Inside the Secret Network Fighting Neo-Nazi Propaganda in Metro Denver

A photo tweeted in August on the Identity Evropa account — this one showing a sticker emblazoned with the group's logo in Larimer Square.
A photo tweeted in August on the Identity Evropa account — this one showing a sticker emblazoned with the group's logo in Larimer Square. Identity Evropa Twitter
In recent weeks, Identity Evropa, a national fascist group aligned with the white-supremacist movement that waged a propaganda campaign in Colorado over the summer, has been ratcheting up its activities in the state. But the organization's efforts are being opposed by a secret underground collective working to quickly remove Identity Evropa stickers, signs and displays left in public places throughout metro Denver and beyond.

Members of the collective, many of them mothers and grandmothers, are also researching a possible link between Identity Evropa and Ingress, a popular location-based video game that was a precursor to Pokémon Go.

Among those involved in the local fight against Identity Evropa is a resident of the west Denver suburbs who's been active in battling discriminatory hate groups for fifty years. We've agreed to refer to her anonymously to prevent potential targeting by Identity Evropa loyalists.

The woman's heritage can be traced to Germany, a country frequently lauded by Identity Evropa, which aims its messages at young Caucasians with neo-Nazi leanings. But she rejects rather than embraces the darkest elements of German history, as did her grandfather, whom she credits with establishing "a long family tradition of peacemaking. The two World Wars were very painful for him, and he was very concerned about racism and anti-Semitism. So we were taught lessons about these sorts of groups and the dangers they hold."

Over the years, the woman has actively supported the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, among other associations, in addition to hands-on efforts to protest against prejudice and other forms of injustice — a natural outgrowth of her experiences during the Vietnam War era. She personally knew one of the victims of the 1970 shootings at Kent State University.

Identity Evropa members at Denver's Civic Center Park in November. - IDENTITY EVROPA TWITTER
Identity Evropa members at Denver's Civic Center Park in November.
Identity Evropa Twitter
As such, she was deeply concerned when she learned about Identity Evropa's incursions into Colorado. While some people feel that talking publicly about the organization only serves to give it the attention its leaders seek, she favors speaking out. "I think it's a dangerous ideology that should be countered on all fronts," she says. "I think it's especially dangerous for youth."

Others who feel as the woman does have formed an online community that uses what she refers to as "a kind of crowd-sourcing" to react to reports related to Identity Evropa and other groups like it. For example, she says, "someone stumbled upon the fact that stickers with the group's logo had been put up in the Denver suburbs and up and down the Front Range — in Lakewood, Wheat Ridge, Arvada, Boulder, Fort Collins and Greeley, including at colleges campuses like CU Boulder and CSU. We'll see these photos on their social media and then say to our group, 'Does anyone recognize this location? Can you get to it and take these down?' And we will trot out and do it."

The network extends statewide. If members don't personally live in an area where stickers or the like have popped up, they'll reach out to friends or relatives who do and recruit them for the mission.

At this point, many people won't immediately recognize the Identity Evropa logo or understand what it signifies. But the woman believes it's important that "we not allow it to be normalized. This image should be as unsettling to us as the swastika, because they have the exact same goals. They're anti-Semitic, they're racist, and they don't care for women at all. It's all about white male supremacy and their version of religious norms."

Perhaps the most prominent Identity Evropa display taken down thanks to the collective to date is one shown off in what the woman refers to as "a recruiting video associated with putting up an underpass-size tag. It shows how they made it and how they were supposedly cleaning up the city. The police were very interested in that one, because it was such a big thing — a very large installation."

Here's the video:

In addition to removing Identity Evropa markers, many of which have been placed near schools or parks, where they can be seen by children (something that particularly incenses the woman), the collective has been mapping them. And one individual who plays Ingress began noticing a correlation.

"They were putting them up at Ingress or Pokémon Go points," the woman reveals. "Once the grids for these games are laid out, they can be used for good or ill. And they were taking advantage of that."

This excerpt from the Ingress Wikipedia page offers more details about the points and how they're used:
The competition in Ingress is primarily between the two opposing factions rather than between individual players, and players never interact directly in the game or suffer any kind of damage other than temporarily running out of "XM," the power that fuels all actions except movement and communication. The gameplay consists of capturing "portals" at places of cultural significance, such as public art, landmarks, monuments, etc., and linking them to create virtual triangular "control fields" over geographical areas.

Progress in the game is measured on an individual level primarily by accumulating "Access Points" (or AP), and AP are awarded for a variety of in-game actions: destroying or damaging an enemy portal, capturing, linking, or recharging a portal, creating a control field, and other actions. Players of opposing factions can "battle" indirectly in approximate real time for control of portals, with one faction attacking a portal to destroy its resources and defenses and the other faction restoring them as they are damaged, but there is no personal penalty for "losing" a portal, the destruction of a field the player created, or any other reason. The only scored competition is between the factions.
Additionally, there's a strong resemblance between the Ingress emblem and the one used by Identity Evropa. Indeed, IE's inverted triangle, which mimics the geometric shapes used to identify categories of prisoners at concentration camps, is a virtual reproduction of the design encased within the Ingress hexagon. Both use white outlines over blue backgrounds as well.

Take a look for yourself:

click to enlarge The Ingress logo, left, and a flag bearing the Identity Evropa logo displayed at Civic Center Park at an event this summer. - GOOGLE PLUS/FILE PHOTO
The Ingress logo, left, and a flag bearing the Identity Evropa logo displayed at Civic Center Park at an event this summer.
Google Plus/File photo
Ingress was originally released in late 2013, several years before Identity Evropa's birth. The woman doesn't know if early Identity Evropa members were simply fans or players of Ingress who co-opted the logo or if there's some other tie that has yet to be discovered. But she strongly doubts that the similarities between the designs are coincidental.

Whatever the case, the woman sees Identity Evropa's increasing hate-mongering in Colorado and beyond as "a precursor to the 2020 election. This is the ultra-right, white-supremacist movement getting themselves ready."

Her collective plans to be prepared, too. Members regularly monitor Identity Evropa on Twitter "to see what they're up to," she says. "And then we do what we can to stop it."

She acknowledges that "most of the people involved in this are younger than I am by at least twenty or thirty years. Some of them are also involved in groups that support immigrants and are against the president's ideology about immigration. Other people, like me, come to it through long association with groups like the ADL."

In her words, "we are moms and grandmas against violence and hate."
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts