Drivers who parked in the Dubuque Street Parking Ramp have been finding flyers with a white nationalist message stuck on their windshields, according to the Iowa City Police Department.
“Officers responded to the Dubuque Street Parking Ramp, 220 S. Dubuque St., on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018,” ICPD said in a statement on Friday. “There they found papers placed on vehicles that read ‘It’s okay to be white.’ No other markings or wording were displayed.”
White nationalism in Iowa has been in the news, as Rep. Steve King’s long-standing association with white nationalist politicians and his endorsement of their racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have been receiving renewed attention.
In August, King, who is currently seeking his ninth-term in Congress representing western Iowa, gave an “exclusive” interview to a site associated with an anti-immigrant Austrian political party, founded by a former Nazi SS officer. During the interview, King not only embraced the anti-Semitic, white nationalist theory favored by the Austrian party (“Great replacement, yes.”), but also espoused an American version of it.
King claimed immigrants, including those who entered the country legally but haven’t embraced the values King favors, are undermining America.
“I have said that diversity is not a strength. The Left just repeats it again and again, but it is mindless,” King told the Austrian site. “What does this diversity bring that we don’t already have? Mexican food, Chinese food, those things, well, that’s fine, but what does it bring that we don’t have that is worth the price?”
King invoked the death of Mollie Tibbetts, as an example of the “price” of immigration: “The Left thinks all people and cultures are interchangeable and diversity is always good, and we can tolerate the rape and the murder that goes along with it, like Molly [sic] Tibbetts, for example.”
On Friday, King aired his first TV ad in this year’s election, and its text appears to allude his embrace of white nationalist beliefs about America’s decline, as also pushback against criticism of his habit of retweeting people with neo-Nazi ties.
“I know most of you agree our country is slipping away,” King says in voiceover. “Well, I think it’s worth fighting for, no matter whose toes have to be stepped on to make it right.”
The flyers in the Dubuque Street Parking Ramp are not the first time “It’s Okay to Be White” material has been distributed in Iowa City. During the Women’s March in January, a man wearing a Pepe the Frog hoodie was plastering the Ped Mall with stickers bearing that message.
When march-goers spotted him, the man tried to hide his face and then ducked into MERGE, the co-working space next to the Iowa City Public Library, in an attempt to avoid being recognized. He was later identified as Jonathan Charles Koch, who has been listed on Iowa Sex Offender Registery since he was convicted of possession of child pornography in 2009. Koch also pled guilty in 2007 to running an illegal gambling operation.
Two weeks before Koch was spotted on the Ped Mall with his stickers, flyers from the neo-Nazi-affiliated National Alliance were distributed in the Wetherby Park area, one of Iowa City’s most racially diverse neighborhoods. The flyers were wrapped around copies of the Davenport-based River Cities Reader, a free monthly newspaper, and thrown onto lawns and driveways. (“We do not distribute in Iowa City, let alone do home delivery, and we are not in any way associated with whatever organization or individual is responsible for this,” Reader Publisher Todd McGreevy told Little Village, after the flyers were found.)
On Jan. 22, the Davenport Police discovered James Lee Mathias putting the same flyers on cars at a high school sports facility. Mathias, a Davenport resident and frequent poster on white nationalist sites, was carrying a concealed handgun at the time. He was arrested for carrying a firearm on school property. It hasn’t been established whether Mathias was involved with Iowa City flyers.
In its statement on Friday, ICPD pointed that no matter how objectionable the flyers in the Dubuque Street Parking Ramp were, no laws had actually been broken.
Although this type of language may be considered offensive, unwelcoming, and goes against our values as an inclusive community, it is protected by the First Amendment, and does not meet the legal definition of a hate crime.
“Community members should report these types of incidents to the Police Department by calling 319-356-6800,” ICPD said. “Officers will then respond, investigate, and monitor.”