A sign found posted in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, over the weekend. Credit: Submitted photo courtesy of Portsmouth Herald

PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire — Subtle fliers with text reading, “It’s OK to be white,” were taped around the city’s downtown over the weekend, a phrase that has been reported as a recruitment slogan by some white nationalist groups.

It’s currently unknown who posted the fliers, or what their motives were, but Police Chief Robert Merner said his department is “keeping an eye on it.”

During the 2017 election season, the Washington Post reported the same messaging was appearing on college campuses and city streets across the country, “indicative of the efforts white-nationalist groups have made to recruit in and around the nation’s college campuses and other mainstream settings with claims of growing white maltreatment and expanding anti-white discrimination.” Last week, the fliers appeared at Duke University, Tufts University, North Carolina State University and others, according to news reports.

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Merner said his department received one call Sunday about the fliers, and officers went and retrieved one from a downtown business. “We take that very seriously, we will address it if any situations arise,” he said, though noting the non-descriptiveness of the flier leaves much to the imagination, and its true intent unknown.

“It’s not inciting anything other than fear, but hopefully a lot of this will subside after (Tuesday), as I think a lot of this is election-driven,” Merner said.

By Monday morning, the fliers had been ripped down. Kate Spiner, spokeswoman for the state Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Unit, said while no formal complaints have been filed, members of the unit are aware of the fliers.

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On Facebook, community members were circulating a counter flier that read, “Of course it’s OK to be white: now how can we make it OK to be a person of any color?”

Gilles Bissonnette, legal director for the ACLU of New Hampshire, said the fliers have not raised any First Amendment issues. “Private individuals have put up these signs, and other private individuals have taken them down,” he said. “Both acts, performed by private individuals without government involvement, are consistent with the First Amendment.”

He also added, “With regards to the signs themselves, it is OK to be white, just as it is OK to be brown or black. This is not inconsistent with the understanding that being white brings certain advantages that people of color do not have. We are not going to make assumptions about what the individuals who printed these signs intended by the statement.”