MADISON, Wisconsin (JTA) — A neo-Nazi group of around 20 people marched through this Midwestern capital city on Saturday morning brandishing black-and-white swastika flags, chanting “There will be blood” and saluting Adolf Hitler.
The group wore shirts labeled “Blood Tribe,” identifying them as members of a white supremacist group that the Anti-Defamation League says “openly directs its vitriol at Jews, ‘non-whites’ and the LGBTQ+ community” and “aims to usher in a resurgence of Nazi ideas and ultimately build a white ethno-state.” The group was founded two years ago and is based in Maine, where its founder had hoped to build a compound, but has adherents elsewhere.
The demonstrators expressed anti-Israel messages, in addition to antisemitic ones, as they stood in front of the Wisconsin State Capital for about 30 minutes before marching to a nearby park. They chanted “Israel is not our friend” and shouted “We are everywhere,” according to bystanders. They also hurled racial slurs at onlookers.
Videos posted to social media also showed the group stopping in front of the fourth-oldest surviving synagogue structure in the United States, James Madison Park’s Gates of Heaven, which is no longer actively used.
The incident follows a Madison Police investigation into a November 7 incident, in which a group of Jewish students reported having a rock thrown at them after attending a vigil supporting Israel. According to the ADL, there was a 400% spike in reported antisemitic incidents nationally in the month since Hamas’s October 7 massacre in Israel, in which 3,000 terrorists murdered some 1,200 people in southern Israel. In the days following the devastating onslaught, which sparked an ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, pro-Palestinian protesters at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the state’s flagship public campus, chanted “Glory to the martyrs,” as well as, “We will liberate the land by any means necessary.”
“What was clear to me quite quickly is they were emboldened to speak because of the events in Israel,” said Ben Newman, a Jewish student at the University of Wisconsin, regarding the neo-Nazi marchers. “It is disheartening that people do not see that connection between the amount of speech against Israel, the rising antisemitism, and the fact that the worst members of our society, the neo-Nazis, feel emboldened to come out.”
Gov. Tony Evers, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway, and several lawmakers condemned the demonstration.
“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,” Evers said in a statement. “It’s repulsive and disgusting, and I join Wisconsinites in condemning and denouncing their presence in our state in the strongest terms possible.”
The neo-Nazis briefly walked on the University of Wisconsin campus. Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin called the group “utterly repugnant” and gave a rundown of university resources in a statement sent to students.
“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,” Mnookin, who is Jewish, wrote in the statement.
Newman praised the administration’s swift response but added that he would like to see the same support when people who are not waving Nazi flags have also engaged in antisemitic speech.
“It’s not surprising that we’re able to condemn Nazis, but we struggle to condemn people who call for an intifada,” Newman said, referencing protests on campus. “We really need to reflect on why that is the case as we see antisemitism fester on this campus, and Jewish students feel more isolated from their non-Jewish peers.”