Brigitte Gabriel, born Hanan Qahwaji, claims ACT was launched as a response to the 9/11 attacks and “educates citizens and elected officials to impact policy involving national security and defeating terrorism.” ACT has stayed true to its mission by working to advance anti-Muslim legislation at the local and federal level while flooding the American public with hate speech demonizing Muslims.
ACT for America is listed as an anti-Muslim hate group because it pushes wild anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, denigrates American Muslims and deliberately conflates mainstream and radical Islam.
For instance, Gabriel has said that practicing Muslims “cannot be loyal citizens of the United States.” In a 2011 appearance on CNN, Gabriel said, “America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America. They have infiltrated us at the CIA, at the FBI, at the Pentagon, at the State Department. They're being radicalized in radical mosques, in our cities and communities within the United States."
ACT also ran an online database allegedly for law enforcement called the Thin Blue Line. This McCarthyite project lists the names and addresses of prominent Muslim American leaders and Muslim Student Association (MSA) chapters alongside individuals who have been arrested on terrorism charges, referring to the MSAs as “radical organizations” and the individuals as “persons of interest.”
- ACT members and chapters routinely espouse racist views. ACT’s “March Against Shariah” rallies on June 10, 2017 attracted a host of extremists including neo-Nazi Billy Roper .
- Brigitte Gabriel first created the organization in 2004 as American Congress for Truth. ACT for America has been an SPLC designated hate group since 2015, though Gabriel has a long history of degrading Muslims.
- One of ACT’s main tactics is pushing anti-Muslim legislation. They have successfully done so with “ anti-Sharia ” bills and Andy’s Law legislation.
In their own words
“Islam is a supremacist, totalitarian political ideology masquerading as a religion. It's as dangerous as Nazism or communism and must be eradicated.”
—Frank Thiboutot, Portland, Maine ACT for America chapter, 2017
“I maintain that to believe in Islam is to be a traitor to the United States. I think we need to wake up and get rid of the traitorous people.”
—Charles Fuqua, Batesville, Arkansas ACT for America chapter, 2016
“Europe will no longer be Europe by 2050. Europe has already become Eurabia. Europe is Eurabia right now.”
—Brigitte Gabriel on Breitbart News, September 26, 2015
“They are people from Libya, Tunisia, Eritrea, Egypt, the Horn of Africa...They are people trying to suck off of the people from the West. They know they can get a free ticket for money. They are not coming here to build empires and become great businessmen and entrepreneurs. They are coming here to get the free checks from you and me who work very hard to pay our taxes.”
—Brigitte Gabriel on Breitbart News, September 26, 2015
“The radicals are estimated to be between 15 to 25 percent according to all intelligence services around the world. That leaves 75 percent of them peaceful people. But when you look at 15 to 25 percent of the world Muslim population you’re looking at 180 to 300 million people dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization.”
—Brigitte Gabriel making a wildly inaccurate claim during a Heritage Foundation panel, 2014
“America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America. They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department. They are being radicalized in radical mosques in our cities and communities within the United States.”
—Brigitte Gabriel on CNN, 2011
“Practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah … who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day — this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States.”
—Brigitte Gabriel during a course at the Department of Defense’s Joint Forces Staff College, 2007
“A massive wave of third-world immigration has been engulfing America for half a century, yet all American citizens hear about from the ‘lamestream’ media is what a racist, intolerant country we live in. If we don’t openly accept millions of individuals who have no desire to embrace the language, culture, and values that made America the greatest country in the history of the world, we must be racists.”
—ACT for America 2018 press release for Brigitte Gabriel’s book RISE: In Defense of Judeo-Christian Values and Freedom.
“Islam has created and unleashed an uncontrollable wave of hatred and rage on the world, and we must brace ourselves for the consequences. Going forward we must realize that the portent behind the terrorist attacks is the purest form of what the Prophet Mohammed created. It’s not radical Islam. It’s what Islam is at its core.”
—Brigitte Gabriel, They Must Be Stopped, 2008.
“I began to realize that the Arab Muslim world, because of its religion and culture, is a natural threat to civilized people of the world, particularly Western civilization.”
—Brigitte Gabriel, Because They Hate, 2006.
ACT first took shape in the form of a group called American Congress for Truth, which had three unpaid officers including Gabriel in 2004, according to Politico. American Congress for Truth was replaced with ACT for America in 2007.
In 2008, a year after forming ACT, Gabriel published her second book, They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It. “In the Muslim world, extreme is mainstream,” Gabriel wrote in the introduction and later “It is not yet politically correct to talk about a religious war. But this is exactly what we are facing: a religious war declared by devout Muslims.”
Even before she created ACT, Gabriel, a Lebanese Christian who became an American citizen, was vocally critical of Islam and Muslims and repeatedly made statements conflating all Muslims with terrorists. In 2004, she angered a Jewish audience during a speech in which she reportedly referred to Arabs as “barbarians,” prompting a public apology from her hosts. In 2006 Gabriel released Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America. In it she wrote, “Islamic terrorists the world over, whom we characterize as fanatics, are really just very devout followers of Muhammad. They are following his example and doing exactly what the Koran teaches and their mullahs exhort them to do.”
Gabriel often recounts her story of growing up in Lebanon during the civil war in overly simplistic terms, describing it as a conflict between Muslims and Christians. She adds that Muslims started the war. Scholars and historians have disputed Gabriel’s account, including Yvonne Haddad, a Syrian Arab-Christian and Georgetown University historian who has lived in Lebanon. In an interview with Buzzfeed in 2016, Haddad said, “her narrative is not historically accurate.” Nathan Lean, author of The Islamophobia Industry points out that Gabriel blames Hezbollah for declaring war on Lebanon’s Christians in 1975, but the organization was not founded until seven years later in 1982.
Despite this record, Gabriel is billed as a “terrorism expert.” In 2007, the same year ACT was formed, Gabriel gave a lecture to the Defense Department’s Joint Forces Staff College as part of a course on Islam. She reportedly told U.S. military and national security personnel that Muslims should be prohibited from serving in public office on the basis of their faith, stating, “If a Muslim who has — who is — a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day — this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.”
The fledgling ACT appointed Guy Rodgers as its first executive director in 2007. The move was part of a strategy by Gabriel to tap into the American Christian Right.
Rodgers was a former national field director with Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition. Robertson, a rabidly anti-gay activist has a particular distaste for Islam, repeatedly claiming that it is not a religion (Gabriel once worked for Robertson’s Christian television network). Rodgers claims credit for increasing ACT’s base, boasting on his LinkedIn account that he achieved 50 percent growth for the organization in the first four years.
In 2010, as the number of ACT chapters and members increased, the organization announced its first “National Conference and Legislative Briefing” which took place in Washington, D.C. The conference brought together anti-Muslim leaders, ACT chapter activists, and national politicians to discuss concerns with Islam and Muslims under the guise of protecting national security.
The legislative briefing segment of the conference was another indication of ACT’s budding ties with elected officials, with many of them taking time out of their schedules to talk to ACT members about pressing national security topics. At the 2010 conference, ACT presented its “Patriot Award” to U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York. King once said that there were “ too many mosques in this country ” and later questioned the loyalty of Muslim Americans in the time of war.
When presenting Rep. King with the award, Gabriel indicated how much ACT prizes its relationships with elected officials and how critical they are to advancing ACT’s agenda. Gabriel told King, “I cannot tell you how much we appreciate you and how much we are dedicated to make your work on Capitol Hill easier by mobilizing the people and the public, especially in your state, to support you.” King responded, “I want you to know, as I said before, how much I appreciate the work that ACT for America does for our country. Because we are engaged in a brutal war against a brutal enemy, the enemy of Islamic terrorism and so many people in our country choose to look the other way, so many people in our country choose to ignore it, so many people choose to be politically correct.”
At the federal level, like its membership base, ACT’s national conferences continued to swell in attendance and stature. In 2013, for example, one of the speakers at ACT’s conference was John Guandolo , a disgraced former FBI agent who reinvented himself as a counterterrorism expert and founded the anti-Muslim group Understanding the Threat (UTT), which provides law enforcement training.
Guandolo’s presentation at ACT’s 2013 national conference unveiled one of ACT’s most disturbing endeavors to date: the Thin Blue Line project, billed as a “one-stop internet resource for information concerning the perceived threat of Muslim infiltration and terrorism in the country.” Its key component is a “ Radicalization Map Locator,” listing the addresses of almost every Muslim Student Association (MSA) in the country as well as a number of mosques and Islamic institutions — all listed as suspected national security concerns. In 2015, Guandolo told a crowd in South Carolina that the sole purpose of MSAs is to “recruit jihadis.” The Thin Blue Line project was designed specifically for law enforcement, though it is unclear how many agencies are utilizing it currently.
Throughout 2016 and early 2017, Guandolo traveled to a number of states to train law enforcement, buoyed by an official endorsement from the head of the National Sheriffs Association (NSA). But at the NSA conference in Reno, Nevada, in June of 2017, Guandolo was arrested after punching Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek. The Center for New Community broke the story after obtaining court records relating to the incident. Since then, Guandolo’s NSA endorsement has been pulled, and he has resorted to doing presentations for anti-Muslim groups instead of law enforcement.
In February 2017, shortly after Wired published an exposé titled “ This Hate Group is Teaching Cops to Track Muslims,” the Thin Blue Line site was taken down.
ACT’s legislative priorities: stoking Sharia hysteria and more
One of ACT’s main tactics is to push anti-Muslim legislation both at the federal and local levels. In 2008, ACT began a campaign called Stop Shariah Now. According to the now defunct Stop Shariah Now website, the project aimed “to inform and educate the public about what Shariah is, how it is creeping into American society and compromising our constitutional freedom of speech, press, religion and equality what we can do to stop it.” In an interview with the Center for American Progress (CAP), then ACT staffer Chris Slick detailed how ACT worked closely with Frank Gaffney, head of the anti-Muslim think tank Center for Security Policy (CSP), to push anti-Sharia legislation at the state level.
The “anti-Sharia” laws were drafted by CSP’s general counsel, David Yerushalmi, who equates Sharia with Islamic extremism and advocates criminalizing virtually any practice compliant with Sharia. (In reality, sharia is a set of religious principles and practices akin to halakha for many religiously observant Jews.) In his view, only a religiously non-observant Muslim can be considered socially tolerable.
In early 2012, together with Robert Muise of the Thomas More Law Center, Yerushalmi formed the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) and began pushing an “American Laws for American Courts” initiative to push a model anti-Sharia law, written primarily by Yerushalmi, in legislatures across the country. The bill argued that America has “unique values of liberty and freedom” that do not exist in foreign legal systems like Sharia law.
Legal experts call such anti-Sharia measures superfluous because there is no mechanism by which any foreign criminal or civil code can trump U.S. laws. By the summer of 2013, however, anti-foreign law measures had passed in Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arizona, Tennessee, South Dakota, North Carolina, Louisiana and Kansas. Since 2010, there have been at least 201 anti-Sharia laws introduced in 43 states.
At the federal level, ACT identifies national security bills, which it deems “high priority legislation” and requests that its members encourage elected officials to support it. Some of the bills are introduced by legislators sympathetic to ACT’s cause, such as U.S. Reps. Peter King of New York and Trent Franks of Arizona.
ACT’s 2015 conference listed no fewer than 15 elected federal officials as speakers, with part of the event taking place at the Capitol. Despite its hateful rhetoric toward Muslims, ACT’s efforts to build relationships with elected officials have been effective — both on a federal and state level.
Among ACT’s targets: American citizens, educators and refugees
Another longtime tactic of the organization is to lead witch hunts against American Muslims, by attempting to link them to terrorist organizations.
In 2010, ACT targeted Muslim professor Parvez Ahmed, who sat on a human rights board in Florida. They accused him of having ties to radical Islamic groups and serving as a “mosque operative” in city government. ACT’s campaign to discredit Ahmed went on for months. Activists claiming to be ACT members disrupted his public appearances.
At one point, they held a news conference on the steps of Jacksonville’s City Hall to release a DVD containing highly edited clips of a speech Ahmed gave in October 2010. The group claim’s this is “irrefutable” evidence of Ahmed’s associations with the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Islam — despite the absence of any footage speaking directly to that charge.
The character assassination campaign got so bad that Ahmed described being harassed at one public appearance to the point that audience members, fearing for his safety, escorted him from the room.
As ACT continued to develop its base, it expanded its targets to include school curriculum. In 2012, ACT’s education arm released a lengthy report titled, “Education or Indoctrination? The Treatment of Islam in 6th through 12th Grade American Textbooks.” The report claimed to examine 38 textbooks for how Islam was depicted and concluded,
Perhaps the greatest disservice done to students is the net effect of the accumulation of these errors the creation of a faulty historical narrative that not only misrepresents Islam but creates an inaccurate comparison between Islam, Christianity and Judaism, and between the Muslim world and the West. Regardless of the issue — slavery, conquest and imperialism, the Crusades, the Arab-Israeli conflict, to name a few — Islam and the Muslim world are not generally held to the same rigor of historical analysis that the textbooks apply to Christianity, Judaism and the West.
The report recommended that ACT activists take the textbook fight to their local school boards and some heeded the call.
Larry Houck, the founder of ACT’s Birmingham, Alabama chapter, tried to remove 11 textbooks from state schools due to their alleged bias in favor of Islam. He was ultimately unsuccessful. In January 2014, the Alabama school board voted five to two to approve the textbooks. Houck wrote a letter to the board claiming the books "proselytize for Islam."
Roy White, the former head of the ACT chapter in San Antonio, Texas, led ACT’s textbook efforts. White’s Truth in Textbooks operation merged under the ACT umbrella in 2015 and he expanded the operation to California. White was removed as an ACT chapter leader in 2017 following allegations that he advertised a chapter meeting where activists would learn how to “shut down mosques” in their area. White’s firing caused a significant backlash, due to the fact that he was a popular leader. Many ACT members saw nothing wrong with the allegations leveled against him. He subsequently created Truth in Textbooks, a non-profit organization seeking to continue his efforts, and has hosted two “trainings.”
Ties to the Nativist Movement
ACT has a long history of targeting refugees. In 2011, ACT helped to pass anti-refugee legislation in Tennessee. Four years later, in an email to supporters, ACT announced plans to take this effort to as many states of possible. “We are happy to announce that we will soon be working to see similar, enhanced, legislation of this nature introduced and passed in all 50 state legislatures,” an ACT alert announced. CSP is also working on this fight, but at the national rather than state level.
To boost its anti-refugee efforts, ACT also began cultivating a relationship with Ann Corcoran, the face of the anti-refugee movement in America and head of the website Refugee Resettlement Watch (RRW). Corcoran founded the blog in 2007 in response to what she saw as a “grievous error” by the government in taking in Muslim refugees.
Gabriel invited Corcoran to speak at ACT’s 2015 national conference where one of the main topics discussed was opposition to Syrian refugees. Before the conference, Gabriel wrote about how her organization is “thrilled” to have Corcoran speaking at the event. In 2015, like many of the major anti-Muslim groups in the U.S., ACT began openly targeting Syrian refugees, launching a Refugee Resettlement Working Group that aims to make sure that, “potential terrorists are kept on the outside looking in” by attempting to stop Syrian refugee relocation in locales around the U.S.
Gabriel has used her recent speaking engagements to draw the link between Syrian refugees and ISIS. In February of 2016, Montana ACT activists participated in a rally in opposition a proposal to open a refugee resettlement office in Missoula, Montana.
ACT’s ties to antigovernment extremist and anti-LGBT hate movements
Around this time, ACT began building relationships with some of the most prominent antigovernment groups in the country, including the Oath Keepers and Three Percenter groups. In the Pacific Northwest, a local chapter of ACT organized a late 2015 rally against refugees (that is, Muslim refugees) at the Capitol building in Olympia, Washington. “The Liberty for All III%” militia out of Yakima came in to provide security. Videos of the event show the Three Percenters patrolling the area with guns.
Also in Washington, State Rep. Matt Shea — a right-wing politician and antigovernment champion who formed a local chapter of ACT in Spokane in June 2016 — honored Anthony Bosworth, the leader of the Liberty for All III% militia, with his “Patriot of the Year” award. Bosworth is known for having been involved in the January 2016 standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon.
In June 2016, the arrest of several juveniles for the alleged sexual assault of a five-year-old girl in Idaho set off an anti-Muslim firestorm that was exploited ruthlessly by the right-wing media outlets like Breitbart and InfoWars, the local ACT chapter, and Liberty Defense Team and another Three Percenter group. When Gabriel came to Twin Falls to take advantage of the case for her own ends in August 2016, the III% of Idaho group provided security for her at various events. The fact that the details of the assault had been grossly exaggerated , which led to extensive harassment campaigns of local politicians and business leaders, seemed to have no impact.
ACT’s first foray into the anti-LGBT movement dates back to 1984 when Gabriel first served as an anchor for Pat Robertson’s Middle East Television. Since then, she has been a regular guest on the radio shows of anti-LGBT figures such as Sandy Rios. Rios is a radio host with the anti-LGBT hate group American Family Association, which also has a lengthy history of demonizing Muslims and immigrants.
In 2015, Gabriel was invited to address the Family Research Council’s Watchman at the Wall conference, an event that routinely attracts some of the most prominent anti-LGBT figures. (FRC has also been designated a hate group by SPLC.) Gabriel and ACT have collaborated with FRC on various campaigns that include thanking elected officials for taking hardline anti-Muslim stances.
In 2016, Gabriel accepted an invitation to speak at the virulently anti-LGBT hate group Virginia Christian Alliance (VCA), which has stated homosexuality is a “psychological disorder” and equates it with “incest, pedophilia, [and] bestiality.” The event was deemed an “intelligence briefing” on ISIS and the group’s presence in America. Like other prominent anti-LGBT actors, VCA also regularly disparage Muslims in articles it publishes on its website.
That November, Gabriel spoke at the church of a virulently anti-LGBT pastor, Robert Jeffress. The speech was listed as an intelligence briefing. Jeffress has a history of anti-gay, anti-Mormon, and anti-Catholic rhetoric. He has said LGBT individuals are “perverse ” and compared homosexuality to bestiality.
Gabriel has also invited leaders of the anti-LGBT movement to speak at ACT conferences. In 2016, she invited Pastor Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills. Hibbs has raged against same-sex marriage and at the 2016 ACT conference talked about the persecutions of Christians and others who will not, “bow to Islam.”
ACT and the Trump administration
ACT openly supported Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign and his victory in November of 2016 was celebrated not only because their candidate got into office, but because Gabriel and company knew that the group would have a direct line to the president. “We are ecstatic to share with you some very exciting news for both our organization, and our country” Gabriel wrote in an email to ACT supporters about Trump’s appointments of retired General Mike Flynn as an advisor and Kansas U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo as CIA director, as both are close allies of the group.
Flynn, who joined ACT as an advisor to the board of directors, characterized Islam as “a cancer” during a tour promoting his book, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies. Local ACT chapters organized a number of stops on his speaking tour. In September of 2016, Flynn was also the keynote speaker at ACT’s national conference in Washington, D.C. Pompeo also spoke at a “Legislative Briefing,” which takes place in the belly of the Capitol where a number of elected officials address ACT members from around the county. To hold an event in a room at the Capitol requires the sponsor of an elected official. This year, Pompeo reserved the auditorium for ACT’s event. He previously addressed ACT’s national conference in 2013 and 2015.
On paper, 2017 was a big year for ACT. Allies were in the administration and Gabriel herself visited the White House to deliver a petition in support of President Trump’s Muslim ban. A month later, Gabriel dined at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago hotel on the same night the President entertained the Chinese president. However, ACT suffered more than a few setbacks.
On February 16, North Carolina ACT member Robert Goodwill was recorded by a Triad City Beat reporter in a conversation with a man who argued that all Muslims in America should be killed. Goodwill’s response to the repeated calls to murder Muslims was “we’re not there yet.”
On February 25, ACT fired its San Antonio, Texas chapter leader, Roy White, for allegedly organizing a meeting where activists would learn how to “shut down” mosques. ACT went into panic mode and sent out a not so subtle warning to its activists in an attempt to save face. “In no way, does our organization advocate, or tolerate bigotry, or threats of violence toward anyone, especially because of which God they may choose to worship” and following it up with, “To be clear: any ACT for America member that propagates such ideas antithetical to the values of our organization will have their membership revoked immediately” the warning, in the form of an email read.
On March 5, ACT was in hot water again when its Central Oklahoma chapter’s logo appeared on a questionnaire distributed to Muslim constituents by anti-Muslim Rep. John Bennett’s staff. One of the questions asked was, “Do you beat your wife?”
On March 9, an SPLC investigation following the dismissal of Roy White and ACT’s disclaimer about no tolerance for racism found that a number of extremists are not only ACT members but ACT chapter leaders as well. These members include Dave Petteys, Frank Thiboutot and Charles Fuqua. Petteys is the leader of ACT’s 5280 Coalition, a group of ACT chapters based in and around Denver, Colorado. On multiple occasions, he has represented ACT in Europe at the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) conferences put on by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the world’s largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization. Two months before Petteys traveled to Warsaw to represent ACT at the 2016 HDIM conference, he left a comment on Counter-Currents, an overtly anti-Semitic website and publishing house run by white nationalist Greg Johnson.
On July 13 of last year, Petteys left the comment expressing interest in purchasing French white nationalist Guillaume Faye’s The Colonization of Europe. In the book, Faye describes immigrant youth as “very well aware of the fact that they are conducting an ethnic civil war and that their goal is to aggress against the indigenous peoples.” For Faye, the only response is violent “reconquest.” Thiboutot, head of the ACT chapter in Portland, Maine, who goes by “Charles Martel” in his Disqus online comment profile, claimed that in June of 2014, ACT for America Maine hired Dave Gaubatz, author of Muslim Mafia, to investigate several mosques in that state. In a more recent comment, also on Disqus, Thiboutot wrote that his ACT chapter submitted Gaubatz’s affidavits from his mosque investigation to the Governor of Maine when ACT members met with him and another anti-Muslim figure, Jim Simpson. Gaubatz is a rabidly anti-Muslim figure whose son infiltrated two American Muslim civil rights organizations.
This served as the research for his father’s book. “Islam is a supremacist, totalitarian political ideology masquerading as a religion. It's as dangerous as Nazism or communism and must be eradicated,” Thiboutot wrote in a Disqus comment in 2017. Fuqua, leader of the Batesville, Arkansas, chapter of ACT is a lawyer and former legislator who is outspoken about Islam, and a number of other subjects. When he ran for a state House seat in 2012, a book Fuqua had written, God’s Law — The Only Political Solution came to light, revealing his extremist beliefs. Among them, was a call for “rebellious children” to be stoned to death. Fuqua also had a solution for America’s prison systems, writing, “Anyone that cannot be rehabilitated in two years should be executed.” As for Muslims, Fuqua writes: “I see no solution to the Muslim problem short of expelling all followers of the religion from the United States.” At a speaking engagement in 2016, Fuqua stated, “I maintain that to believe in Islam is to be a traitor to the United States. I think we need to wake up and get rid of the traitorous people.”
ACT quietly deleted its map of chapters from its website on March 12. The organization claimed to have over 1,000 chapters. The map itself contained fewer than 500 chapters before it was taken down. SPLC research indicated that in fact about one-tenth of the 500 or so ACT chapters on the original map are actually active.
In April, ACT targeted Areej Zufari, a professor at Rollins College in Florida. Marshall Polston, a student in Zufari’s class received a failing grade on a paper, and declared it was an attack on his Christian beliefs despite the grade being upheld by another teacher. (Polston was suspended for a separate incident shortly after. This was subsequent to his previous suspension at his last school for stalking and entering a female student’s dorm room against her wishes.) Polson went to the media for support. ACT and its activists were quick to oblige, protesting outside of the school and asking for Zufari’s removal. Zufari eventually resigned despite support from the university. Polston publicly thanked ACT and Gabriel for their support on his personal Facebook page.
In June, ACT planned its first-ever series of nationwide rallies, billed as the March Against Sharia. ACT planned rallies in approximately 28 cities and 20 states but received large amounts of negative press in the buildup. The private Facebook page used to organize the events was full of extreme anti-Muslim and white nationalist rhetoric and went unpoliced despite the fact that new ACT hire Scott Presler was an administrator for the group.
SPLC broke the news that longtime neo-Nazi Billy Roper was organizing ACT’s rally scheduled in Batesville, Arkansas, on June 6. Roper promoted the event on Stormfront, the neo-Nazi message board founded by former Klan leader Don Black. Roper wrote, “Yes, we are the organizers for the March Against Sharia rally in Batesville, Arkansas, this coming Saturday, June 10th, at noon, at the RiverSide Park at the main concert stage. I will be giving a speech on the progress of Arkansas' state anti-Sharia law, and discussing Muslim immigration in general.” A recent podcast recorded by Roper indicates that he had been actively working with ACT to organize it. In response, ACT dropped Roper and put yet another disclaimer on its website again attempting to distance themselves from racism.
The nationwide rallies of June 10 attracted a swath of white nationalists and neo-Nazis, and instead of asking these figures to leave, in some cases, ACT organizers at the event asked them to participate. At the New York City march, Richard Rivera, a spokesperson for Vanguard America, a neo-Nazi group, attended and spoke to media, telling the Washington Post, “I don’t believe in having Muslims in the United States. Their culture is incompatible with ours.” Identity Evropa (IE), also attended various ACT rallies on June 10. Identity Evropa was founded by Nathan Damigo , a former Marine corporal who discovered his inner white nationalist by reading the work of Holocaust-denying, felon and ex-Klansman David Duke while serving five years for armed robbery (while drunk, he put a gun to the head of a cab driver he thought was Iraqi and stole $43). At ACT's Indianapolis March Against Shariah, Identity Evropa’s regional coordinator Jason Richardson spoke. In Orlando, IE members held up a large banner while listening to anti-Semite Augustus Sol Invictus and others speak. Damigo himself attended the Roseville, California rally. In Atlanta, the III% Security Force provided “security” for the ACT rally. The III% Security Force, run by Chris Hill, has participated in numerous anti-Muslim demonstrations including organizing an armed protest against the construction of a mosque, which Hill said would lead to a “future ISIS training group.”
Despite these hurdles, ACT attempted to go one step further on September 9, 2017, the closest Saturday to the 9/11 anniversary. ACT planned a new wave of “America First” rallies, this time scheduled for almost double the number of locations. But following the Charlottesville violence, where Identity Evropa and Vanguard America played a major role, ACT decided to cancel its proposed rallies after pressure from civil rights organizations pointing out that ACT’s events would serve as another platform for the white nationalist, alt-right movement. The mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, publicly denounced ACT in response to the news that the group had planned a rally in the city. "My message to them is 'We don't want you here.' We don't want any Nazi groups here, any white supremacist or 'alt-right' groups who are coming because this is a city of inclusion. It's not a city of exclusion, and it's not a city of white supremacy so go somewhere else and bother the people there," Barrett said. These rallies were cancelled on August 22, 2017, however, following the deadly Charlottesville rally.
In 2018, ACT’s activism has been scattershot. In March, the group launched a law-enforcement appreciation initiative called “Back the Blue.” It also organized a national “Day of ACTion” on August 25, which included a voter-registration drive. These campaigns are likely a public relations move on ACT’s part after the negative press it received from its “March Against Sharia” rallies in 2017. However, an ACT-sanctioned “Back the Blue” rally in Philadelphia on August 4 attracted a local activist who marched with white nationalists in Charlottesville in 2017.
ACT has additionally increased its focus on undocumented immigrants in 2018, specifically ramping up anti-sanctuary city rhetoric. The group attempted to attach its name to a flurry of opposition in Southern California this spring to the state’s pro-sanctuary laws. With assistance from outside anti-immigrant hate groups like Federation for American Immigration Reform and its legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, more than 25 cities and municipalities voted to opt out of the California Values Act (SB 54), which limits the roles of state and local agencies in enforcing federal immigration laws. ACT tried to take partial credit for this, claiming it sent out thousands of emails to supporters in California.
Two groups from the organized nativist movement are slated to have a presence at ACT’s 2018 national conference in September. Jessica Vaughan from the anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies and Chris Chmielenski of NumbersUSA, another nativist group that is part of the John Tanton network, are scheduled to speak on a panel at the conference. Gabriel previously appeared in a video series produced by NumbersUSA in 2007 where she called to “scrutinize any Muslim running for [public] office.” Another keynote speaker at the conference this year will be Thomas Homan, the former director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Some of ACT’s new campaigns — coupled with the group’s alleged aggressive fundraising requests — have alienated some members. In April, one of ACT’s more vibrant chapters in Treasure Valley, Idaho, announced plans to dissolve and form a new group. The chapter sent around an email stating: “The national leadership of this organization is losing focus on what was the original mission — to increase the awareness of Islam and its threat to our country and our culture. … We do believe that some of their recent activities such as ‘Back the Blue,’ ‘Stop Sanctuary Cities,’ and ‘Build the Wall,’ are important and need tobe [sic] done—but that was not why many of us became members.”
The chapter also noted the national office’s “continuous requests for donations have turned off many of our members.”
ACT has not toned down the extreme rhetoric in its published materials and communications. In March, the group circulated an email claiming progressive advocates are striving for the “total destruction of the Judeo-Christian values that Western civilization was built upon.” After U.K.-based, anti-Muslim provocateur Tommy Robinson was originally found guilty of being in contempt of court in May and sentenced to 13 months in prison, Gabriel penned an article calling the decision a “direct result of cultural suicide and a rejection of western Judeo-Christian values.”
In June, Gabriel announced she would be releasing her third book, titled RISE: In Defense of Judeo-Christian Values and Freedom. The book smacks of extreme far-right ideas, like sounding the alarm on the impending replacement of Western civilization. “At this stage in the game, we are fighting for our very survival as a civilization, and we better start demanding that those who are in charge of protecting us prefer protection over PC endangerment,” she writes. It is due out on September 11.