Someone posted an advertisement for a white nationalist website to a message board at The Mill late on Friday, April 6.
About the size of a large business card, it directed people to The Purity Spiral, a site whose writers advocate “advanc[ing] the cause of White Nationalism with the most extreme message possible,” and reject “the idea to hide traditional fascist imagery such as the swastika…in an attempt to pass the movement off as ‘normie-friendly.’”
The card, which attempts to stir-up fears of a racially diverse America, does little to hide traditional fascist imagery: part of its text even echoes the old Nazi slogan of “ein volk, ein reich, ein führer” — “one people, one empire, one leader.”
The ad was pinned to a cork board in the men’s room of The Mill, according Brandon Calkins, The Mill’s kitchen manager.
“Somebody had put it on the ‘upcoming shows’ board,” Calkins told Little Village. “We’ve never seen anything like that before.”
Calkins said it happened on a particularly busy night, since downtown Iowa City was crowded with people in town for the World Cup Freestyle Wrestling Championship and the Mission Creek Festival. Calkins posted about the incident on his Facebook page on Saturday, April 7.
“I just wanted people to be on the lookout for this sort of thing,” Calkins said. “It was a big crowd downtown, and some of the people here for the wrestling tournament seemed pretty aggressive.”
The incident at The Mill happened less than 24 hours after a man shouted racist and homophobic slurs at Mission Creek Festival performer Cakes da Killa in the Dubuque Street Ramp, running away when the Brooklyn-based rapper tried to confront him.
On Monday, the Iowa City Police Department hosted a panel discussion with federal, state and local law officials and community leaders in response to several recent high-profile incidents involving racial and religious hatred.
In January, someone distributed white supremacist fliers in Wetherby Park, one of Iowa City’s most racially diverse neighborhoods (a man in Davenport was later arrested while distributing identical fliers). During the Iowa City Women’s March later that month, a man wearing a Pepe the Frog hoodie was spotted plastering the Ped Mall with pro-white stickers. (Pepe is an icon in alt-right and white nationalist circles, and popular among many younger admirers of President Trump.)
In March, a unity mural on the University of Iowa campus was twice defaced with Nazi imagery.
At the panel discussion, Iowa City Police Chief Jody Matherly said that incidents people often describe as “hate crimes” are not crimes, just unpleasant expressions of free speech. Still, he encouraged anyone who sees a suspicious incident to report it.
“Sometimes what may seem like nothing or technically wasn’t illegal is that little thread we needed to later on solve something bigger,” Matherly said.
The incident at The Mill wasn’t mentioned at Monday’s panel discussion, even though Calkins’ Facebook post (made under the alias Brandon Johndope) attracted a good deal of attention on social media.
“I think a lot people reacted strongly, because The Mill is the last place you’d think you’d see something like that,” Calkins said. “We really pride ourselves on being ridiculously open and making sure everybody’s able to be comfortable there.”
“In one way, it almost makes me proud that they put something up at The Mill,” he added. “It bothered them how many different types of people were there together enjoying themselves. So, they felt the need to make people uncomfortable, because The Mill made them uncomfortable.”