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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Highway sign hacked with white supremacist messages on Memorial Day

An interstate road sign in Alabama displayed messages supporting white supremacists on Memorial Day. The Alabama Department of Transportation says the messages referencing Patriot Front came after a contractor's message board was hacked.    (Photo courtesy of @sahughz/Twitter)
By Timothy Bella Washington Post

Travelers in Alabama driving on Interstate 65 to parties and barbecues on Memorial Day might have seen messages on digital road signs honoring veterans who died fighting for the United States.

But that’s not what some drivers near Clanton, Ala., saw on Monday. Instead, motorists reported seeing a sign that was apparently hacked to display the words “Reclaim America,” a white nationalist slogan, and “Patriot Front US,” referencing the white supremacist group that was involved in the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

“How does this come about?” wrote Sarah Hughes, a motorist who captured photos of the sign and posted them on Twitter. “Weird as hell.”

A contractor’s portable message board was hacked on I-65 in Chilton County, Ala., on Monday afternoon, John McWilliams, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) West Central Region, told The Washington Post in a statement.

“A citizen alerted a nearby state trooper about the message, who then contacted ALDOT,” McWilliams said Tuesday. “ALDOT personnel immediately responded and turned the message board off. No other message boards on I-65 were affected.”

McWilliams added that ALDOT is investigating how the white supremacist language appeared on the sign near Clanton, about 40 miles northwest of Montgomery, Ala. Officials have given no immediate indication of who is responsible for apparently hacking the interstate sign.

The news was first reported by

Hughes told The Post that she was driving home to Birmingham from a weekend at Alabama’s Gulf Coast when she saw the white supremacist messages that have recently popped up around her home city from supporters of Patriot Front.

“When I saw it, I thought, ‘Oh, it’s the same guys,’ ” said Hughes, a 31-year-old attorney. “I was kind of shocked.”

The hacked Alabama road sign comes at a time when President Biden has declared white supremacy “the most dangerous terrorist threat” to the country. During his commencement address at Howard University this month, Biden told the graduating class at the historically Black university that he pledged “to stand up against the poison of white supremacy, as I did in my inaugural address - to single it out as the most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland is white supremacy.”

“I don’t have to tell you that progress toward justice often meets ferocious pushback from the oldest and most sinister of forces,” Biden said in the May 13 address, after quoting Donald Trump’s equivocating response to the 2017 rally in Charlottesville that killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injured 19 others. “That’s because hate never goes away.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) tracked at least 13 hate groups in Alabama in 2021, including the Proud Boys.

The discussion surrounding white supremacists and white nationalists in Alabama intensified this month after Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) said that people identified as “white extremists” and white nationalists should be allowed to serve in the U.S. armed forces. When asked by a reporter with WBHM in Birmingham whether white nationalists should be allowed to serve in the military, Tuberville replied, “Well, they call them that. I call them Americans.”

After Tuberville was criticized, a spokesman told The Post that the senator “resents the implication that the people in our military are anything but patriots and heroes.”

Patriot Front, the white supremacist group whose name was displayed on the interstate sign, is a Texas-based hate group that broke off from Vanguard America and formed after the Charlottesville rally, the SPLC says. Its members have chanted “Reclaim America” at rallies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Washington and Boston in recent years, according to news reports. Patriot Front is responsible for “the vast majority of white supremacist propaganda distributed in the United States” since 2019, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

It’s not the first time that language promoting Patriot Front has made its way into a public space in Alabama. In July, graffiti beneath a Birmingham bridge appeared with “Patriot Front US” spray-painted in red and blue letters, reported. Other Patriot Front graffiti has also been spotted in Birmingham, a city with a population that’s nearly 70 percent Black, according to U.S. census data.

A photo posted to Twitter this month showed more Patriot Front graffiti along the Red Mountain Expressway in Birmingham with the words, “We Dare Defend Our Rights.” The Patriot Front graffiti was later removed, but the message left Sydney Duncan, the attorney director for the Magic Legal Center in Birmingham, saddened that hate had become so public in some parts of Alabama.

“White supremacy is alive and well,” Duncan wrote.

Hughes said she was traveling north to Birmingham when she pulled over on I-65 to take photos of the messages on the sign. She had seen Confederate monuments and flags on that drive before, but that kind of messaging on government-owned property was different, she said. A police officer who was already at the scene waved at her to keep driving, Hughes added.

When she returned home, Hughes said she felt compelled to share the images due to the ongoing conversation happening among Birmingham residents about the promotion of Patriot Front in public spaces.

“Some people might perceive this as upsetting and scary, and a sign of the worsening of our country,” she said. “But if this is their strategy, then I’m not really impressed.” She added, “They’re a dying breed.”