MADISON, Wis. — A group of nearly two dozen people waving flags emblazoned with Nazi insignia and chanting anti-Semitic remarks marched through parts of Wisconsin’s capital on Saturday, drawing condemnation from state and local officials.
Protesters at the march were part of the “Blood Tribe,” a right-wing neo-Nazi group with radical white supremacist views. The group, wearing red shirts with “Blood Tribe” on the back, marched through downtown Madison and onto the grounds of the state Capitol.
Members of the group chanted “Israel is not our friend,” threatened “There will be blood” and shouted racist slurs at passersby during the march. According to social media posts, the group also briefly marched on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and stopped in front of a local synagogue, Gates of Heaven.
While state and local officials condemned the group’s hateful rhetoric, the Madison Police Department said the group demonstrated legally.
“Seeing neo-Nazis marching through our streets and neighborhoods and in the shadow of the State Capitol spreading their disturbing and hateful messages is truly revolting,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement Saturday. “Nazis, anti-Semitism, and white supremacy have no place in Wisconsin. We will not accept or normalize this rhetoric and hatred. It is repugnant and disgusting, and I join with the people of Wisconsin in condemn and denounce their presence in our state in the strongest possible terms.”
The group’s march comes as reports of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia skyrocket across the United States, as the war between Israel and Hamas enters its second month. The march is also the latest neo-Nazi protest to make national headlines, including rallies outside the Walt Disney World theme park in Orlando, Florida, earlier this year.
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What is the “Blood Tribe” group?
The Blood Tribe became a member organization in 2021 and claims to have chapters in the United States and Canada, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The group “openly targets vitriol against Jews, “non-whites” and the LGBTQ+ community.”
The group has led protests across the country in 2023, including a hateful protest at a “Pride in the Park” event in July in Watertown, Wisconsin, about 40 miles northeast of Madison. Members of the group brandished guns, displayed swastikas and hurled homophobic slurs and threats at LGBTQ+ people during the event.
Christopher Pohlhaus, nicknamed “Hammer”, is the leader of the Blood Tribe and a former United States Marine. Pohlhaus was one of two unmasked figures at Saturday’s neo-Nazi march.
Pohlhaus, a Texas native, founded the group in 2021, according to the ADL. He was present at other Blood Tribe neo-Nazi events in 2023.
“No place where we feel safe”
The University of Wisconsin-Madison criticized the group’s march, and Jennifer Mnookin, the university’s chancellor, called their presence in Madison “totally repugnant” in a statement released Saturday.
“I’m horrified to see these symbols here in Madison,” Mnookin said. “Hate and anti-Semitism are completely contrary to the values of the university, and the safety and well-being of our community must be our highest priorities.”
Rabbi Bonnie Margulis, executive director of Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice, said Madison residents sometimes have a false sense of security given its reputation as a progressive enclave.
“We live in very, very scary times,” Margulis told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, part of the USA TODAY Network. “The American Jewish community is very afraid right now, as are the Muslim community and the Sikh community…There is no place where we feel safe.”
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Wave of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents
Federal, state and local authorities are on alert as reports of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents multiply in the United States since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas. Last month, FBI Director Chris Wray warned that violent extremists could draw inspiration from Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7.
According to the ADL, the group documented 832 anti-Semitic incidents of assault, vandalism and harassment between October 7 and November 7.
“This represents an increase of 316 percent from the 200 incidents reported during the same period in 2022,” the ADL said in a November survey.
And the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) said there had been an “unprecedented” increase in complaints of anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bias in the month since the escalation of violence in the Middle East. East. CAIR said it received 1,283 requests for assistance and reports of bias between October 7 and November 4.
Contributor: Christopher Cann and Will Carless, USA TODAY; Jessie Opoien, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Tyler Katzenberger’s reporting is supported by the Poynter Disinformation Fellowship Program and Google News Initiative.
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