LARAMIE — Posters promoting a white nationalist group known for targeting college campuses were removed Monday from bulletin boards in the University of Wyoming Union — but not for their content.
The posters feature simple slogans, such as “Our Generation, Our Future, Our Last Chance,” over images of activists affiliated with the group known as Identity Evropa.
UW spokesman Chad Baldwin said the group was likely just seeking attention.
“This particular Identity Evropa has been all over campuses all over the country, putting these things up,” he said. “Certainly, the university denounces the message of this group. It’s awful, and it’s totally at odds with the university’s values and really the values of all reasonable people.”
The posters were removed not for their content but because whoever put them up failed to receive permission first, Baldwin said. The official Wyoming Union policy stipulates what advertisements and announcements are allowed on the bulletin boards in what is perhaps the most trafficked building on campus — but only limits the content of those posters by its relevance to the campus community.
“If this group had gone through the process to post them, could we have kept them from being posted?” Baldwin said. “Perhaps not, but I’m not sure. There’s some interpretation that has to be done. I do know our President (Laurie Nichols) has asked our general counsel’s office whether our policies are sufficient, but there is a decent chance that if we had gone through the process, we would not have been able to remove them.”
Identity Evropa is a neo-Nazi, white supremacist group whose membership is limited to those of “European, non-Semitic heritage,” according to its online application form. The group describes itself as an “identitarian” movement — advocating alt-right, white nationalist and pro-segregation ideas — while watchdog organizations have labeled it a hate group.
Its founder, Nathan Damigo, is known for punching a woman in the face during protests at University of California-Berkeley in 2017 — an altercation which was filmed.
Within the past month, Identity Evropa posters have also been found on the Casper College and Sheridan College campuses.
The presence of Identity Evropa posters on the UW campus angered many students, who took to social media to decry the racist group behind the posters, while the United Multicultural Council student group and ASUW President Ben Wetzel both released statements denouncing the posters and asking students to notify the UW Police Department if any reappeared.
“As the flagship institute of the Equality State, it is well known that we will not stand for this type of messaging on our campus,” Wetzel writes in a statement. “As a further reaffirmation of our support for all students, especially those minority and underrepresented cultures targeted by white supremacist organizations, I ask that all students be on the lookout for posters, flyers, or other materials that are not approved.”
UW’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion released a statement denouncing the posters.
“We don’t want to have flyers and postings on our campus that don’t align with the vision (of UW),” said Emily Monago, the university’s chief diversity officer. “But at the same time, we know that that’s part of the dialogue that we have to have as a campus community if we’re going to advance our diversity education and have our students graduate with a minimum of cultural competence.”
Monago said the posters show the world as it is today, but that the hate shared by groups such as Identity Evropa UW cannot flourish at UW. She added a better representation of the campus’ culture could be found at the diversity workshops hosted by her office, such as the workshop earlier this month which garnered 400 participants.
“We have to continue to uphold and embrace the values of free speech, and we have to also, at the same time, embrace and uphold the values of inclusion,” Monago said.
In November, anti-Semitic flyers claiming the Holocaust never happened appeared on campus, but were removed. Baldwin said the UW Police Department gave the individual who distributed the flyers a citation for littering.
In a report released Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League reported anti-Semitic harassment, vandalism and assaults had risen between 2015-2017. While the number of incidents rose nationally by 57 percent in 2017, it rose from just one to three in Wyoming.