Last month, posters advertising the white nationalist organization Identity Evropa were found on the campus of California State University at Sacramento. The fliers, which told people of white European descent to “protect your heritage” and “serve your people,” worried the university’s president, Robert Nelsen, and he began researching the group behind them.
Nelsen learned that the group’s leader is an Iraq War veteran named Nathan Damigo. In 2007, Damigo, who said he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, was arrested for pulling a gun on a cab driver he thought was from Iraq. He now hosts a podcast that offers “hard-hitting analysis from an Identitarian perspective.” He also studies social science about two hours from Sacramento at California State University at Stanislaus, in Turlock, Calif. Nelsen called the president at Stanislaus State, Ellen Junn, to “express concern.”
That was not the only concerned phone call about Damigo that the university has received in recent weeks. As word spread that one of its students is a leader in a growing white nationalist movement, Stanislaus State was forced to defend Damigo's rights to free speech, while assuring students of color that the campus is still a welcoming place for them.
"I will continue to stand for promoting a warm, welcoming and respectful learning environment for everyone on our campus and in the community," Junn, the university's president, said in a statement. "Though it may be difficult to hear disparate viewpoints, it is ever more vital to remember that Stanislaus State and the CSU have an obligation and commitment to the founding principles of our American democracy -- a democracy that upholds the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech, even when that speech may be controversial or offensive to others. Sometimes speech that occurs on campus is inconsistent with Stanislaus State’s core institutional values of inclusiveness, diversity and respect."
Janice Curtin, a spokeswoman for the university, confirmed that Damigo is a student there, but said she could not offer any other details -- including how long officials have known of Damigo's history or what interactions they have had with him -- because of student privacy laws. Damigo and Identity Evropa did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Curtin said the university has "been contacted informally by a small number of students" who are concerned about Damigo's presence on campus. Other students have spoken out on Facebook and Twitter. A group called Northern California Anti-Racist Action recently posted fliers around the Stanislaus campus detailing Damigo’s history and calling him “a known white supremacist.” The university removed the fliers, saying they violated its rules on campus postings.
In a plea that instructed people to continue sharing the posters detailing Damigo’s history, Northern California Anti-Racist Action listed the phone numbers of various administrators and deans, telling its followers to "contact CSU Stanislaus and voice your displeasure" with Damigo and Identity Evropa. The group also told its members where Damigo often parks his car when arriving on campus and where he prefers to walk to class.
"Putting pressure on the university is one of the many valuable tools in our toolbox, and one of the easiest to do from just about anywhere," the group said in a statement. "Demand answers about the school’s allowance of white supremacist propaganda and their lack of intervention despite knowing the culprit’s identity. Stress that students have a right to know that a neo-Nazi with a violent history is attending classes on the campus, and that Identity Evropa is openly organizing for a fascist and authoritarian white supremacist movement."
Identity Evropa is ostensibly the newest incarnation of what was once known as the National Youth Front, the youth arm for the American Freedom Party. Damigo is former chair of the National Youth Front. Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the American Freedom Party and its spin-off groups are “a direct offshoot” of the European Identitarian movement, a far-right white nationalist effort that primarily protests immigration and Muslims.
The founder of the American Freedom Party, William Daniel Johnson, wrote a book in 1985 advocating for the creation of a constitutional amendment that would deport nearly all nonwhites from the United States. “No person shall be a citizen of the United States unless he is a non-Hispanic white of the European race, in whom there is no ascertainable trace of Negro blood, nor more than one-eighth Mongolian, Asian, Asia Minor, Middle Eastern, Semitic, Near Eastern, American Indian, Malay or other non-European or nonwhite blood,” Johnson wrote.
Identity Evropa, Potok said, is typically less blunt with its brand of racism, avoiding racial slurs and advertising its message through fliers featuring European figures from history and mythology like Caesar and Hercules.
“When you look at the propaganda, you would think it’s an advertisement for the University of Chicago Great Books program, but it’s not,” Potok said. “They hide behind Plato, Aristotle and Socrates in order to put forth a cleaned-up Klan message.”
The group is "absolutely tiny," Potok said, but Damigo's recruitment efforts are widespread. Fliers, posters and small gatherings advertising Identity Evropa's beliefs have been showing up on campuses across the country. Campuses in California have seen the most of it, but the group’s fliers have also appeared and caused concern at more than two dozen colleges in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio, Oregon, Michigan, Montana, Texas and Washington.
The group’s website explains how to approach both right-leaning and left-leaning students.
“Gun control, free speech, small government and low taxes are all effected [sic] by both legal and illegal immigration,” the group states. “Furthermore, pointing out that these are all parts of white American culture not shared by the rest of the world help develop a new sense of identity. On the flip side, a left-leaning student who is concerned with universal health coverage, global warming and community cohesion can be educated about how diversity destroys social currency, and mass immigration into first-world nations only increases our massive carbon output.”
Identity Evropa describes the project, called #ProjectSiege, as “the beginning of a long-term cultural war of attrition against the academia’s cultural Marxist narrative that is maintained and propagated into society through in [sic] the indoctrination of the future managerial class.” The group focuses nearly entirely on college campuses and appealing to students.
“This is where white nationalists think they are going to win the battle, ultimately,” Potok said.
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