A white power symbol associated with Romania’s historical fascist movement — and which has since been used by white nationalists — was found spray-painted near the scene of a fire that engulfed part of the Highlander Education and Research Center on Friday.
The symbol, seen in a picture published by the Knoxville News Sentinel Wednesday, appears to be what was historically a symbol used by the Iron Guard. The guard was the military wing of — and later shorthand for — the Legion of the Archangel Michael, a Romanian fascist movement that was a considerable political force in the 1930s.
The News Sentinel reported that the fire destroyed the main office, including the partial archives, of the Highlander Center, which hosted Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, among many others, during the Civil Rights Movement, and still provides organizing and leadership development training. No one was injured in the fire, the Highlander Center said in a press release Tuesday.
The center, which is in Woolardtown, Tennessee, also said that it “found a symbol connected to the white power movement spray-painted on the parking lot connected to the main office.”
The News Sentinel noted that the same symbol — which looks like a hashtag, “#,” but with three lines in each direction rather than two — was drawn on one of the Christchurch shooter’s weapons.
“Right-wing extremists in Europe and some in the United States have occasionally used that symbol, including in Tennessee,” the Anti-Defamation League’s Mark Pitcavage told the paper.
The News Sentinel noted that the symbol has appeared alongside other graffiti associated with the Traditionalist Worker Party, a recently-disbanded, U.S.-based white nationalist group. The group’s founder, Matthew Heimbach, was photographed wearing a t-shirt with the symbol alongside a graphic of the Iron Guard’s founder and lifelong leader, Corneliu Codreanu.
“It’s not a traditional, throw-it-in-your-face symbol that you would immediately recognize,” Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Coffey told the paper Tuesday. “But it has been used by individuals in the past … We have seen this symbol associated with different groups.”
Read the News Sentinel’s coverage of the fire below: