Junius isn’t actually an equine. And his customers walk on two legs. They’re all furries, people who identify with—and often dress up like—their favorite animals, a fantasy that may include various forms of sex but not bestiality. These hirsute hobbyists are in town for Furrydelphia, the area’s first convention for furries. Many are queer and very left-wing, so it’s no surprise that the stickers—a swastika inside a paw print with a red slash through it—hold special appeal.
Many of these people grew up as outcasts and were bullied at school, and though they’re often mocked as horny fetishists, the furries insist they stand for much more than their sexual proclivities. They say they’re all about being inclusive and have welcomed people with niche gender identities and odd social quirks into their fold. But there are limits to that tolerance, and since the 2016 election, Junius and other furries have been confronting their version of the right-wing extremists who descended on Charlottesville. These “alt-furries,” as they’re known, hold similar views as the so-called alt-right, a white nationalist, anti-globalist movement that largely supports President Donald Trump.
The alt-furries started as a joke on Twitter, as right-leaning furries used the #AltFurries hashtag to share pro-Trump, furry-themed memes and promote satirical policies, like a ban on “species mixing.” But as the popularity of the hashtag grew, it attracted people who critics say are racist.
Today, most alt-furries interact only online, but some have taken their ideas into the real world. This past summer, one man came to Anthrocon, the world’s largest furry convention, in a Confederate flag “fursuit,” holding a Trump sign, and some people distributed alt-furry pamphlets at an Orlando, Florida, furry convention. Others have started wearing armbands strikingly similar to those worn by Nazis. To many furries, what started as an online joke isn’t funny anymore.
Before Junius arrived in Philly, alt-furries had threatened him online for slamming them on social media, calling them bigots and fascists; some said they wanted to “break his neck.” One forum group attempted to find his personal information and release it online. The threats don’t frighten him—but he is worried that a growing number of furries are vulnerable to recruitment by white supremacists. “Nazis are looking for these same types of alienated white dudes,” he says. (Like most furries Newsweek spoke to, he didn’t want his real name used in print.) “These people just want to hurt and incite—and are beginning to take their trolling offline.”