White supremacist fliers found at Canton Christmas parade
CANTON, N.C. (WLOS) —
Canton town leaders said their Christmas parade last week was a huge success. But they also said there was an unwelcome presence.
A group called Identity Europa placed fliers along the parade route.
“I'm not going to let that distraction divide us,” Mayor Zeb Smathers said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center identified the organization as a white nationalist group. Most of the posters have been removed, but at least one was still up Monday.
Residents said they reject any message of racism or hate.
“That's absolutely not what God would want us to do. And especially during the Christmas season, you don't even like to think about something like that,” Tom Pope said.
“We don't agree with that at all. That's not what this town's about,” his son Tim said.
The mayor said he has no specific evidence that the fliers are linked to the town's discussion over Confederate flags at town events, which he said remains in open discussion.
“What I do know is that their actions were made with the intent to come into our town during our Christmas celebration to try to recruit people to their hate group,” Smathers said.
Tom Pope is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and said they have no endorsement whatsoever of hate groups.
"We have nothing to do with any of these other groups that claim the Confederate flag, the neo-Nazis, the white supremacists,” he said.
The mayor and residents said they stand united against anyone who would try to divide them.
“We're God-fearing people, and that's just not what we believe in at all,” Tim Pope said.
“We're going to take a stand against the ones that divide us, no matter who they are, where they're from or what they're trying to do,” Smathers said.
Identity Europa did not respond to requests for comment Monday..