like "Serve Your People" and "Our Future Belongs to Us."
The same groups targeting colleges also have littered off-campus locations with their fliers at an accelerating rate this year, with the ADL counting 185 off-campus "propaganda distributions" since January.
Segal said the ADL's data is based on its compilation and verification of news reports, community complaints and social media posts by the white supremacist groups themselves.