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White supremacists targeting college campuses more than ever, report says

White supremacist groups have been flocking to college campuses at an increased rate, spreading propaganda and hoping to lure new followers, the Anti-Defamation League said.

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Darran Simon (CNN)
(CNN) — White supremacist groups have been flocking to college campuses at an increased rate, spreading propaganda and hoping to lure new followers, the Anti-Defamation League said.

Since September 2016, the ADL's Center on Extremism has tracked 346 instances in which leaflets, stickers, posters and banners have appeared on more than 200 campuses across the country, according to data released on Thursday. The number of times the propaganda was recorded at schools in the fall semester of 2016 -- 41 -- more than tripled in the same time period a year later -- to 147, according to the ADL.

"White supremacists continue to see young people as prime targets for recruitment, perhaps now more than ever," said Oren Segal, director of league's Center on Extremism, which compiled the data.

Propaganda targeted college campuses in 44 states and Washington D.C. Schools in Texas and California were the most frequent targets, the report said.

The data was collected from media reports, social media postings by white supremacist groups and from students and universities, Segal said.

Posting fliers represent "a broader effort by white supremacist groups to stake their claim, and if they're comfortable the violence may increase," Segal said.

Segal said other efforts to target college campuses include speeches by Richard Spencer, who has been described as both a white nationalist and a white supremacist.

Spencer helped found the so-called alt-right movement. He gave speeches at Texas A&M University, the University of Florida and Auburn University in the last year that drew counter protesters.

The propaganda on campuses ranges from seemingly innocuous black and white images of classical sculpture such as Michelangelo's David to more blatant images, like blood-spattered swastikas, the ADL said.

One group named in the report, Identity Evropa was responsible for nearly half of the 346 instances, according to the ADL.

Identity Evropa is a white supremacist group focused on preserving "white American culture" and promoting white European identity, according to the ADL.

In an email to CNN Wednesday, the group's CEO Patrick Casey disputed the ADL's claim that it is a white supremacist group and declined to comment.

The group is run by Nathan Damigo, an Iraq war veteran. In a December 2016 interview, Damigo told CNN he had been targeting 40 colleges across the country trying to bring younger people into his group.

"Prior to 1965, America was a white country, a country for European people," Damigo said on the campus of California State University, Stanislaus, where he was a student. "What's actually happening right now is that we're being replaced in our own country."

"We want to combat the diversity cult that has propagated itself not only on college campuses but throughout much of America," he said then.

Segal said the ADL started documenting white supremacist propaganda activity on college campuses when it noticed the volume of fliers started to increase in the fall semester 2016.

White supremacists felt more emboldened by the general climate in this country, and divisive presidential election, and celebrated President Trump's election as a victory, Segal said.

Segal said racist groups are competing with each other for attention. He said it is difficult to say whether the propaganda is gaining traction on college campuses, but the ADL is seeing more young people getting involved with white supremacist groups.

"Look no further than Charlottesville, where one of the lasting images people have are of young, 20-something, college-age kids wearing khaki pants and polo shirts who look to be the next generation of white supremacists," Segal said, referencing protests by white nationalists on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville last August.

During those protests, white nationalist supporters marched holding torches. Chanting, "Blood and soil" and "You will not replace us," the group rallied around a statue of Thomas Jefferson before they clashed with counter protesters, CNN affiliate WWBT reported.

The next day, Heather Heyer was killed and more than 19 others injured when a car plowed into a crowd protesting the "Unite the Right" white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. The driver, James Alex Fields Jr. has been indicted on several charges including first-degree murder in connection with the attack.

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