A murmur began in May around Berkeley and the surrounding Bay Area as posters appeared overnight on the sides of buildings and wrapped on poles. Adorned with images of statues of antiquity, these classical images of European men depicted as gods were intended to light a spark of memory in the mostly white faces that passed by them. With lines like “Let’s become great again” printed on them, the posters were blatant in their calls for European “pride,” clearly connecting romanticized European empires of the past to the populism of Donald Trump today.
The posters were put up by Identity Europa, one of the lesser-known organizations amid that esoteric constellation of reactionary groups and figures known as the “Alt Right.” They were part of a campaign around the country enticing college-age white people to join a new kind of white nationalist movement. While similar posters emerged elsewhere on the West Coast and Midwest, in central California they pointed toward a public event — one directed specifically toward the tradition of free speech at the University of California at Berkeley.