In its online salvo against antifa and “far-left mobs,” President Trump’s reelection campaign displayed a marking the Nazis once used to designate political prisoners in concentration camps.
A red inverted triangle was first used in the 1930s to identify Communists, and was applied as well to Social Democrats, liberals, Freemasons and other members of opposition parties. The badge forced on Jewish political prisoners, by contrast, featured a yellow triangle overlaid by a red triangle.
The red symbol appeared in Facebook ads run by Trump and Vice President Pence, as well as the “Team Trump” page. It was featured alongside text warning of “Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups” and asking users to sign a petition about antifa, a loose collection of anti-fascist activists whom the Trump administration has sought to link to recent violence, despite arrest records that show their involvement is trivial.
Facebook on Thursday afternoon deactivated the ads that included the inverted red triangle.
“We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organized hate,” said Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman. “Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol.”
But the ads on the president’s page alone, which began running on Wednesday, gained as many as 950,000 impressions by Thursday morning. Identical ads on Pence’s page gained as many as 500,000 impressions.
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, said, “The red triangle is an antifa symbol,” pointing to examples of iPhone cases and water bottles branded with the insignia. A more common emblem for the anti-fascist movement includes two flags, one red and one black, enclosed in a circle.
Eighty-eight ads with the inverted red triangle ran in total — across pages for Trump, Pence and the official “Team Trump” page on the social network.
Variations of the ad used a yield sign, which has the same shape and a similar color scheme but is notably distinct in featuring only a red outline and a white interior. Some of the material also featured a stop sign.
Trump has made antifa — a label associated with anti-fascist protesters who infamously sparred with far-right figures after his election in 2016 — a centerpiece of his response to recent demonstrations in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. The effort to rally his supporters using the specter of a marauding horde resembles the emphasis he placed on the threat of a migrant caravan heading to the U.S. border in the lead-up to the midterm election in 2018.