TACOMA, Wash – A new billboard in South Tacoma is raising eyebrows – not for what it’s selling, but for the message that it’s trying to send.
A group called Tacoma Against Nazis paid to erect a billboard along Pacific Avenue to fight what it sees as white supremacy encroaching into their neighborhood.
The organization says its group of about 100 people have been fighting against a local business they believe has ties to white supremacy. And while for now it’s just the billboard, the group promises to become more active in their fight against injustice.
“It’s meant to be pretty shocking,” said Tacoma Against Nazis co-founder Halley Knigge. “The fact there are groups coming to town who are making it impossible for diverse populations to live in safety and comfort in their own city is horrifying.”
The billboard went up on Tuesday. Knigge says her group recently tore down what she says were more messages sharing white supremacist ideals on Tacoma telephone poles.
“Put up fliers all around town encouraging people to report immigrants to ICE, with links to their website, which advocates for a white nation,” she said.
“I never really looked up and read it and I walk by here every day,” passerby Ian Mottinger said of the billboard.
Mottinger says he only spotted the new billboard Wednesday and, despite its message, he thinks it’s an eyesore.
“It’s saying there’s Nazis living in your neighborhood, which it’s none of their business,” he said, “Who cares?”
Just being a Nazi isn’t illegal and the Tacoma Police Department says hate crimes have not been rising.
“We’ve not seen any increased reports of hate crimes throughout the city,” said Officer Loretta Cool.
Still, until all feel welcome in Tacoma, Knigge says her group will continue their fight against prejudice.
“I think for a long time people of color have been at the front lines of standing up against hate groups like this and white people like myself have maybe been comfortable to say that’s terrible, and post it on Facebook and leave it at that,” she said. “It’s really time that we, as white people, to show up and show our faces as being against white supremacy.”
Q13 News has not disclosed the name or location of the business targeted by the billboard because its owners have not been charged with any crime.
And while the city of Tacoma does regulate the permitting, construction and location of billboards, the city has no say over the content on the billboards or the companies who own and operate them.