The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Hatewatch Headlines 2-19-15

By Hatewatch Staff on February 19, 2015 - 8:38 am, Posted in Hatewatch Headlines

Phoenix New Times: White supremacists target Arizona State professor and his family over his ‘whiteness’ course.

Talking Points Memo: President Obama mentions killing of Muslim students in North Carolina during speech on extremism.

Washington Post: Threatening ‘white power’ letters appear at a Connecticut police department with a history of racial tensions.

USA Today: Parents, students decry appearance of ‘white power’ signs, racial slurs at Texas prep basketball game.

Right Wing Watch: ALIPAC’s William Gheen warns that Obama will give immigrants ‘badges and guns’ to go after ‘Christian, heterosexual male’ populace.

Associated Press: Michigan man at bus stop asks two others if they are Muslim, then assaults them with a knife.

Think Progress: Business community silent as Arkansas bill to allow anti-LGBT discrimination set to become law.

Accused Houston Arsonist May Have Had Anti-Muslim Motive

By Don Terry on February 18, 2015 - 4:45 pm, Posted in Anti-Muslim, Extremist Crime

He hated Muslims.

They got what they deserved.

Things happen for a reason.

Those were the chilling words and sentiments the homeless man charged in the arson fire of a Houston mosque allegedly told a convenience store clerk shortly after part of the house of worship went up in flames Friday morning around 5:30.

The office of the Harris County District Attorney revealed the alleged statement yesterday evening when the suspect, 55-year-old Darryl Ferguson, made his first court appearance in the case, according to KPRC 2.

“He told a nearby convenience store clerk,” a court official said yesterday during Ferguson’s probable cause hearing, “that he hated Muslims, they got what they deserved, and things happen for a reason.”

Despite Ferguson’s alleged statements, the arson that heavily damaged a portion of the Quba Islamic Institute mosque and school in a residential neighborhood of Houston has not been classified as a hate crime. “It’s still under investigation,” Jeff McShan, a spokesman for the Harris County District Attorney, told Hatewatch today. “Who knows if that guy [the store clerk] is telling the truth?”

Ferguson, who has a lengthy criminal record, was arrested Monday evening after he approached arson investigators who were canvassing the neighborhood near the mosque. The authorities said Ferguson had been staying in the area and confessed to setting the fire, claiming it was accidental and he was simply trying to stay warm.

He has been charged with first-degree arson and faces from five to 99 years in prison if convicted. He is being held without bond.

McShan, the district attorney spokesman, said even if it turns out that Ferguson actually said those chilling words of hate to the store clerk he would not be charged with a hate crime because he has already been charged with the highest level of offense. In Texas, McShan said, a hate crime offense adds one degree to a charge “and he’s already at first degree and he wouldn’t be moved up.”

McShan said Ferguson’s alleged words, however, could be used against him at trial to establish guilt.

No one was injured in the blaze that took about two dozen firefighters roughly an hour to knock down. One of the three buildings – primarily used for storage – that comprise the mosque and school complex was gutted.

A telephone call to the mosque for comment today about Ferguson’s alleged statement was not returned.

Illinois Woman With Neo-Nazi Leanings Charged in Canadian Mass Murder Plot

By David Neiwert on February 18, 2015 - 8:28 am, Posted in Domestic Terrorism, Extremist Crime, Neo-Nazi

A young woman from Illinois with an apparent taste for neo-Nazi symbolism and white-supremacist beliefs was one of two people arrested last week in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for plotting to commit a mass murder at a Halifax mall on Valentine’s Day.

Lindsay Kanittha Souvannarath, a 23-year-old from Geneva, Ill., was arrested along with Randall Steven Shepherd, 20, of Halifax, at the local airport after she had flown in to meet him there. According to authorities, she confessed to the plot shortly after her arrest.

Lindsay Kanittha Souvannarath and Randall Shepherd Chicago Sun-Times/Facebook

Lindsay Kanittha Souvannarath and Randall Shepherd
Chicago Sun-Times/Facebook

A young man associated with the plot, James Gamble, 19, of nearby Timberlea, Nova Scotia, shot himself in the head as police surrounded his home on Friday morning. A fourth young man was arrested with Shepherd at the Halifax airport and then released after police determined he had nothing to do with the plot.

Canadian authorities said the trio planned to invade a local mall on Valentine’s Day, armed to the teeth, and begin killing as many people there as they could. However, all of the officials involved insisted that it was not a terrorist act, since there was no “cultural” component to the plotters’ motives.

“The attack does not appear to have been culturally motivated, therefore not linked to terrorism,” Justice Minister Peter Mackay told assembled reporters at a press conference devoted to the case on Saturday.

However, several Canadian media outlets have questioned this, including Halifax blogger Robert Cevet and Derrick O’Keefe at Ricochet Media, noting that several of the would-be perpetrators, notably Souvannarath, had clear ideological affinities that seemed to motivate them — far-right affinities.

The website Political Gates collected a number of Souvannarath’s online postings from over the years, dating back to when she was a teenager, and found a long list of images and posts that made clear that she advocated fascist and neo-Nazi ideologies, and similarly was a fan of mass violence and fantasized about it.

selection_426These images included one that she dubbed “me taking notes in class” that was a classic “White Power” logo complete with a swastika and SS symbol. Another photo shows an arm with the bloody words “White Power” carved into it with a razor. Other images include fascist flags over America and young men posing in a swastika shape with their arms. One features Adolf Hitler surrounded by prancing cartoon ponies.

The Internet sleuths at the site Kiwi Farms, where she had at one time been an active member, further tracked Souvanarrath’s activities and ascertained that she had also been an active member at a forum devoted to fascist ideology called Iron March, which is apparently operated by a man named Alexander Slavros.

Nor was Souvannarath the only member of the trio with such leanings. James Gamble’s online postings also included a fascination with mass killings, and some of his Tumblr blog posts contained admiring references to Hitler and Nazis.

Both Souvannarth and Shepherd were initially charged with conspiracy to commit murder. On Tuesday, additional charges came down against the pair, including conspiracy to commit arson, illegal possession of weapons for a purpose dangerous to the public and making a threat through social media.

Souvannarath graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 2014. Her family in Geneva is reportedly cooperating with the investigation.

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A former neighbor, Eva Schooley, recalled the woman as a young girl. “My granddaughters ran around with Lindsay,” she said. “Lindsay was a little strange. I think at one point she went kind of gothic on us for a while. She liked to dress in black, the whole gothic style.”

In his denials that the planned mass murder was a terrorist event, Justice Minister Mackay remarked: “An individual that would so recklessly and with bloody intent plot to do something like this I would suggest would also be susceptible to being motivated by groups like ISIS and others. This is the main concern — that any individual in Canada, whatever their motivation or proclivities might be, would also be susceptible to being recruited or radicalized.”

Clearly, these young people had indeed been radicalized, but not by ISIS.

Hatewatch Headlines 2-18-15

By Hatewatch Staff on February 18, 2015 - 8:14 am, Posted in Hatewatch Headlines

Everett (WA) Herald: Hindus say vandals who hit their temple with swastika, graffiti ‘have no idea what we stand for.’

Idaho Statesman: Boise woman arrested for assaulting Jewish woman, demanding she convert to Christianity.

El Paso Times: Police investigate possible anti-Muslim vandalism after tires slashed on cars.

Daily Beast: Will Obama next be targeting only Muslim extremists, or will he look in our own back yards?

WKOW-TV (Madison, WI): Police chief addresses Jewish community after anti-Semitic, pro-KKK graffiti sprayed on dozens of homes in Madison.

Salon: From nipples to militias to religious zealotry, here are 10 bizarre bills Montana’s Tea-Party legislators are promoting.

Talking Points Memo: Ben Carson says that Obama may be ‘guilty of treason’ if the DHS is shut down.

Raw Story: Texas students flash ‘White Power’ signs during basketball game against mostly black school.

Man Arrested in Montana After Alleged Threats to Kill School Children and Jews

By Bill Morlin on February 17, 2015 - 4:19 pm, Posted in Domestic Terrorism, Extremist Crime, Holocaust Denial

A 28-year-old man who threatened to kill school children and Jews is in custody in Kalispell, Mont., after a weekend fusillade of tweets that were intercepted and monitored by the spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

David Lenio

David Lenio

David Joseph Lenio was arrested by FBI agents and local police Monday afternoon at a ski resort, about 12 hours after his last tweet using variations of the name “psychic dog talks.”

Lenio, who apparently moved to Kalispell from Grand Rapids, Mich., is being held in the Flathead County Jail on two felony charges on intimidation and malicious intimidation for making online threats of violence. A search of his apartment in Kalispell turned up a handgun and two rifles – a bolt action and a semi-automatic.

Now, he also may face federal criminal charges.

In a YouTube video three years ago, the suspect, believed to have used the name “David Dave,” brandished a .32-caliber Caltech semi-automatic handgun and said that he used it for concealed carry.

FBI agents and local law enforcement agencies in Montana, Oregon and Michigan were able to track and ultimately locate the suspect because of the work of Jonathan Hutson, the chief spokesman for the Brady Campaign.

“Of all the people on Twitter with whom this white supremacist chose to tangle, he picked me,” Hutson told Hatewatch today. “I just happen to be a spokesman for the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence and I have a background as an investigative journalist.”

Hutson has 53,000 followers on his Twitter account. Lenio, using the handle @PyschicDogTalk, responded after Hutson posted a Twitter message about double killings at a free-speech event and a synagogue on Saturday in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Since last Thursday, Hutson learned, the Holocaust-denying Lenio has tweeted comments saying he wants to execute 30 or more “grade school students” and “shoot up a school” and a synagogue, and put “two in the head” of a rabbi or Jewish leader. He also said he hoped to go on a killing rampage until “cops take me out.”

Hutson, who lives near Washington, D.C., became aware of the threatening tweets from “@PyschicDogTalk2” late Saturday evening. “After I alerted Twitter to @PyschicDogTalk2’s threat to murder grade school kids, he tweeted to me, asking where my kids go to school,” Hutson told Hatewatch. “That turned my blood cold and kept me going all night long to shut this guy down.”

Jonathan Hutson

Jonathan Hutson

When Hutson reported @PyschicDogTalk2 to Twitter for account violations, Twitter shut down the account, but the user bounced back with the name @PsychicDogTalk3. Using that account name, he fired off another 91 tweets.

Early Sunday, after being awake and worried all night, Hutson said he decided to call the FBI in Portland and in Linn County, Ore., Sheriff’s Office after developing a profile that led him to belief “psychicdogtalk” might be in Oregon. Hutson sent the agencies E-mails containing the Twitter threats he had collected.

When Twitter shut down the second account, the user became @PsychicDogTalk3,” boasting about his ability to “level up,” as in a video game.

In one tweet, the poster complained of being homeless and working as a “wage slave.” His post said: “Even animals without money get land to live on, hunt & forage; but Americans without dollars must be homeless? I want to shoot up a school.”

At 2:57 a.m. on Feb. 12, he posted: “I bet I could get at least 12 unarmed sitting ducks if I decide to go on a killing spree in a #school. Sounds better than being a wage slave.”

Less than 45 minutes later, he followed that with: “USA needs a Hitler to rise to power and fix our #economy and i’m about ready to give my life to the cause or just shoot a bunch of #kikes…”

And seconds later: “What do you think costs more in most U.S. cities? A gun with enough ammo to kill 100 school kids or the security deposit on an apartment?”

On Feb. 14, the poster opined that “no one faults slaves who snapped & violently lashed out at their masters or the society which enslaved them. Why different for wage slaves?”

“If I can’t even afford habitat to live on, why the fuck shouldn’t I shoot up a #school and #teach the world something about ‘mental health’?” he said in a follow-up tweet.

“This working and not having a god damn thing to show for it bullshit makes me wanna execute grade #school #kids til the cops take me out too.”

Asked if he believed his actions may have averted a tragedy, Hutson was modest in his reply. “I think if you see something, say something. The swift action of law enforcement definitely averted a Sandy Hook-style tragedy.”

Hatewatch Headlines 2/17/15

By Hatewatch Staff on February 17, 2015 - 1:28 pm, Posted in Hatewatch Headlines

Raw Story: Mississippi lawmaker says calling blacks violent and crazy isn’t racist, it’s ‘just a way of talking.’

DiversityInc: Police officer who assaulted 57-year-old Indian grandfather arrested, will be fired from Madison, AL, force.

Think Progress: Rhode Island Muslim school vandalized with racist graffiti: ‘Now This is a Hate Crime’.

Right Wing Watch: Rick Wiles warns that Muslim ‘avengers’ will destroy America, thanks to abortion rights and Obamacare.

Salon: The right’s border-security farce, and why it won’t address any of the issues around immigration.

The Great War Blog: A look back at ‘Birth of a Nation,’ the most racist film ever made, and its lingering historical effects.

Huffington Post: Indiana man says he got ‘riled up’ by Fox News before torching Muslim mosque.

Homeless Man Charged in Houston Islamic Center Arson, But Motive Remains Unknown

By Bill Morlin on February 17, 2015 - 12:48 pm, Posted in Anti-Muslim, Extremist Crime

A homeless man has been charged with arson in connection with a fire last week that heavily damaged a portion of the Quba Islamic Institute mosque and school in a residential neighborhood of Houston.

Suspect Darryl Ferguson, 55, was arrested Monday evening after he approached arson investigators who were canvassing the neighborhood near the mosque, the Houston Chronicle reported. Investigators said Ferguson, who has a lengthy criminal record and had been staying in the area, confessed to setting the fire, claiming it was accidental.

Authorities have not said if they intend to classify the arson as a hate crime.

In a Facebook posting and media interviews, mosque officials say they were told by investigators that the fire at 5:30 a.m. Friday was deliberately started by someone using accelerants.

Two dozen firefighters from the Houston Fire Department had the fire knocked down within an hour but the blaze gutted one of three buildings ­­— primarily used for storage — that comprise the mosque and school complex.

No one was injured. A damage estimate hasn’t been released.

It is the latest in a string of at least four suspicious fires or arson attempts at Houston-area mosques in the past decade.

The arson fire in Houston occurred just three days after the murder of three Muslim university students in Chapel Hill, Va. The FBI is now conducting an initial inquiry to determine if those killings constitute a hate crime, warranting a federal investigation.

“A lot of people have the feeling that perhaps the mentality is the same,” Ahsan Zahid, son of the Houston institute’s imam, told the Los Angeles Times after the fire at the mosque.

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Zahid noted the preliminary finding of arson and added, “I hope it’s not a hate crime.”

Houston — the fourth largest city in the United States — has the largest population of Muslims in Texas, an estimated 57,000 people. The state of Texas, meanwhile, has the nation’s eighth largest Muslim population, 420,000 people, who are served by 166 mosques.

Some of them, it appears, have been targets of hate crimes.

In March 2011, a fire at the Clear Lake mosque in southeastern Houston damaged a library, kitchen and women’s prayer room. Two months later, three masked men captured on security cameras poured gasoline on prayer rugs at the Madrasah Islamiah mosque, but a large fire failed to ignite.

In May 2004, a late-night arson fire damaged the Msjiad Almuhaymin mosque in Houston while the facility was locked and vacant.

There have been no arrests in any of those arsons, according to media reports.

But last May, at the end of a lengthy sting investigation, the FBI arrested a man from a Houston suburb who allegedly plotted to kill police officers and blow up government buildings and mosques.

Robert James Talbot Jr., 38, of Katy, Texas, who used the online alias of “Robert Liberty,” pleaded guilty in October to attempted interference with commerce by robbery and solicitation to commit a crime of violence.

Most court documents in his case are sealed from public viewing, but the docket report shows Talbot is scheduled for sentencing on April 10.

FBI Probing Murder of 3 Muslim Students Amid Hate Crime Questions and Widespread Fear

By Bill Morlin on February 13, 2015 - 3:58 pm, Posted in Anti-Muslim, Hate Crime

The FBI has opened an “initial inquiry” – a procedural step before a full investigation – into this week’s fatal shootings of three young Muslims at a housing complex in Chapel Hill, N.C., near the University of North Carolina.

“The FBI has also opened a parallel preliminary inquiry to determine whether or not any federal laws were violated related to the case,” the FBI said in a statement, the Washington Post reports in today’s editions.

Chapel Hill police currently are the lead agency in investigating the shooting deaths on Tuesday of newlyweds Deah Barakat, 23, and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, all students at the University of North Carolina.

Before a formal investigation is begun by the FBI, the agency frequently opens what it calls an “initial inquiry” to determine if there is sufficient evidence to justify full-blown federal intervention. With the FBI involved, federal charges can be filed against suspects in an investigation, supplanting or supporting state charges.

A neighbor of the victims, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, surrendered to police after the shootings. He has been charged with three counts of murder and remains in jail. Chapel Hill police have said “an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking” may have been a factor in the shootings.

But Mohammad Abu-Salha, the father of the sisters who were killed, has publicly said the murders were a hate crime and called upon the FBI to investigate. “This has hate crime written all over it,” the father told reporters at the funeral of his daughters. Others, including fellow Muslims, have echoed that sentiment.

The Washington Post reported that the shooting “has stirred a deep sense of fear and vulnerability” for Muslims living in and near Chapel Hill. “As thousands gathered Thursday to mourn the victims, more and more people there were discussing whether bias played a role in the shootings and the larger issue of anti-Islamic sentiment,” the newspaper reported.

Hicks’ Facebook page was filled with statements against religion of all types, although Islam was not particularly singled out. Hicks also was a gun enthusiast, as evidenced by his many postings on gun websites and also an Amazon “wish list” that included such items as rifle scopes. In addition, the sisters’ father has said that one of his daughters told him before her murder that she had a scary neighbor who appeared to be upset by the traditional Muslim hijabs the two women wore.

There are other reasons for Muslims in America to feel under siege. Recent weeks and months have been thick with news of jihadist horrors — the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the murder of American Kayla Mueller by the Islamic State and the beheadings and burning alive of a Jordanian pilot by the same group, the Taliban’s mass murder of 145 people at a school in Pakistan, and more.

A poll out earlier this week, from LifeWay, a Christian nonprofit research group, found that 27% of Americans now see the barbaric Islamic State as representative of mainstream Islam. A variety of politicians and pundits have been aggressively attacking Muslims and their faith, often in the guise of  working to pass laws to prevent the imposition of Shariah law on American courts — an impossibility under the Constitution.

And that’s not all.

This morning, American Muslims awoke to the news that a large building at a new Islamic community center in Houston had been entirely gutted by an early morning fire. Though officials were not saying if the blaze was caused by arson, officials at the center said they had been told that it was started by a person, although perhaps accidentally.

Imam Zahid Abdullah also told ABC News that he saw a suspicious man near the center on Wednesday and last night. “My son was passing by here and somebody was sitting her in a white Ram, making mockery, chanting, “ he said.

Another Islamic center in Houston was attacked by arsonists in 2011. There have been similar attacks on Islamic centers in Jacksonville, Fla., and Corvallis, Ore.

President Obama issued a statement about the triple homicide in Chapel Hill today that sought to reassure Muslims, calling the murders “brutal and outrageous,” and confirming that the FBI’s would see if federal laws were violated.

“No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship,” the president said.

Hatewatch Headlines 2/13/15

By Hatewatch Staff on February 13, 2015 - 8:00 am, Posted in Hatewatch Headlines

New York Times: Family members of slain Muslims in Chapel Hill call for a hate-crime investigation.

Center for American Progress: ‘Fear Inc. 2.0’ report details Islamophobia network’s efforts to manufacture hate in America.

Warren Throckmorton: League of the South plans to celebrate 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination.

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (IA): Two Waterloo men arrested for hate crime in vandalization of Bosnian man’s car.

Right Wing Watch: Bryan Fischer is outraged that a ‘gay Gestapo’ is forcing Alabama judges into ‘slavery.’

Raw Story: This preacher’s anti-gay rant to an Alabama city council is both vile and absurd.

AlterNet: Facebook blocks Native American users for having ‘fake’ names.

Think Progress: Kris Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of state, says his voter-suppression crusade is meant to ‘protect immigrants.’

SPLC Report ‘Age of the Wolf’ Details Rise in Lone Wolf Domestic Terrorism

By Hatewatch Staff on February 12, 2015 - 3:26 pm, Posted in Domestic Terrorism

screenshot_2015-02-12_10.40.13As the White House prepares to host a major summit examining the threat of violent extremism next week, the Southern Poverty Law Center today released a study of domestic terrorism that found the vast majority of this violence over the last five years has come “lone wolves”or “leaderless resistance”groups composed of no more than two people.

The report, Age of the Wolf: A Study of the Rise of Lone Wolf and Leaderless Resistance Terrorism, examines more than 60 domestic terror incidents and covers a period between April 1, 2009, and Feb. 1, 2015, and was based on records maintained by Indiana State University and the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database, along with the SPLC’s own tally of domestic terror incidents.

Among the study’s primary findings were that almost three-quarters of the incidents were carried out, or planned, by a lone wolf, a single person acting without accomplices. Ninety percent of the incidents were the work of no more than two persons. Using the data, the study also found that a violent attack from either the radical right or homegrown jihadists was foiled or carried out, on average, every 34 days.

A timeline included with the report details deadly attacks and plots across the country, including a 2014 rampage in Nevada by a husband and wife with antigovernment views that left two police officers and another man dead, a 2012 attack on a Wisconsin Sikh temple by a long-time neo-Nazi that killed six victims, and a 2010 attack that left an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) manager dead after a man who had attended radical anti-tax group meetings crashed his single-engine plane into an IRS office in Austin, Texas.

“Our study clearly shows the urgent need for federal agencies to reinvigorate their work studying and analyzing the radical right,”said Mark Potok, SPLC senior fellow and editor of the report. “And it’s important to recognize the trend away from organized groups committing acts of domestic terror. As Timothy McVeigh demonstrated with the Oklahoma City bombing, lone wolves and small cells of domestic terrorists can create massive carnage.”