AWD is organized as a series of terror cells that work toward civilizational collapse. Members, who can be fairly described as accelerationists, believe that violence, depravity and degeneracy are the only sure way to establish order in their dystopian and apocalyptic vision of the world. AWD’s chief influences are James Mason, Charles Manson, Joseph Tommasi and William Pierce. Their strategy for promoting and establishing national socialism can be traced back to The Order, the violent and capable white supremacist terror cell founded by Robert Jay Mathews in the 1980s.
In its own words
“What we are creating here is something that James Mason attempted to put into form but because of circumstance it never was implimented [sic] until the year of 2017 when Atomwaffen Division discovered and met James Mason. Ryan and Vincent Snyder both agreed to help him publish his works, but through the development of the website we have decided to take the proper course of action with SIEGE. Too long has the movement trapped people into a mindset of chasing their own tail. Those of you who are in here, perhaps, will create history. That is our intention.”
“The frail whites will serve as prey to the aryan predator.”
“Pro faggot propaganda is working! AIDS is spreading like wildfire. Dead faggots couldn’t make us happier! Hail AIDS!”
“Lol my gf [girlfriend] is suicidally depressed and I use it to manipulate her. If she fucks up i just quit talking to her until the voices come back.”
—“Triarii,” AWD Discord server, 2018.
“I just get a raging boner of hate for the need to rape a Jewish thot. And removing her entrails. And feasting up on [sic] them.”
—“Big Iron Cassidy,” AWD Discord server, 2018.
“Satanism is alright. Depends on how you go about it. But then again, I’m more well read on the subject than most people. Most people get scared away and only go into the crust, rather than down to the core.”
—“Rape,” AWD Discord server, November 9, 2017.
“I hate hearing about ‘innocent people.’ There are no innocent people in this disgusting modern world.”
—Brandon Russell, “49 Fags in Body Bags: Shooting in Orlando Gay Club,” Iron March Forum, June 14, 2016.
“Bulldozing bodies into mass graves is the obvious solution. But in all seriousness; what re-educaiton [sic] doesn’t fix, the sword will.”
—Brandon Russell, “What can be done about Degeneracy in the 21st century?” Iron March Forum, June 14, 2016
There is simply no mistaking the Iron March (IM) forum, as evidenced by its slogan: “Gas The Kikes! Race War Now! 1488! Boots on the ground!”
The “GTK RWN” abbreviation, which also adorns IM’s official crest, was even one of the questions put to those applying for access to the sprawling forum before it was taken offline.
IM, which went offline in September of 2017, was an intimate, dedicated network of just over 1,600 users who collectively posted more than 150,000 messages in six years. Andrew Auernheimer, a notorious neo-Nazi hacker and web administrator for the Daily Stormer, recently eulogized the site, praising it for its “strict inner culture,” influential aesthetics and the fascist organizations that it spawned in both the United States and Europe.
It is from this forum that Atomwaffen Division (AWD) — a cadre of mostly younger men, some with military experience, hell-bent on resuscitating leaderless cell-oriented terrorism — was born.
Brandon Clint Russell of Florida announced AWD in an IM post under his pseudonym, “Odin,” on October 12, 2015:
The ATOMWAFFEN DIVISION is a group comprised of many members, and has been many years in the making, at least 3 years. Our exact numbers are not to be talked about too publicly but we are over 40 members strong. Large concentration in Florida, various smaller chapters throughout the US, such as Chicago, Texas, and New England, Boston, New York, Kentucky, Alabama, Ohio, Missouri, Oregon Virginia, and a few others.
We are very fanatical, ideological band of comrades who do both activism and militant training. Hand to hand, arms training, and various other forms of training. As for activism, we spread awareness in the real world through unconventional means. [keyboard warriorism is nothing to do with what we are.]
Joining us means serious dedication not only to the Atomwaffen Division and its members, but to the goal of ultimate uncompromising victory. With this means only those willing to get out on the streets, in the woods, or where ever we maybe in the world and work together in the physical realm. As started earlier, no keyboard warriorism, (we do however do alot of hacking, you won’t hear about this though) if you don’t want to meet up and get things done don’t bother.
Russell and fellow AWD member Devon Arthurs, also of Florida, took AWD beyond IM and into the real world in early November 2015, on the campus of the University of Central Florida.
The pair reportedly posted flyers and attached stickers with antisemitic slogans, some urging readers to “Join your local Nazis!,” one of AWDs taglines. Surveillance footage captured two individuals leaving flyers around campus dormitories.
Also in 2016, member Stephen Billingsley of San Antonio, Texas, protested a vigil held in that city for the victims of the Pulse nightclub terror attack. In doing so, Billingsley became the first member of the group to reveal his face in public, after removing his mask and giving a Nazi salute while being questioned by authorities following an altercation with a vigil participant. Billingsley later told a reporter with the San Antonio Express-News by Facebook message, “I am a member of the Atomwaffen Division, a new and rising U.S.-based National-Socialist movement. Our members have been responsible for spreading recruitment drive materials on the campuses of the following universities: University of Central Florida, Old Dominion University and Boston University.”
That year, in Texas, AWD members would also join in a White Lives Matter protest held before the Houston-based office of the Anti-Defamation League.
After the Boston University incident, by June of 2017, eight more campuses including the University of Chicago the University of Washington, Texas A&M University, the State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota, the University of Pennsylvania, Evergreen State College, Arizona State University and the University of Colorado followed suit.
In May of 2017, a local law enforcement branch in Florida came face-to-face with Russell and Arthurs.
Responding to reports of hostages being held at a Green Planet Smoke Shop in Tampa, Florida, at 5:29 p.m., police arrived to find Arthurs holding the store’s employees at gunpoint and behaving erratically while complaining about the U.S. bombing of Muslim majority countries. Arthurs surrendered within fifteen minutes of officers reaching the scene and was taken into custody.
According to a report filed by Tampa’s major crimes bureau, Arthurs, a recent “self-taught” convert to radical Islam from neo-Nazism, made proclamations about his faith while also blaming his actions on U.S. foreign policy. When asked by officers if anyone else had been injured, Arthurs replied, “The people in the apartment, but they aren’t hurt, they’re dead.”
When officers arrived at Arthur’s apartment, which he shared with Russell, police found Russell openly weeping. Inside, amongst numerous pieces of fascist, neo-Nazi propaganda and texts including Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and The Turner Diaries, which inspired terrorists such as the Order and Timothy McVeigh, officers discovered the bodies of Andrew Oneschuk, 18, and Jeremy Himmelman, 22. The deceased were from the outskirts of Boston. Both were AWD members.
Arthurs later told Tampa detectives that the shooting stemmed from Himmelman and Oneschuk disrespecting his Muslim faith. In that same interview, Arthurs also told detectives that before the alleged murders, he was involved in neo-Nazi chats online in which Russell had threatened to kill people and bomb infrastructure.
Arthurs had been banned from the Daily Stormer’s Discord server by Auernheimer, personally, over accusations that he was a federal informant.
Following their initial interview with Arthurs, Tampa police obtained and executed a search warrant on the apartment. FBI and Tampa police bomb squad technicians discovered a cooler with a white, cake-like substance inside that was identified as the explosive hexamethane triperoxide diamine (HMTD). They also discovered several explosive precursors and components, including electric matches and empty 5.56 caliber ammunition casings with fuses, which can be used as detonators. There were also two radiation sources in the apartment, thorium and americium. A framed photo of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh stood near Russell’s bed.
Russell, who was released at the scene, was arrested in Key Largo, Florida, two days later in a Burger King parking lot. Fellow AWD member, William James Tscahntre, was with him. Tscahntre reportedly quit his fast-food job and cashed in his life savings of $3,000 before the pair purchased rifles and ammunition and fled.
Russell was a former student at the University of South Florida (USF) and an active member of the National Guard at the time of his arrest. He told arresting officers that the explosives were from his time as a member of USF’s engineering club and used them to launch balloons into the atmosphere — a use contested by FBI Agent Timothy Swanson in his report. Russell also told officers at the scene, voluntarily before asking for a lawyer, that he was a “national socialist” and a member of AWD.
Although conventional offline activity such as flyering has slowed since the arrest of Arthurs and Russell, the group’s militancy and obsession with terrorism have only deepened.
AWD is structured as a series of leaderless cells, an organizing principle drawn from terroristic neo-Nazi organizations like the National Socialist Liberation Front of the 1970s and the Order of the 1980s. The young group fetishizes violence as the only vehicle for apocalyptic, racial cleansing and the imposition of order over its dystopian perception of the modern world. After the imprisonment of its leader, Russell, AWD's extremism now encompasses aspects of the occult.
A report by ProPublica linking a member of the organization to the death of Blaze Bernstein, a gay, Jewish college student, in January 2018, noted that the group has around 80 members — including members who joined after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in August of 2017.
AWD’s website, registered in June 2017, is largely devoted to visual propaganda — a feature held over from IM, which was cherished on the far right for its distinct aesthetic. The propaganda section of the AWD site is filled with flyer variations, many of which are recognizable from incidents on campuses.
Under the “Join Us” section of the site, a reading list includes Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, SIEGE — a volume of James Mason’s serialized, national socialist newsletter from 1980-1986 — and the SIEGE Culture website — a collaboration between AWD members and James Mason — several articles from IM’s zine, NOOSE, and Iron Gates, a notoriously depraved novel described on its Amazon marketplace as:
A sci-fi horror / post-apocalyptic novel, detailing a bleak view of the spiritual horrors of the world-to-come. Set seventy years after a worldwide nuclear conflagration, IRON GATES allows the reader a sight into a nightmarish landscape populated by even more nightmarish characters in a hideous future which leaves little to the imagination. Brutal and unsparing, it is not suitable for readers under 18. Readers should be advised of extreme graphic content.
Its author, Temple ov Blood, is said to be a subsect of the Order of Nine Angles, an enigmatic Satanic occult group whose most extreme adherents promote human sacrifice, Nazism and Fascism and Aryan myths, and have been reported to praise Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden.
SIEGE, no less extreme, heralds the importance of leaderless resistance and lone wolf, cell-structured terrorism. Mason lauds white power figureheads like George Lincoln Rockwell, William Pierce and Joseph Tommasi, who founded the first neo-Nazi group in this country dedicated to such terrorism, the National Socialist Liberation Front. Mason is most infamous for his Universal Order philosophy, developed in correspondence with Charles Manson. In developing his philosophy, Mason argues that such cells should live off the grid, like the Manson Family, and execute terror campaigns, waging a racial revolution that will accelerate the collapse of all systems and institutions.
The organization’s YouTube page, AWDtv, is now producing and posting short, heavily stylized videos featuring barrages of assault rifle fire and tactical exhibitions, with weapons at the high-ready.
One video, posted in mid-December 2017 to AWD's Bitchute — a peer-to-peer video service favored by individuals and organizations banned from conventional video hosting services — and then in late January 2018 to its YouTube channel, titled Doomsday Hatecamp 2017: M I D W E S T [sic], shows several individuals marching through a hilly woodland landscape during the day and burning the flag and Constitution of the United States on an open fire at night. Filmed partly from the perspective of the fire, members stand, each clad in AWD and IM’s notorious skull mask, holding stiff right-arm fascist salutes.
Between the postings of the Hatecamp video, two other young, white males who hold associations with AWD were arrested on allegations of murder.
On December 22, 2017, Nicholas Giampa, of Virginia, shot himself after allegedly murdering his girlfriend’s parents, Buckley Kuhn-Fricker, 43, and Scott Fricker, 48, who had sought to separate their daughter from him after discovering his immersion in racial hatred and neo-Nazi extremism. Giampa somehow survived. His Twitter account housed a litany of calls for a race war and the execution of Jewish persons. As first reported by the Huffington Post, many of Giampa’s tweets reflect his steeping in the aesthetic and canon of influences imbibed by the IM community writ-large and held dear by AWD members and its sympathizers. Giampa seemed an avid follower of SIEGE and SIEGE Culture.
AWD made headlines again in 2018, less than a month after Giampa’s attack.
On January 9, 2018, the body of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein was found in the bushes of Borrego Park in the Foothill Ranch community of Orange County, California. Bernstein, an openly gay Jewish man, had been missing for a week. Discovered in a shallow grave on the outskirts of the park, his body bore at least 20 stab wounds.
Twenty-year-old Samuel Woodward, a high school classmate of Bernstein’s, was arrested on January 12 and later charged with Bernstein's murder. Two weeks later, ProPublica released a report detailing allegations that Woodward is a member of AWD, perhaps since early 2016. Woodward is described as a key member of the organization’s emerging California cell — a role he assumed after attending “a three-day training camp” in Texas that involved “instruction in firearms, hand-to-hand combat, camping and survival skills.”
ProPublica’s report includes photos of Woodward giving the straight-armed Nazi salute, both while wearing AWD’s trademark skull mask and not. One attendee told ProPublica that Woodward is proficient with handguns and assault rifles and that he organized AWD members in California.
With Russell’s imprisonment, central influence within AWD fell to a young man who operates under the pseudonyms “Vincent Snyder,” on the masthead of SIEGE Culture website, and “Rape,” on Discord. AWD’s fanatical rhetoric has intensified under Synder’s leadership and become nearly indistinguishable from the writings of James Mason. Under Russell, while still deeply concerning, AWD steeped itself in Nazi and fascist literature and folklore but struggled to become relevant offline. The cadre that now remains — one that allegedly expanded under Snyder — more closely resembles a neo-Nazi cult that obsessively fetishizes mass murder, violence, and system collapse than a band of Internet Nazis attempting to manifest their presence “IRL” [in real life].
Despite episodes of violence on both coasts, scattered propaganda dissemination and the appearance of professed members at demonstrations, the whereabouts of AWD’s revolutionary cells remain largely unknown. Even with deep immersion in the Iron March forum and careful tracking and aggregating of partial bits of information, the group and its members are mostly unknown.
Since Russell’s imprisonment, AWD began offering further clues about the locations of its cells. It posted a video on its official YouTube channel on June 29, 2017, titled, SIEGE The Left Right Spectrum ATOMWAFFEN DIVISION SPECIAL! that appears to hint at the locations and sizes of AWD cells across the country. The video opens with a nuclear alarm siren before the logo of the Universal Order emerges and explodes against the map. From the smoke, the universal ionizing radiation warning symbol, the trefoil, dissolves above 19 distinct points on the map to the crackle of a registering Geiger counter.
The largest symbols appear in the uppermost corner of the Pacific Northwest, in Texas and in Florida — the mother chapter before Arthur’s alleged murders of Oneschuk and Himmelman and Russell’s subsequent imprisonment. Other areas appear to correspond to Southern California, where Woodward resided, and Virginia, home of Nicholas Giampa, who may have been in contact with an AWD cell. Areas that were flyered and/or stickered between 2015 and 2017 also appear, as well as some that do not correspond with any previously known AWD presence.
At least four members of AWD attended the Nationalist Front coalition's rally in Shelbyville, Tennessee, held in late October 2017. The League of the South’s public relation officer, Brad Griffin (alias “Hunter Wallace”), captured the members and announced their presence during one of his Periscope feeds. Members covered their faces and dressed in variants of SS camouflage. Several wore the group’s trademark tactical skull face shield. As AWD stands opposed to the paradigm of mass movement neo-Nazism, and the Nationalist Front is the foremost vehicle in favor of it, AWD's presence in Tennessee is anyone’s guess.
The 19 cells depicted in the video — estimated to contain three to five members each — comport with ProPublica’s report that AWD has around 80 members.
AWD’s greatest success appears to be attracting young men who are entranced by its fetishizing of death, Nazism, violence, and mass murder — behind which they have compiled and are promoting a lineage of terrorists and white supremacist thinkers that they hope will inspire and recruit others to their siege.