White supremacists in Polk County, but not organized into a group
A recruitment sticker for a white supremacist group was found last year at a gas station in Eagle Lake.
Kimberly C. Moore
Editor's Note: This is the fourth part in a weeklong series examining racial issues and their history in Polk County. The project by The Ledger staff is titled "Black In Polk."
EAGLE LAKE — Local children’s book author and teacher Fred Koehler got out of his car at the RaceTrac station on the corner of State Road 540 and U.S. 17 last November and began to pump gas— that’s when he noticed the sticker.
“A Country For EVERYONE Is A Country For NO ONE.”
It's one of the many phrases used by the white supremacist group The Hundred-Handers. On the bottom of the sticker were a website, a twitter handle (which has since been taken down) and an email address.
Koehler took to social media.
“So ... what is the 'appropriate' thing to do when one finds white nationalist propaganda stuck to the side of a gas pump in one's local community?” Koehler asked his Facebook friends. “I honestly don't know, but here's the best I could come up with on short notice:
1. Take it down.
2. Do a little research and find out that it is in fact one of those 'blood and soil' type organizations recruiting right here in Polk County.
3. Remind my friends that racism is still a thing; it's alive locally; and it's going to take all of us to fight it.”
Children’s book author and teacher Fred Koehler found a white supremacy recruitment sticker at an area gas station last November.
According to Vassar.edu, “The Hundred-Handers is a network of individual white supremacists who obtain from a central email source white supremacist stickers. They then post them in public places. As platforms like Twitter and Facebook step up policing hate groups and removing them from their sites, The Hundred-Handers are sharing their messages in an anonymous, but public way.
“It’s a strategy used by many racist groups, including those who use imagery taken from Greco-Roman antiquity,” the Vassar website states. “The network takes its name from the many-headed and many-limbed monsters who, according to the Greek poet Hesiod’s Theogony, helped Zeus and the Olympian gods defeat the Titans in the battle for control of the universe.”
An interview with the anonymous “Head” of The Hundred-Handers can be found on a web archive.
“The Hundred-Handers were created in the summer of 2018 as a solution to the continuing issue of [real-life] violence and harassment many people engaged in white advocacy were facing,” The Head stated. “How is it possible to get a message out into the real world while mitigating risk to the activist? We’ve seen a number of groups of varying levels of prominence and success be taken down by the actions of a few, we avoid that by removing the individual element. Anonymous Head, anonymous Hands.”
The web archive also has a page showing photos of the stickers in various locations from Kentucky to Texas to Utah to England. The stickers have messages like “CLOSED BORDERS The Best Vaccine,” “UNITY IS STRENGTH, DIVERSITY IS WEAKNESS,” and “Western Civilization is White Civilization.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama, which tracks hate groups, lists 16 in operation in the state of Florida, but none in Polk County. They include The Patriot Front, a white nationalist group, several Ku Klux Klan groups, the United Skinhead Nation, and the American Identity Movement, also a white nationalist group.
Scott Wilder, a spokesman for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, said if their organization were monitoring hate groups in the county, they wouldn't share that information with the media.
“But, as it happens, we are not — we run across individuals and occasional incidents, but there are no organized current groups with meetings, etc., who are actively working against minorities or any specifically identifiable group of people,” Wilder said.
As for Koehler, who also helped raise money to move a Confederate monument out of Munn Park in 2019, he said he continues to fight against racism and bigotry.
“An awakening is at hand, with a new generation of leaders and activists who are all in,” Koehler said. “We just need to support them.”
Ledger reporter Kimberly C. Moore can be reached at email@example.com
or 863-802-7514. Follow her on Twitter at @KMooreTheLedger.