After A4-sized posters saying “it’s okay to be white” (IOTBW) were placed around Basingstoke town in the U.K. on Thursday, Nov. 4, police have started a hate crime investigation.
The saying was designed to elicit a “left-wing media backlash” in reaction to a “harmless message.” Neo-Nazi organizations and politically organized racists like former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke have adopted the slogan according to the Daily Mail.
“We were made aware of a number of posters that were placed on lampposts on Cliddesden Road, New Road and near Basingstoke College of Technology.” said a spokesperson for Hampshire Constabulary.
“Some of the posters have since been removed and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s street cleaning team has been tasked to remove them fully.”
“This has been recorded as a hate incident and were are now liaising with our local community groups,” the Hampshire authorities added according to the Daily Mail.
The locals started pulling down the posters themselves, but more appeared in the days after that.
In the 2011 census, 88.2 percent of Basingstoke’s population was White British, higher than the average of 80.5 percent in England and Wales.
According to statistics, the borough’s ethnic minority population nearly doubled between 2001 and 2011.
Basingstoke citizen Priya Brown believes the posters were put up by a “neo-Nazi and white supremacy group.”
“These posters were on school routes and a lot of people including kids have seen them.” Brown said. “My friend, who was walking the dog at around 7.30am, alerted me about it. Later I saw it on the way to school with my children.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the IOTBW campaign began in 2017 on the prominent internet forum 4chan as an alt-right slogan in the U.S.
In January 2020, the posters debuted in Bristol city center, marking the first time they have been seen in England. However, they made an appearance in Scotland only a few months prior.
The efforts to separate Basingstoke’s broad and diverse community are upsetting, according to Brown.
“Of course, it’s okay to be white. No one is saying it isn’t. But it is also okay to be anyone else, anything else, and to be you,” she said, according to the Gazette.
Brown added that she is worried about a Basingstoke-based neo-Nazi organization.
“This has cropped up before in Somerset, which was carried out by neo-Nazi group. My concern is whether something like that is going on here in Basingstoke. We should bring these perpetrators to justice. It’s about opening up and having these conversations.”