Early Friday morning, supporters of a white supremacist group hung a banner on an I-380 overpass in North Liberty.
“The sign was in this area along I-380 near Forevergreen Road. Drivers came across it before 6 a.m. Friday morning and police quickly took it down,” KCRG reported.
The banner said “Reclaim America,” and “Patriot Front US.”
Friday was Juneteenth, the annual celebration of the abolition of slavery in the United States, which is likely why the white supremacists chose that day to hang the banner.
Patriot Front is a white supremacist group founded in 2017 by people who broke off from the neo-Nazi group Vanguard America after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August of that year.
According to leaked emails, the disagreement that led to the splintering of the two groups was largely over imagery, not ideology. The organizers of Patriot Front felt Vanguard America had done a poor job controlling the imagery of the Unite the Right rally by allowing followers to display swastikas and use explicitly anti-Semitic chants. Patriot Front organizers said that imagery would dampen the public appeal of their core white supremacist ideology.
Patriot Front’s “rebranding was aesthetic, not ideological,” the Southern Poverty Law Center said in its profile of the group. It was “one of a number of hate groups that sought to recast itself as mainstream, patriotic Americans by dressing up their propaganda and rhetoric in Americana,” after the failure of the Unite the Right rally.
The group has been very active nationwide in spreading white supremacist propaganda, according to a report published in February by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
“Texas-based Patriot Front was responsible for 66 percent of all propaganda incidents (67 percent of non-campus and 59 percent of on-campus), far more than any other group,” the center wrote in its analysis of the spread of white supremacist propaganda in 2019.
Like the Southern Poverty Law Center, the center noted that Patriot Front uses Americana imagery “to promote its white supremacist and neo-fascist ideology.”
According to the center, hanging banners in high-visibility locations is a common tactic of the group. Since August 2017, there have been at least 50 incidents involving Patriot Front banners being hung on buildings, overpasses and footbridges.
This appears to be the first banner in Iowa, but in September 2019, Patriot Front stickers were placed on street lamps in downtown Des Moines. According to the Des Moines Register, there were fewer than 10 stickers found in that incident.
There have been multiple incidents of white supremacist propaganda being distributed in eastern Iowa during recent years, most of which involve the National Alliance. The National Alliance is an older, and largely defunct, neo-Nazi group, now headquartered in Tennessee. Its supporters have used free magazines, including Little Village, to add weight to the racist fliers and stickers they throw onto lawns and driveways in the early hours of the morning.
The banner in North Liberty wasn’t the only disturbing incident reported on Juneteenth. A noose was found on the construction site for the Facebook data center in Altoona. In a press release, the Altoona Police Department said it was investigating the incident, which it said “will not be tolerated.” The APD said the noose wasn’t in a place where the public could see it, and it was unclear if there was an intended target for the noose.
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But in a Facebook post, Kevin Jones, who is working on the site, said that noose was deliberately placed near the second-floor tool cabinets, “where 2 of the 3 black workers on the project, both of whom I am working with, would easily find it.”
“I live in the South, and you don’t see crap like that on job sites. You just don’t,” Jones, who is from Texas, told the Register. “I was horrified.”