Note: This post was updated on Oct. 15 with a statement from the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association and a screenshot of footage from its security cameras.
Police are investigating a suspected hate crime that occurred in downtown D.C. on Oct. 14, when a witness saw two men hanging a racist banner in front of the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association national office.
The witness, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells City Paper that he was walking down G Street NW at around 1:30 p.m. when he “saw two kids hanging a banner” on the building. He recognized the name “Identity Evropa” on the banner as a white supremacist group from watching coverage of the violence at the Charlottesville, Virginia rally in August, in which one counter-protester was killed by a white supremacist.
“I started yelling at them and they quickly ran around the corner,” the witness says. “They might have taken a selfie or two in front of [the banner],” he adds. The witness describes the two suspects as “generic twenty-something bros, kind of preppy-ish.”
The witness says some limo drivers saw him yelling at the two suspects and got out of their vehicles. Once the witness explained to the limo drivers what the banner meant, they helped him cut it down and the witness called the police.
The AILA released the following footage from its outside security cameras:
“For more than 70 years, AILA and its members have fought against xenophobia and advocated for laws and policies that honor America’s proud history as a nation of immigrants,” the organization’s executive director Benjamin Johnson says in a statement to City Paper. “Sadly, there has been a dramatic and disturbing increase in anti-immigrant rhetoric and racially charged scapegoating and stereotyping of immigrants. Too many politicians seem willing to pander to this kind of fear and hatred and too few are willing to stand up against it. In this environment our mission and the work of our members have never been more important.
“This incident comes on the heels of inflammatory and derogatory statements by Attorney General Jeff Sessions towards immigrants, asylum seekers, and the attorneys that represent them. The Attorney General’s remarks were irresponsible and wrong. However, AILA and its members will not be deterred or distracted from our work and our mission to stand by America’s immigrants and to advocate for fair and just immigration laws and policies, by those who peddle fear and hatred. Not today, not ever.”
“While the message on the banner may not seem racist to a casual observer, the message and the target are obviously an attempt at intimidation,” the witness wrote in an email to City Paper. “I don’t know how often this happens downtown but with neo-Nazis and other racists carving swastikas, leaving nooses, and racist flyers, and assorted other racist acts, I wanted to reach out to the press.”