Pictured: Screenshot from video for the African American Policy Forum’s 30th Anniversary celebration. www.aapf.org.
by Kimberly Rivers
A group of Ventura area residents are mobilizing to push back against a show of white supremacist sentiments by removing posters and stickers that are being put up in parts of Ventura.
Nicolette Walker, 36 of Ojai, participates in the social media group Ojai For Justice and coordinates with the groups SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) Ventura County and Black Lives Matter Ventura County. She has pulled down numerous posters and stickers and contributes to a Google map the group uses to track where the propaganda is put up. They try to get them removed as quickly as possible.
Walker says the images are “mostly concentrated in downtown Ventura . . . the Westside and up and down Victoria, also around the college . . . it is straight up white nationalism, white supremacy. It’s in your face, the red and white lettering, it’s triggering and distracting from the actual message of these movements which are based in nonviolence and equity for all people.”
According to minutes of the Ventura College Area Community Council meeting from March 24, Commander Rick Murray with the Ventura Police Department said that VPD was receiving reports of the white supremacist posters and stickers. He reported that 90 stickers had been removed from Telegraph Road between the college and midtown.
One of the items is a poster depicting Ashli Babbitt, the woman shot and killed by U.S. Capitol Police during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. One image is a graphic depiction of her face with the dome of the capitol building in the background and the other is a photograph of Babbitt; both include the hashtag #SayHerName.
“It’s inappropriate to use that hashtag for a white woman who’s definitely not a martyr for justice,” said Walker. “The murder rate of black women is twice as high [as that] of white women. They make up 13% of the population, but make up 20-30% of killings by police.”
The sticker, which resembles a bumper sticker, reads “White Lives Matter” in a font that mimics “death metal band lettering,” usually with red letters outlined in black on a white background. According to Walker, “They keep changing the font, it’s getting harder to read.” The first version resembled the Coca-Cola font.
A third poster just has a quote by a right wing comedian in black and white lettering. “His name is at the bottom. It’s vague enough that it makes you Google it, that’s part of the tactic, you begin your journey down the rabbit hole, watching videos, reading articles, being indoctrinated to this way of thinking,” explained Walker.
There are about 20 people actively looking and taking down the posters and scrapping the stickers off metal light posts and other surfaces along the roads.
Walker noted that SURJ and Ojai for Justice have chosen not to share the images for further public viewing, explaining that doing so would result in “more eyes on it” which many believe would further the goals of the people putting them up. [The Ventura County Reporter has verified their content, but is opting to not reprint or otherwise distribute images of these posters and stickers.]
The group has also heard reports of white supremacist groups recruiting outside of a Midtown Ventura apartment building.
“I’m wanting our community to stand up for each other, especially white people to stand up and say this is not ok,” said Walker.
She is most troubled by the hashtag on the posters of Babbitt’s likeness.
“#SayHerName started in 2014. It was created by the African American Policy Forum . . . to draw attention to police violence towards Black women, violence that Black women face.” Walker points out the work of Kimberlé Crenshaw, an attorney and Black activist who coined the term intersectionality. The #SayHerName campaign is about the “intersection between race, gender, sex and gender based violence.” The campaign and Crenshaw’s work are rooted in exposing the “police killings of Black women that can go unnoticed in the shadow of shootings of Black men, which are getting most of the coverage.”
An example is George Floyd, who was killed in May 2020. Walker notes that, “After that there was outrage around the death of Breonna Taylor. She was killed in March, before Floyd. It took another killing, this time of a Black man, to call attention to her killing months before.”
Walker called the Babbitt posters “a deliberate attempt to distract and co-opt . . . a movement for Black women . . . They try to make [Babbitt] into a martyr, when she’s a traitor.”
Walker said she’s passionate about “equity and racial justice. I feel like a lot of the time people who are in this work want to focus on all the things that are going on nationally. It’s also really important to look at what’s going on locally. I want everyone in Ventura County to feel safe and welcome and not feel traumatized when they come out of their house.”
If you see this type of graffiti, the public is asked to photograph it and geo-tag it so that authorities can locate it. Email image and information to firstname.lastname@example.org. The city of Ventura’s graffiti hotline is 805-654-7805. For more information, visit www.cityofventura.ca.gov/1114/Graffiti-Information.