Photo: RAWSALERTS X post screengrab

By Shereen Siewert | Wausau Pilot & Review

A group that promotes white supremacist views marched through Madison Saturday waving swastika flags and shouting racial slurs at bystanders, prompting criticism from some lawmakers and university officials.

About 20 people, dressed in red shirts and black pants, were part of the demonstration apparently by the “Blood Tribe,” a neo-Nazi group that openly directs its vitriol at Jews, non-whites and the LGBTQ+ community, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Witnesses and social media posts show the group marching up State Street before pausing outside the south entrance of the statehouse.

The march comes amid a rise of antisemitic rhetoric nationwide that has skyrocketed since the October conflict between Israel and Hamas erupted. Blood Tribe members follow former U.S. Marine Christopher Polhaus, whose white supremacist beliefs include elements of Nose Paganism and Esoteric Hitlerism – which exalts Hitler as a deity, the ADL states.

The Anti-Defamation League says the Blood Tribe is a growing group that claims to have chapters across North America and does not allow women to join. Jewish community leaders say the group spreads fear throughout the state.

According to the Madison Police Department, there were around 20 people that were “carrying Nazi flags.” Police noted there were no weapons displayed and that they had received many calls to report the group, but didn’t take action against it.

“The Madison Police Department does not support hateful rhetoric. The department has an obligation to protect First Amendment rights of all,” they said in a post on Facebook.

According to the ADL, Blood Tribe presents itself as a hardcore white supremacist group, rejecting white supremacists who lean into more palatable “optics” by eschewing swastikas and other explicit neo-Nazi symbols. As the group’s Ohio chapter posted in May 2023, referring to the radicalization pipeline, “We’re the end of the pipeline type group.” As such, Blood Tribe tends to recruit from among people already committed to white supremacy rather than people new to the movement.

Pohlhaus has decried the strategy of softening optics as conforming to enemy expectations. In some instances, he has even called out other white supremacists as “pedophile protectors,” asserting that these groups are aiding the LGBTQ+ movement by not being extreme enough. Blood Tribe sees themselves as both the last remaining bulwark against enemies of the white race and the only path to a white ethnostate.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) was one of several lawmakers who condemned the march, posting online that the march “has no place in Wisconsin.”

“At a time when we are seeing disturbing spikes in antisemitism, it is more important than ever to denounce this hate in no uncertain terms,” Baldwin’s post said.

The governor also issued a statement on Saturday regarding the march.

“To see neo-Nazis marching in our streets and neighborhoods and in the shadow of our State Capitol building spreading their disturbing, hateful messages is truly revolting,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement Saturday. “Let us be clear: neo-Nazis, antisemitism, and white supremacy have no home in Wisconsin. We will not accept or normalize this rhetoric and hate. It’s repulsive and disgusting, and I join Wisconsinites in condemning and denouncing their presence in our state in the strongest terms possible.”

The marchers passed near the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus as well. Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin issued a statement condemning the group’s actions.

“I am horrified to see these symbols here in Madison. Hatred and antisemitism are completely counter to the university’s values, and the safety and well-being of our community must be our highest priorities.”