State College Borough is investigating after stickers bearing messages from a white supremacist group were found on property throughout the downtown.
Borough spokesman Douglas Shontz said the stickers were first reported early Thursday evening and public works staff who were on duty overnight began removing them as they were spotted. Early Friday morning, ordinance enforcement staff began canvassing the borough, cataloguing locations where they were found and removing them.
About 50 stickers had been found by mid-afternoon on Friday and staff were still at work. Staff are providing location information to the State College Police Department, which is investigating to find those responsible. Shontz said a detective has been assigned to the case.
‘We are a welcoming community and any type of speech that is hateful and dangerous is not tolerated here,’ Shontz said.
Anyone who sees one of the stickers is asked to submit the details and location through the borough’s graffiti reporting website.
The stickers include the name and website of Patriot Front, a white supremacist group that calls for American fascism and white nationalism. The group, which the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a hate group, formed after breaking away from a similar organization, Vanguard America, following the 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In 2019, ProPublica called Patriot Front ‘perhaps the most active white supremacist group in the nation.’ Its organization occurs largely in private Internet communications, which BuzzFeed News reported in October ‘reveal a sophisticated network of extremists who are training for violence.’
Its most common public-facing activities including placing stickers with messages and the group’s website around towns and college campuses. The group’s leader, Thomas Rousseau, and two others were arrested in August in Texas for placing the stickers on Parker County property.
Shontz said there has been no threat of violence made locally, but because of the nature of the stickers and their placement amid national unease following the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday by extremist supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump, some of whom carried racist and anti-Semitic imagery, police are conducting a full investigation.
‘Obviously considering the current situation the police department felt the need to investigate the situation to make sure there’s no incidents down the road here locally,’ he said. ‘You can’t take it away from the national context.’
Shontz added that aside from the stickers being illegal graffiti, their messages also are not protected speech.
‘State College is a very progressive and welcoming community. We take an exuberant amount of steps to make sure that everyone feels welcome here, especially the diversity that is attracted to the area because of Penn State,’ Shontz said. ‘This type of hateful speech — not even protected First Amendment speech because some of the messages on these stickers are very inciting in their nature — is just not tolerated.’