Facebook on Thursday removed angry ads from the Trump campaign vilifying far-left groups that included images of red triangles — which observers noted were the symbols Nazis used to mark political prisoners in concentration camps.
The campaign denied any purposeful reference to Nazi Germany in the ads, asserting instead that the inverted red triangle referred to “antifa” or anti-fascist groups. And other versions of the ads used other imagery, like a highway caution sign.
On the Trump campaign Facebook page, as well as the president and vice president’s Facebook pages, posts featuring the symbol claimed that “Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups are running through our streets and causing absolute mayhem. They are destroying our cities and rioting — it’s absolutely madness.” A link below the triangles urged readers to go to the Trump campaign’s website to “STOP ANTIFA.”
According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the inverted red triangle denoted a political prisoner in Nazi Germany — such as trade unionists, Social Democrats, Communists, and others opposed to the Nazis.
Facebook removed the ads with the red triangles in response to press inquiries and outcry from groups like Bend the Arc, a progressive Jewish organization.
“Nazis used the red triangle to mark political prisoners and people who rescued Jews,” the group wrote on Twitter. “Trump & the RNC are using it to smear millions of protestors. Their masks are off.”
The President of the United States is campaigning for reelection using a Nazi concentration camp symbol.
Nazis used the red triangle to mark political prisoners and people who rescued Jews.
Trump & the RNC are using it to smear millions of protestors.
Their masks are off. pic.twitter.com/UzmzDaRBup
— Bend the Arc: Jewish Action (@jewishaction) June 18, 2020
In a statement to several outlets, a Facebook spokesperson said the ads violated the site’s policy against “organized hate.”
“Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol,” Facebook said.
But the Trump campaign denied any intentional affiliation with the Holocaust.
Responding to reporters on Twitter, the campaign said the red triangle was “widely used by Antifa” and pointed out that the symbol was not in the Anti-Defamation League’s database of hate symbols. (An ADL spokesperson told The Washington Post that that database only refers to modern extremist symbols, not those used historically.)
This is an emoji. 🔻
It's also a symbol widely used by Antifa. It was used in an ad about Antifa.
It is not in the ADL's Hate Symbols Database. pic.twitter.com/RSzvNT0SrC
— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 & get the APP (@TrumpWarRoom) June 18, 2020
The Trump campaign’s response to the criticism, meanwhile, raised some eyebrows: The example it used to illustrate that the red triangle was an “antifa” symbol came from a Spanish user on the website spreadshirt.com