Renton residents are pulling down posters and stickers placed in downtown by the group Patriot Front.
The stickers, reported around Third Street, include phrases like “Money Does Not Rule You” and “Reject Poison” with information to their website. While some of the flyers seem harmless and patriotic, the group recruiting has been flagged as a white nationalist group by Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League.
The group was originally formed after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. ProPublica estimated that there was about 300 Patriot Front members in November 2019.
This is not the first sighting of Patriot Front recruitment materials in Renton. The group has been reported by residents to do this frequently. Renton LGBTQIA Community President Chad Cashman-Crane said they’ve been tracking this activity since May. They said the posters are an ongoing matter.
In tweets, accounts that appeared to be associated with Patriot Front stated that promotional materials were distributed in Renton in late December by a “Patriot Front activist.”
The group also had some involvement at the large counter-protest-and-protest at the Fairwood Library Drag Queen Story Hour in late June, Cashman-Crane said.
Cashman-Crane stated in an email that Renton LGBTQIA Community has been tracking several groups for any anti-gay, anti-trans or other hate mobilization around Renton, including Patriot Front but also Activist Mommies, Mass Resistance, Operation Cold Front, Proud Boys and the Three Percenters.
Patriot Front recruitment stickers were also found on campus at Renton Technical College in May 2019, plastered over different school buildings, trees and posters, including student services and diversity flyers. The group is reported to have been attempting to distribute materials across campuses, as a method of recruiting young people.
The group tracks where it posts it’s recruitment material on it’s Twitter, and recently mentioned Renton.
— Patriot Front (@PatriotFront10) January 1, 2020
Katherine Hedland Hansen, RTC Executive Director of College Relations and Marketing, said the school took down the stickers immediately. They were posted throughout campus. The college’s policy states putting stickers on college property is vandalism.
“That group is defined as a hate group,” Hedland Hansen said. “People have a right to free speech, but not to speech that is so contradictory to (RTC) values and also defaced our property.”
The stickers caused unrest on campus and bothered many folks, she said. You could tell by the tone of the stickers it wasn’t a positive group.
Hedland Hansen said RTC chose not to name the group that placed the stickers in campus messaging in May, as an effort to not bring additional attention to the group. The security team filed a police report regarding the incident, but Hedland Hansen said as far as she knows, there was no follow up.
Renton Police Department Cmdr. David Leibman stated that the case report shows police investigated the incident: On Memorial Day, between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. a group of men walked onto campus and applied 60 to 70 stickers, not targeting any specific locations. From surveillance footage the RTC security officer said he did not believe any of them were students or related to the school. Most of the stickers stated “Reclaim America.”
The basic report states that the group “may be a white supremacist group, however, none of the stickers seemed to promote any one group” and that it was determined the stickers were not a hate crime, according to the summary from Leibman’s email.
For the more recent incident in downtown, Leibman stated in an email that no reports have been filed to the office about the stickers or flyers, but that the matter would fall to the graffiti abatement program.
Graffiti Abatement Program Coordinator Erin Churchill confirmed that unsanctioned posters or stickers would fall under graffiti, but that she had no reports of Patriot Front posters or stickers.
Churchill stated in an email that it’s more important the posters are taken down promptly, but that it would be helpful for residents to also report the incident to her. Anyone can remove these items when they see them.
The Patriot Front posters created a spurt of resistance from proclaimed “anti-fascist” groups such as the Emerald City Anti-fascist, which tweeted photos of its own stickers it placed over torn down Patriot Front stickers and posters.
— ECA (Emerald City Anti-fascists) (@eca_network) December 22, 2019
In the Spring and Fall, Churchill and volunteers do a sweep of the downtown area to remove all paint, stickers and marker graffiti from public buildings, and can remove graffiti with permission of private property owners. It is a private property owners’ responsibility to remove graffiti unless they request assistance, Churchill stated.
Graffiti can be reported to Renton Police Department through the Renton Responds application, or by calling 425-430-7362.