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SALT LAKE CITY — A white nationalist group that focuses its recruiting efforts on college campuses recently posted flyers and unfurled banners at the University of Utah and around Salt Lake City in an attempt to recruit in the Beehive State.
Identity Evropa — which gained notoriety after helping to organize the deadly Charlottesville Unite the Right rally in 2017 — advocates for an end to nonwhite immigration in order to preserve a white supermajority in the U.S.
In early February, the group decided to focus its recruitment tactics in Salt Lake City — partly because there were quite a few members of the group in the Beehive State, and partly because they had never focused on Utah, said Patrick Casey, who purports to be the group's executive director.
Some members of the group climbed to the Block U above the University of Utah Saturday where they unfurled a banner that said “end immigration” and lit off red, white and blue smoke flares.
The Block U is on private property owned by the university, though the U. has an easement on the property.
“Our police did get a call, but by the time they got there, there was nobody there,” U. spokesman Chris Nelson said. “Regardless of the political message or any message, it’s just not appropriate to be up there. Had they been caught, they probably would have just been given a warning and asked not to do that again.”
Earlier this week, the group also visited This Is the Place Heritage Park and Ensign Peak in Salt Lake City where they again unfurled banners advocating an end to immigration and an effort to “make America beautiful again.”
But this isn't the first time Salt Lake has had to deal with the group. In early January, the U. released a statement condemning racism after members of Identity Evropa posted flyers around campus and unfurled a banner that advocated for strong borders. It wasn't a “particularly offensive” message, Nelson said, but the group’s website made it “abundantly clear” it supported white nationalism.
“Let me be clear, while our campus is an open forum where individuals may express their views, the rhetoric used by these groups does not align with or reflect the University of Utah’s values,” U. president Ruth Watkins said in a statement.
“These cowardly, faceless and non-university sanctioned tactics are designed to disrupt and frighten individuals and communities, and to garner attention for an insidious ideology that has no place on our campus or in our community,” she added.
The group had previously posted flyers and stickers around the U.’s campus in September, but the university removed the propaganda and released a statement reiterating its policy that requires all postings to be approved and have some connection to the university, Nelson said.
“Any group can’t just come up and post something on the designated posting places,” Nelson said. “That’s just a matter of not being a giant billboard up here for everybody.”
The university followed up with another statement that condemned racism and promoted a “culture of respect, inclusion and safety.”
To Casey, the hike on Saturday was a retaliation, of sorts.
“Today, IE activists hiked the Block U … to let the university — and the world — know that we will NOT be stopped!” Casey said on his personal Twitter. The group’s Twitter page has been suspended.
While our campus is an open forum where individuals may express their views, the rhetoric used by these groups does not align with or reflect the University of Utah’s values.
–U. president Ruth Watkins
Identity Evropa has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its extremist views on things like immigration.
“Most people understand, on some level, if they are the minority in their country, someone else is going to be calling the shots. Someone else is going to have more power than them,” Casey said. “America was created by white people to be a place predominantly for white people, if not exclusively, and that’s how we feel at Identity Evropa.”
It wasn't long, however, before other activists rose to fight against Identity Evropa's recruiting tactics. The Salt Lake Activist Mobilization, a new coalition of community activists in the Salt Lake Valley, released a statement condemning the group’s message soon after.
“Hatred for immigrants is not something we tolerate because they are part of our community,” the statement reads. “We are parents, children, siblings, environmentalists, citizens, and, yes, we are also immigrants. We are not afraid in this moment; rather, we are empowered.”