Thousands descended on Selma, Ala., in early March to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights.
As celebrants including President Obama walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where Alabama troopers attacked marchers half a century ago, they were faced with a billboard advertising the town’s “War Between the States historic sites” and featuring the image of Nathan Bedford Forrest, slavemaster, Confederate lieutenant general and KKK grand wizard, with his slogan, “Keep the skeer on ’em.”
Selma’s wasn’t the only white nationalist billboard to make news. In recent months, various racist groups and individuals including the neo-secessionist League of the South and a shadowy organization calling itself the White Genocide Project have asserted their First Amendment rights in particularly ugly ways.
A billboard war that started in 2013 continued to rage in the small city of Harrison, Ark., which to the dismay of many locals has become a battleground for white nationalists bent on promoting racism and sowing discord.
Harrison’s unwanted rise to prominence began in the fall of 2013, when an anonymous donor paid for a billboard featuring the white nationalist mantra, “Anti-Racist is a Code Word for Anti-White.” The billboard received national attention, but its owner never stepped forward. Locals countered that with signs reading, “Love your neighbor,” which unknown donors replied to with a racially charged billboard featuring a smiling white family and the slogan, “Beautiful Town, Beautiful People, No Wrong Exits, No Bad Neighborhoods.”
Residents were relieved when both signs came down late last year, but in the last moments of 2014, a new billboard went up. This one sneered, “It’s NOT Racist to [HEART] Your People.” It was sponsored by the Knights Party, a Klan group headquartered about 15 miles outside of town but with a Harrison mailing address. In late January, a member of the League of the South (LOS), a neo-Confederate hate group whose leader says whites are endowed with “God-given superiority,” sponsored a billboard in Harrison featuring the one-word slogan, “#Secede.”
Other towns have played unwilling host to white nationalist billboards. The LOS has placed “#Secede” billboards in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. One anonymous LOS member even offered to match up to $10,000 in donations toward the neo-secessionist group’s “general billboard fund.”
For five days in January, a sign proclaiming, “Diversity Means Chasing Down the Last White Person” loomed over the town of Springville, Ala., until the billboard’s owner and his brother refunded the anonymous purchaser’s money, then climbed up and took the billboard down themselves. The purchaser claims to be raising money to place another billboard in an unnamed northern city.
Some of the signs are apparently the work of individuals associated with the White Genocide Project (WGP), a loosely affiliated group of racists who believe there is a conscious effort to eradicate the white race. According to a spokesman calling him or herself “Steve Goode,” WGP supporters remain anonymous because “they are afraid of what will happen to them if they go public.”
Robert Whitaker, an elderly segregationist whose popular 221-word white nationalist “mantra” is the inspiration for the WGP’s billboards, told the Intelligence Report that he is “happy and proud” of his influence.