Posters call Fargo man 'Nazi,' man says he's 'pro-white'
Editor's note: This article was originally published Feb. 3, 2017. An update to this story can be found here.
FARGO—A Fargo man is the target of signs posted downtown accusing him of being a white supremacist and a Nazi, posters that show the man's photo and ask people to tell him he's not welcome here.
Asked in an email interview whether the words "Nazi" and "white supremacist" were fair descriptions of him, Pete Tefft answered this way:
"I'm a white Christian and 100 percent pro-white. 'White Supremacist' is a word used to intimidate Christians and to stifle discord when all of us should be communicating," Tefft said.
In both the email interview and a follow-up interview in person, Tefft did not concede that the terms Nazi or white supremacist applied to him.
"I'm interested solely in legal political action to further pro-white interests. We as white people have a right to exist, our own identity, and a right to campaign politically and legally for our own interests," Tefft said via email, adding he plans to respond to the posters by starting a newspaper or newsletter with the help of "many associates."
He said that newspaper will take a firm stance "against anti-white/anti-Christian bigotry, document these events that happen all too often, expose fake news, and endorse pro-white candidates like President (Donald) Trump."
The posters asserting that Tefft is a "Nazi" and "a proud white supremacist" began appearing around downtown Fargo on Sunday, Jan. 29.
"If you spot Pete please make sure that he knows he is not welcome in our community through your words and actions," states the poster circulated by Luke Safely of Moorhead.
Safely said he began posting the signs after friends made him aware of Tefft and he began talking politics with Tefft online.
"I just see myself as a person who is against oppressive environments," Safely said.
Tefft doesn't consider himself a white supremacist, but he does accept the term white nationalist, Safely said, based on their online conversations.
But Safely points to a page on Tinder, a dating website, that shows a photo of Tefft and a 14-word slogan as evidence of Tefft's political leanings.
The slogan reads: "We must secure the existence for our people and a future for white children."
In addition, Tefft has posted an image with a swastika online. In a recent online conversation that was prompted by a Forum story about the death of Lewis Lubka, a Fargo human rights activist, Tefft posted a graphic of the word "coexist," where the letters in the word were replaced with similarly shaped symbols associated with Nazi Germany and fascist Italy.
For example, the "x" in coexist was substituted with a swastika and the "s" was replaced with a lightning bolt character similar to characters used to represent an elite German military organization during World War II known as the Schutzstaffel, or "SS."
In the email interview, Tefft said the 14 words on his Tinder profile reflect his desire to marry a white woman and to build a family that looks like they do and shares the same heritage.
The "coexist thing," he said, was a sarcastic jab at the notion among some that anything pro-white is automatically "literally Hitler."
He said the image was a play on a popular bumper sticker that spells out "coexist," with symbols from Christianity, Judaism and Islam. He considered the version with the swastika a jab at people "stupid enough to believe that all the different groups on the original 'coexist' could actually ever get along inside a single society."
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Safely said when he began putting up the posters around downtown Fargo, he messaged Tefft to let him know what he was doing. Tefft's reaction, Safely said, was low-key.
"He said he didn't care, and he called me an 'armchair activist,' '' said Safely, who stressed that the message on his posters is not a call to harm anyone.
"I know a lot of people say, 'Go punch Nazis,' but I don't think you should commit violence against them. It only makes their views look stronger," said Safely, who added that he thinks downtown business owners should ban Tefft from their establishments.
Tefft said the posters haven't stopped him from enjoying "our beautiful city; downtown or anywhere else."
Tefft was noncommittal about whether he plans to file any kind of complaint or legal action over the posters.
Mark Friese, a Fargo attorney, said if a client asked him whether he could post handbills similar to those Safely is circulating he would encourage them not to because it might subject them to possible arrest or civil lawsuits.
On the other hand, Friese added, "If I had a client charged with posting those type of things, I think it's very unlikely that a conviction would result, because there are First Amendment implications.
"The test is: Does the statement constitute a true threat? Most hyperbole of a political nature does not constitute a true threat," Friese said.
The appearance of posters comes after Tefft said he was involved in a scuffle during the Women's March Jan. 21 in Fargo and hundreds of other cities.
Tefft recently submitted a letter to the editor that was published by The Forum online. In the letter, Tefft, a Trump supporter, said he found the march to be more anti-Trump than about women's issues. He said participants of the event were verbally and physically hostile toward conservatives who showed up, and he recounted how one participant in the march took a Confederate flag from a group of counter-demonstrating teens.
"Stealing someone's property, a child's, because they have an opposing political ideology is not an argument but an admission you lost the argument," Tefft said in his letter.
In the e-mail interview, Tefft said the flag thief ran toward him and a friend and they yelled at him that they were going to stop him. Tefft said instead of stopping, the individual tried to run through them, hitting Tefft in the face with the flag pole and jarring his glasses.
He said they detained the man briefly and recovered the flag, but the thief ultimately escaped by running into a nearby store and vanishing.
Tefft said a number of people yelled at him and his friend and tried to stop them from detaining the thief. He said when authorities showed up, he gave an account of what happened to a police officer.
"One nice lady had stood by and corroborated my account," Tefft said.
Fargo police had no official report on file concerning a scuffle at the Women's March.
Maren Day Woods, an organizer of the Fargo march, said she was aware through various sources that a minor tussle occurred as the march was winding down, but she stressed the march overall, given its size, was remarkably free of conflict.
"I have never seen a more positive group of people," she said, estimating that about 3,000 people participated in the event.
As for the posters, Safely said it appears to him that someone is going around and taking down his posters as quickly as he puts them up.
He said his first 50 posters disappeared quickly, but he isn't done with his posting.
"I've printed over 250 of them and I can print more," he said.