Some Western Washington residents, including those in Olympia’s South Capitol neighborhood, are feeling unsettled after a white nationalist group called Patriot Front distributed a threatening message in plastic baggies throughout the region over the weekend.
That’s according to South Capitol residents who have spoken out on social media and Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby, who lives in the neighborhood. Olympia police are treating the incident as suspicious and are investigating, Lt. Paul Lower said Monday.
Similar messages were reportedly found in other Western Washington cities. Lower said Olympia detectives were checking with jurisdictions in Pierce and King counties about the leaflets.
Patriot Front apparently hung a banner in Seattle, too, according to photos posted on Twitter.
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Former Washington state Teacher of the Year Nate Bowling, who teaches in Tacoma, said via Twitter that he had come across the messages in his neighborhood on Sunday.
The message reads: “Better dead than red” and includes the image of an arrow piercing a hammer and sickle. On the bottom of the leaflet is a website address for Patriot Front.
“We will not be intimidated,” Bowling said.
The civil-rights focused Southern Poverty Law Center describes Patriot Front as “a white nationalist hate group that formed in the aftermath of the deadly ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12, 2017. The organization broke off from Vanguard America, a neo-Nazi group that participated in the chaotic demonstration.”
South Capitol residents awoke Sunday morning to find the messages in plastic baggies that were weighed down with rocks in their yards.
Mayor Selby, who has video cameras at her home, said two different vehicles drove down her street at 3 a.m. and again at 6 a.m. Sunday. The messages were thrown out of the vehicles near the sidewalk. The video images have been shared with Olympia police, she said.
Selby said she did not feel targeted because the messages appeared to be distributed randomly. She also said she refuses to buy into fear and urged residents to move forward.
“Their motives instill fear, but we can’t be fearful about our community values,” she said.
In response to the message, Selby said people could make a donation to a nonprofit that supports inclusion and diversity.