Residents and workers in the Whiteaker and Jefferson Westside neighborhoods noticed red spray-painted swastikas on buildings, a fire hydrant, signs and sidewalks on June 12. The person or persons responsible are yet to be identified — though fingers have been pointed at one person — but community members mobilized to send the message that these kinds of hateful actions won’t go unanswered.
In all, the Eugene Police Department recorded 14 instances of the racist graffiti that day, with some locations having multiple applications, according to EPD spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin.
Threadbare Print House, a boutique screen-printing business, was one of the locations targeted. When owner Amy Baker contacted the Stop Hate Campaign, organizers immediately began planning a response. Less than 48 hours later, about 75 people gathered at nearby Monroe Park for a picnic and to show those responsible for the graffiti that the community won’t be intimidated into silence.
One of the volunteers with Stop Hate who helped organize the picnic says that when these acts of hate take place, they affect the whole community. “This was a targeted attack and so we wanted to send a clear message at the neighborhood level that we won’t look away, and that hate is not welcome here,” said the volunteer, who wishes to stay anonymous due to safety concerns. “When things like this happen, if we’re just being happy people in a park enjoying community, that speaks a lot more to what we stand for than at a rally which white nationalists could attempt to disrupt in order to provoke a reaction.”
Talicia Brown-Crowell, who had the idea for these community picnics after seeing the spray-painted swastikas in Westmoreland Park last year, concurs. “Any time there are feelings of hate and fear, we want to promote community and safety and to work against feelings of isolation by bringing people together,” she said. “My spiritual tradition is to meet hate and fear with love. That really takes the wind out of their sails.”
In addition to the picnic, Stop Hate volunteers coordinated a door-to-door leafleting drive in the neighborhood around Monroe Park. It was part of the decade-long campaign’s ongoing efforts to educate residents about how to respond to hateful incidents, as well as how to report them. They also hand out Stop Hate Campaign posters for residents to post in their windows in a showing of solidarity.
These efforts seem to be working on at least two fronts. First, they are getting people to mobilize and commit resources to anti-hate groups and causes. After Threadbare was vandalized, Baker organized a fundraiser that netted more than $1,500 in donations for the local NAACP chapter, Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC) and the Oregon Supported Living Program.
Second, this unity fosters community and provides a buffer against those peddling hate.
Members of Rot//Woven, a local punk band involved in the antifascist punk scene (who also wish to remain unnamed out of safety concerns) say that they organize to “promote safety and feelings of belonging for all in our community, [and] to prevent the swastikas from instilling fear into people who do not fit in the narrow, close-minded and oppressive views of the Nazis.”
Rot//Woven members regularly post fliers promoting social equality and justice and targeting right-wing extremists.
One of those people targeted by the fliers is Chris Kilgore, a recent transplant to Eugene living in the house owned by former OG Analytical owner and disgraced neo-nazi Bethany Sherman.
Kilgore, who frequently posts racist content online, has been accused by Antifa of being responsible for the recent racist vandalism. He admits to tearing down antifascist fliers but denies painting the swastikas.
He says that if he were to paint any symbols, he would choose something like the Othala rune.
The Othala rune is popular among white nationalists, with some advocating for it to replace the swastika in propaganda material to give them a more mainstream appearance.
Antifa hasn’t provided any proof that Kilgore is responsible for the swastika vandalism, and EPD says it doesn’t have any updates on its investigation at press time.