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Hatewatch: Brave in the Dark

Using fake names and fictional avatars, wannabe killers and hatemongers exude courage and commitment to their hateful causes.

Until the world learns their real names. Until someone exposes their plans. Then they cry. They beg for forgiveness or a judge’s mercy. They claim all that hate speech was just entertainment. In the anonymity provided by chat rooms dedicated to expressing homicidal intentions toward people because of their faith, ethnicity or sexual orientation, people declare a willingness to be martyrs. But in the light of day or when facing a possible conviction, they bargain for their lives. In this issue of the Intelligence Report, we expose the impact of fighting hate with light.

You can always get the latest on this topic and more at Hatewatch.

Jeff Allen and United Constitutional Patriots members Jim Benvie, Steve Brant and a UCP member who goes by "Stinger" patrol the U.S.-Mexico border near Sunland Park, New Mexico, in March. The group gained infamy for detaining migrants at gunpoint in April. (Paul Ratje/Getty Images)

Infighting Rips, Shrinks Militia Group

By Rachel Janik and Intelligence Report Staff

The United Constitutional Patriots, a border militia group best known for holding migrants at gunpoint, has split after internal strife turned members against one another.

The divide came after progressive YouTubers The Young Turks (TYT) revealed that UCP interim leader Steven Brant had reported one of the group’s newest members to police. According to Brant neophyte Armando Gonzalez, asked, “Why are we just apprehending [migrants] and not lining them up and shooting them?” Gonzalez also allegedly said, “We have to go back to Hitler days and put them all in a gas chamber.” Gonzalez denied making the comments Brant attributed to him.

TYT obtained the report containing the comments from the Sunland Park Police Department in New Mexico.

Gonzalez’s alleged comments sparked media backlash. Shortly after the story broke, spokesman Jim Benvie and a handful of other UCP members split from the organization and started a new group called Guardian Patriots.

Guardian Patriots have remained active on the Southern border but have moved its operations to private land. Since establishing Guardian Patriots, membership in both groups has remained relatively low. Each organization maintains about three to five active members.

The low membership hasn’t stopped Guardian Patriots from throwing its full support behind Brian Kolfage’s We Build the Wall nonprofit. Kolfage’s organization aims to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border using donations from private citizens. The nonprofit has support from controversial right-wing figures such as Steve Bannon, David Clarke, Kris Kobach and Tom Tancredo.

In May, We Build the Wall Inc. reached its first milestone when the group successfully built a one-mile stretch of wall in Sunland Park for an estimated $6 million to $8 million. The wall, which was built on property co-owned by Jeff Allen and George Cudahy, was a center of interest for the Guardian Patriots, who were ecstatic to share updates with followers via Facebook.

UCP first gained notoriety detaining migrants at gunpoint along the New Mexico border. In April, U.S. representatives including Deb Haaland, Veronica Escobar and Ben Ray Luján sent a letter asking FBI Director Christopher Wray to “immediately launch an investigation into this unlawful conduct.”

Larry Hopkins, the "Commander" of the United Constitutional Patriots (AP Images/Dona Ana County Sheriff's Office)

Larry Hopkins, the former leader who also went by the name Johnny Horton Jr., had the original UCP group stationed on land owned by Union Pacific Railroad in Sunland Park. When news of the group’s activities came to light, city and state officials began looking into Hopkins and his men. Julia Brown, the Sunland Park city manager, said, “It’s our position, and the governor’s, that such detention is not allowed and is, in fact, illegal.”

Residents also spoke out against the vigilante activity. Business owner Robert Ardovino called UCP’s actions “immoral” and said the group “shouldn’t be acting as law enforcement. That’s the bottom line.”

The FBI arrested Hopkins on April 20. Three days later, Union Pacific Railroad asked that UCP vacate its property, and Sunland Park police escorted the remaining members off the land. Hopkins has pleaded not guilty to charges of being a felon in possession of firearms. He remains in jail awaiting trial.

Citing policy, an FBI spokesperson from the New Mexico field office declined to comment on the case or whether the bureau is opening a broader investigation into UCP’s activities.

James "Jim" Christopher Benvie, 44, the spokesman for United Constitutional Patriots (Paul Ratje/Getty Images/AFP)

Hopkins isn’t the only person with ties to UCP who has been apprehended. In June, Benvie was arrested in Oklahoma for his activities with UCP. He was indicted by the U.S. District Court of New Mexico and charged with two counts of impersonating an agent of the U.S. Border Patrol.

A judge ordered Benvie’s release just days after his arrest on the condition that he stays away from any militia activity, remains at least 10 miles from the border, gets a GPS monitor fitted and gets a real job. If convicted, Benvie faces up to three years in prison.

Fear Spurs Censorship

By Keegan Hankes, Carolyn Sinders and Unicorn Riot

Administrators of pages pushing hateful messages started self-censoring — and in at least one instance mass-deleting — content from several key online communities after the terror attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Their actions show that these administrators feel emboldened as long as they can lurk in the internet’s shadows. But as soon as they face consequences, they change tactics out of fear.

A review of 12 far-right servers on the chat application Discord reveals that while users were celebrating the horrific attacks of March 15, administrators deleted large amounts of content and instituted bans on posts glorifying the alleged perpetrator.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and outside researchers affiliated with the non profit media organization, Unicorn Riot, conducted the review in the weeks since the March attacks. The review brought to light that while social media networks have been slow to remove hate content from their platforms, some extremist communities are taking down or banning content due to legal concerns.

“Attention all users. Considering the circumstances we find ourselves in it is very likely that this man was in any number of /k/ servers,” wrote user “Maj. Asshole,” an administrator of a 4chan-affiliated server titled “The Pathetic Life of an Average /K/ommand.”

“Considering this it is very likely we could all be, in the event the man was in the server, considered accomplices and held for a federal investigation. Seeing as that is the case, any mentioning of the recent habbening [sic] from now on us [sic] strictly verboten.”

“Maj. Asshole’s” fears seem legitimate. Federal prosecutors in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, recently charged Corbin Kauffman, a 30-year-old resident of Lehighton, Pennsylvania, with interstate transmission of threats to injure another person for content that he posted on, a fringe social media site.

If the suspect in the New Zealand attacks was a member of “The Pathetic Life of an Average /K/ommand,” its users may also have cause for concern. David Hyman, a law professor at Georgetown University, told Newsweek in 2018 that anonymous online users can have their identities revealed if a judge deems it relevant to a case. “Private and privileged are not the same thing,” Hyman told Newsweek.

Users in these servers created memes and coordinated the creation of other content, including YouTube playlists celebrating the alleged killer. Some pledged to follow the Christchurch attacker’s footsteps.

“Wow. Just finished reading the manifesto. Truly powerful,” a person using the name “Sulferix” wrote in Outer Heaven, one of the servers reviewed for this piece. “I will be starting my own contribution to the fight soon, in every way that I can. I will start a group. I will train. I will be part of this if it fucking kills me. I hope I’m not the only one.”

Statements from moderators and users show they fear Discord, a chat application favored by video gaming communities and more recently the extreme right, will remove them from its platform, and they fear prosecution for hateful and violent remarks.

The resilience of these apocalyptic communities on Discord combined with self-censorship illustrates how far Silicon Valley’s policymakers and content moderators are lagging behind far-right extremists on their platforms.

As these Discord servers illustrate, while extremist communities are adaptive and committed to spreading violent ideologies, meaningful content moderation can change the paradigm.

While he was an EMT, Alex McNabb co-hosted the hate podcast, "The Daily Shoah."

Racist Entertainer Rejected

By Michael Edison Hayden

An emergency medical technician lost his job even after a Virginia state department determined he had not violated workplace rules forbidding discriminatory behavior.

The firing of Alex McNabb is notable as it indicates that the views he promoted, contrary to what members of the “alt-right” may say, are not palatable even in largely white enclaves, such as Patrick County, Virginia. The community the rescue squad said it needed to protect is 92 percent white and 86 percent lack a college education.

While he was an EMT, McNabb co-hosted the hate podcast, “The Daily Shoah.” On the show, McNabb compared his black patients to animals and boasted that he once “terrorized” a young black boy with a needle.

McNabb and his collaborators, including New York-based white supremacist Michael Peinovich, picked up thousands of downloads of their show per week by mocking minorities and scapegoating Jewish people as the enemies of white people. Collaborators and listeners alike reveled in McNabb’s position of power over people of color in his job as an EMT.

After news of McNabb’s role on the podcast broke, he was suspended with pay from his EMT job. During a hearing in Patrick County, McNabb said that he was simply an “entertainer” utilizing his free speech rights. He called the scrutiny of his words part of a “witch hunt” — echoing language used by President Donald Trump about the Robert Mueller Russia investigation.

The Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Emergency Medical Services cleared McNabb of allegations that he violated regulations forbidding discriminatory behavior on the job. McNabb and his alt-right comrades flaunted his job security, arguing his employment showed the county at large found his views palatable.

Andrew Anglin of The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, claimed on his site that McNabb’s victory was a “win” for the alt-right movement. “No one else gives a fuck about some guy who makes racist jokes on the internet being an EMT in Virginia,” Anglin said.

But less than two weeks later, the JEB Stuart Volunteer Rescue Squad, which serves a predominantly white county, fired McNabb under the auspices of “[looking] out for the members of [their] community,” according to WSLS, a Roanoke-based NBC affiliate.

McNabb continues to record “The Daily Shoah.” It’s unclear whether he has attained other employment.

Three Sentenced to a Total of 81 Years in Bomb Plot

By Brett Barroquere

A federal judge rejected a plea to consider political discord when setting the sentences for three Kansas men who plotted to kill Muslims and Somalis by bombing an apartment complex.

Instead, U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren sentenced the men to a total of 81 years behind bars. Their convictions and subsequent sentencing ended the story of the trio that dubbed itself “The Crusaders” and called its immigrant targets “cockroaches.”

The sentences were “a significant victory against hate crimes and domestic terrorism,” then-acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a statement about the decades-long punishments.

A jury previously convicted Patrick Stein, 50; Gavin Wright, 53; and Curtis Allen, 52, of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy to violate housing rights. In January, Melgren sentenced Stein, of Dodge City, Kansas, to 30 years behind bars. Wright and Allen, both from Liberal, Kansas, received sentences of 26 and 25 years, respectively.

Left to right: Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright, Patrick Stein (Reuters/Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office)

“The defendants in this case acted with clear premeditation in an attempt to kill innocent people on the basis of their religion and national origin,” Whitaker said in the statement. “That’s not just illegal — it’s morally repugnant.”

The trio plotted throughout 2016 to kill Somalis and Muslims living in Garden City, Kansas. The group conducted surveillance on an apartment complex and picked out various targets around the town of 26,500 people.

Tyson Fresh Meats has a packing plant in Garden City that employs resettled Somalis and Muslims from other countries. Many of the 250 refugees who resettled in Garden City between 2015 and 2018 work for Tyson and other agricultural producers.

The FBI and federal prosecutors used recordings made by an informant to get details of a plot to build bombs and kill Muslims. In addition to talk about obliterating the apartment complex, the recordings included discussions about arson, execution-style killings and using rape as a weapon.

Prosecutors said the group conducted surveillance on potential locations to target and determine when residents were likely to be home and at prayer in the mosque to increase the body count in any attack. They marked those buildings on a Google map with the label “cockroaches.”

FBI Agent Chad B. Moore noted in a criminal complaint that Stein discussed the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 by Timothy McVeigh and the type of bomb used there.

“[Stein] was looking for any more explosives or things he could use to blow things up,” Moore wrote.

Investigators got search warrants for Allen’s home and his modular home business, G&G Home Center. During those searches, agents found a Sharps .22-caliber handgun, a Glock 19 handgun, chemicals and a possible detonator. They also found cans of ammunition and 13 boxes of munitions during the search.

According to a transcript of a recording, Stein told others he wanted “a bloodbath and it will be a nasty, messy motherfucker.”

During the sentencing, defense attorneys requested that the judge consider the volatile political climate and differences among citizens that influenced the defendants, several news organizations reported.

He didn’t.

“We have extremely divisive elections because our system is to resolve those through elections and not violence,” Melgren replied, according to U.S. News & World Report.

NBC News reported that a Somali immigrant made a plea via video testimony during that sentencing. “Please don’t kill us,” Ifrah Farah said. “Please don’t hate us. We can’t hurt you.”

Somali immigrants attend a class at the Somali Community Development Center of Southwest Kansas in Garden City. The volunteer run center offers lessons in English and American civics to prepare recent immigrants for eventual citizenship. (Adam Reynolds/Redux)

Debi Wheeler, the regional director for U.S. programs with the International Rescue Committee, told Intelligence Report about the plight of the would-be victims.

“These are some of the most vulnerable people in the world,” she said. The committee helps resettle refugees fleeing countries at war and people who face torture or execution in their native countries. “They come here to become U.S. citizens. They’re an amazing group.”

Prosecutors identified the men as being tied to the antigovernment Three Percent movement, whose members pledge to protest and provide armed resistance to what they see as a move to strip constitutional rights, including gun rights, from citizens.

Stein and Wright are in the medium-security federal prison in Beaumont, Texas. Allen has been assigned to federal medium-security prison in Florence, Colorado.

The three are appealing their convictions. The court has not set a hearing date for arguments in the case.

‘Crying Nazi’ Denounced

By Michael Edison Hayden

A white nationalist who projected an image of strength — and then cried when cops came after him — has become a pariah to his brethren.

Christopher Cantwell, known as the “Crying Nazi,” says he’s become an informant for the FBI as a way to hurt antifa, but others in the movement aren’t convinced. Andrew Anglin of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer calls Cantwell a “federal snitch,” and uses the label to taint anyone who collaborates with him.

Cantwell’s fall from white nationalist grace is evident in the movement’s online circles. As pseudonymous user “Goy Rogers” wrote on the white nationalist social media platform Gab, “Cantwell is a self admitted [sic] police informant and a known rat. Anyone who trusts him deserves to get burned.”

Cantwell rose to fame during the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when he appeared in a Vice documentary that went viral in the event’s aftermath. The rally, which was planned by leaders of the “alt-right” movement, collapsed into chaos and made the rise of white supremacy in America a national news story. Last December, James Fields, a man who marched with white supremacists at that event, was found guilty of murdering anti-racist demonstrator Heather Heyer by ramming her with his car.

Cantwell then gained additional notoriety when he posted a YouTube video of himself sobbing after he learned police were searching for him following Charlottesville. His crying episode was in stark contrast to an earlier Vice video that showed him marching shirtless during the rally and displaying his cache of weapons for a reporter.

Cantwell canceled what was supposed to be a tour in April 2019, citing “serious personal problems” as the reason behind his decision.

He also said he needed to take a break from podcasting. The announcement offered a window into psychological pressures faced by those who sell hate for a living.

“I’ve been neglecting to deal with some serious personal problems for a very long time,” Cantwell wrote on his website April 9 in a post titled “Learning My Lesson.” “I kept on telling myself that if I could just get beyond this or that obstacle, I would finally be able to decompress and lick my wounds and recover.”

Cantwell hosts two self-produced shows, “Radical Agenda” and “Outlaw Conservative.” In both of them, he spews hate against racial, religious and sexual minorities. His announcement followed well-publicized turmoil in his life.

For example, following Unite the Right, Cantwell was charged with a series of crimes related to altercations that took place on the night of Aug. 11, 2017. He tangled on video with anti-racist activists who were protesting the white nationalist gathering.

Cantwell was banned from Virginia for five years in July 2018 after pleading guilty to two counts of assault and battery related to incidents that took place that night. The Suffolk County, New York, native located in the summer of 2018 to New Hampshire, where he lived prior to being arrested in Charlottesville.

Cantwell appeared to call for leftists to be killed by other white supremacists in a post on the white supremacist-friendly social network Gab on March 17, 2019. Gab, known for its relaxed attitude toward extremist content, banned Cantwell from the site March 18.

Intelligence Report staff reached Cantwell by text after he wrote about his personal problems and he said, “I’m fucking exhausted and I need a break.”

“I’m just stepping away from the microphone to avoid another ‘Crying Nazi’ moment while I unpack some of the baggage I’ve been collecting over the past few years,” Cantwell told Intelligence Report staff, referring to viral video from August 2017 in which he cried on camera about criminal charges he received in Charlottesville.

James Alex Fields Jr. killed Heather Heyer by intentionally ramming his 2010 Dodge Challenger into a crowd of anti-racism protesters after a white nationalist rally on Aug. 12, 2017. (WinMcNamee/Getty Images)

A Living Death Sentence

By Brett Barroquere

James Alex Fields Jr., the man who murdered a counterprotester after the failed “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, has seen his last day as a free man.

This summer, federal and state judges sentenced Fields to a total of 30 life sentences plus 419 years in prison for ramming his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer and injuring more than 30 others.

Fields faced charges in both state and federal court. He was convicted of murder, malicious wounding and other charges on the state level and hate crimes on the federal level.

“You have expressed yourself as a white supremacist, Mr. Fields. You have made choices,” Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Richard Moore said when he sentenced Fields in July on state charges. “We all have choices — you made the wrong one.”

Moore sentenced Fields, 22, to life in prison plus 419 years. The judge ordered the sentence to be served consecutively with the federal punishment, meaning Fields will have to serve two back-to-back federal life sentences before earning credit for serving any of his state sentence.

At the end of June, U.S. District Court Judge Michael F. Urbanski sentenced Fields to two consecutive life sentences and 27 concurrent life sentences. Federal prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty in exchange for Fields pleading guilty to 29 federal hate crimes.

Federal and state judges sentenced James Alex Fields Jr. to a total of 30 life sentences plus 419 years in prison for ramming his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 30 others. (Steve Helber/AP Images)

During his federal sentencing, Fields expressed regret. “I apologize for all the hurt and loss that I caused. I apologize to my mom for putting her through all this,”he said. But Fields’ mother wasn’t there. She didn’t attend his federal or state sentencing hearings. Only Fields’ attorneys were with him as he faced the anger of his victims.

Jeanne “Star” Peterson, who suffered a broken leg and multiple other broken bones in the Charlottesville attack on Aug. 12, 2017, looked at Fields across the courtroom and addressed him directly during the state sentencing hearing.

“Hello, scum,” Peterson said before the judge cut her off.

Marcus Martin, a Charlottesville resident who sustained multiple injuries, including a broken leg, described feeling an ongoing rage, suffering depression and having repeated outbursts since the attack.

Martin stared intently at Fields, who didn’t appear to return the gaze.

“You ran us down with a car. … You don’t deserve to be on this earth. You a fucking animal. You ain’t shit. You ain’t shit,” Martin said before walking out of the courtroom.

At a press conference after the federal sentencing, Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, said the judge and jurors reached the right decision.

“I don’t know if Mr. Fields can ever be trusted in society,” Bro told reporters.

The Unite the Right rally, which was to feature “alt-right” and white nationalist speakers, never got off the ground. The governor declared a state of emergency before the rally was to begin at noon. Beset by violent confrontations between alt-right adherents and counterprotesters, Virginia State Police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly.

A video shows Fields plowing his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters. The footage shows the car hitting people, tossing several into the air and killing Heyer.