A white supremacist group’s fliers plastered the Texas State University buildings in January. The posters had sayings like “This land is our land. American Vanguard. For White America.”
The fliers are done in a highly stylized design reminiscent of something from 1930s-era German propaganda posters, asking people to imagine a Muslim-free America and calling for people to report “any and all illegal aliens.” The posters are part of a recruiting effort for the Texas branch of American Vanguard – an organization that claims “America is under attack” and that American identity is “dragged through the mud by the globalist establishment while millions of nonwhites flood our nation every year.”
The posters have also hit the University of Texas at Austin campus. One of the Vanguard’s posters was plastered across a statue of Martin Luther King Jr., reading “Carry the torch of your people” with a profile of four white men in heroic poses over a logo of an eagle carrying a fasces – a bundle of rods and an ax strapped together – a symbol of fascist Italy used by Benito Mussolini.
Many UT-Austin students and faculty are demanding action from the university’s president to address these fliers. President Greg Fenves says the school has worked to take down the posters and continues to support students and faculty to take action as well.
“I know they deeply offended … our students and so many members of our community,” he says.
Although the campus has a commitment to free speech on campus, Fenves says speech from outside groups not affiliated with UT-Austin has limited protection.
“We have very strong values for free speech,” he says. “Some speech is objectionable, some speech is even hateful, and the best way to counter that is with additional speech. … We want to work with our students and our student organizations to be watchful about outside groups that are coming on campus that really don’t belong as part of our educational environment.”
Fenves says he’s proud of how the UT-Austin community has handled the posted material and the administration will continue to promote safe free speech on campus.
“Our students – as do members of our community – have substantial free speech rights,” he says. “Many students have come out in previous incidents and spoken forcefully against objectionable and hateful ideas and we will encourage our students to have those debates within the bounds of our free speech policies that has certain requirements on the time, manner and how that free speech is exercised.”
Fenves says American Vanguard’ message is objectionable and hateful.
“As president of the University of Texas [I] condemn the group,” Fenves says. “[I] find their message abhorrent. And any message that’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-Black, anti-Semitic – these types of beliefs I don’t believe belong on our campus and they don’t belong in American society.”
Written by Beth Cortez-Neavel.