A white nationalist group appears to have taken its college recruitment program to Montana this week after posting flyers around the University of Montana and other campuses, and then posting photos of those flyers to social media.
In addition to the flyers, Identity Evropa tweeted that its members "laid flowers and paid their respects to Americans who died in the Vietnam War," although they did so at Missoula's Korean War Veterans Memorial.
The group also posted flyers at Montana State University Billings and Rocky Mountain College in Billings this week. Administrators at those institutions denounced the group's actions, as did UM on Wednesday.
"The University does not endorse, nor support, the positions of this group," UM spokeswoman Paula Short wrote in an email, adding that the materials will be removed from unauthorized areas.
"We remain deeply committed to our core values of inclusiveness and respect. We celebrate diversity and community. We hold strong against divisiveness, intolerance and hate," Short wrote.
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Tobin Miller Shearer, director of African American studies at UM and a past target of racially charged literature on campus, said Wednesday such postings are a staple of white nationalist recruiting.
"Is it effective? Well, they have numbers, they have a presence, but they don't have an organized presence here in Montana that I've been able to track," Shearer said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups nationwide, says on its website that “Identity Evropa is at the forefront of the racist ‘alt-right's’ effort to recruit white, college-aged men and transform them into the fashionable new face of white nationalism."
Shearer said the timing of the group's travels through Missoula prompts him to question whether the stop is connected to the scheduled December presentation by Steve Bannon on campus. Groups have already called for a boycott of the event after the prominent nationalist and former presidential strategist was announced as part of a conference on computer entertainment technology.
Most other participants in that conference have withdrawn, citing concern about the quality of peer review for conference submissions and the affiliation with a separate forum called the International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots. UM is not a sponsor of either event.
Shearer believes Identity Evropa may hope to catch the eye of those disenfranchised young white people who may be drawn to Bannon. Such groups have tried to re-brand and repackage themselves to appeal to a broader audience, he said. It's the same tactic Louisiana politician and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke tried in the 1990s, Shearer said, when he tried to move away from his KKK ties and into a more subtle identity.
"I think most important in a situation like this is to call them for what they are," Shearer said. "That they're predatory, and they're looking for disaffected and alienated young people.
"We have to expose them for the tactics they're using," he said.
Short wrote that anyone feeling targeted by the flyers at UM can find resources at the Student Advocacy Resource Center (SARC) and the Curry Health Center. Employees and students may also contact the Equal Opportunity Office for resource referrals, she said.
The Billings Gazette contributed to this story.