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On Our Radar: Violence and the Movement

Each issue, the Intelligence Report’s Hatewatch section will expose the most disturbing corners of the radical right. In this issue, we investigate how violence that has traditionally been in the shadows of racist extremism is increasingly taking to the streets.

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

Illustration by Sarah Hanson

The 'Alt-Right' Is Still Killing People

By Bill Morlin

It shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The racist “alt-right” is still killing people, and 2018 was the deadliest year yet.

In 2018, at least 40 people in the U.S. and Canada were killed by individuals who were either motivated by or attracted to far-right ideologies, embracing ideas and philosophies that are cornerstones of the alt-right.

The alt-right homicides in 2018 were a continuation of a violent, unpredictable trend that first emerged in 2014 with Elliot Rodger’s horrific murders.

Rodger went on a killing spree on May 23, 2014, in Isla Vista, California, killing six people. He left behind a manifesto detailing his hatred of women and interracial couples — misogynistic and racist themes that were, at the time, coalescing among online subcultures that would become the alt-right.

The 22-year-old fatally stabbed three men in his apartment before driving to a sorority at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he shot three women, killing two and seriously wounding the third. He killed six people total and wounded 14 with his vehicle and gunfire before taking his own life during a gun battle with police.

Rodger became an inspiration for alt-right killers to come, and his image was eventually added to the banner of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer.

In the ensuing four-year period, according to numbers tabulated by the Southern Poverty Law Center and first documented in an extensive report released last year, at least 81 people have been killed at the hands of someone steeped in or influenced by alt-right beliefs.

An additional 104 people have been wounded or injured in these sporadic events, which include mass shootings, unprovoked attacks and other violent assaults.

The SPLC report details the alt-right’s success in popularizing dangerous racist and misogynistic ideas that resonate with one group in particular — disaffected white men, generally in their mid-20s, some with hidden fantasies about violence and firearms.

There were multiple killings in the U.S. and Canada in 2018 — a van attack in Toronto; a deadly shooting at a Florida high school; a massacre at a synagogue; and a brutal stabbing outside a Pittsburgh nightspot.

The alt-right’s influence was traceable across all four events.

The first occurred on Valentine’s Day with a deadly rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

While the shooter’s suspected connections with the alt-right may be tangential, media accounts suggest Nikolas Cruz was fascinated by racist iconography and language, along with guns, knives and violence.

The former Parkland student, who had a Nazi symbol on his backpack, used a semiautomatic assault rifle to fatally gun down 14 students and three educators before walking away. Bulletproof glass kept him from shooting fleeing students. Police also found swastikas etched onto the ammunition magazines that Cruz used.

Before the shooting, Cruz made social media posts about buying body armor and shooting up a school. In a private chat group, CNN reported, he also “repeatedly espoused racist, homophobic and antisemitic views and displayed an obsession with violence and guns.”

In April, Alek Minassian, who admired Rodger for his deadly act in 2014, is accused of intentionally driving a rental van into pedestrians on a crowded walkway in Toronto, Canada.

A post on Minassian’s Facebook page the same day of the killings suggested he carried out the attack to further the “Incel Rebellion” — an apparent reference to “involuntary celibates,” a misogynistic and violent online subculture.

Incels frequently align with alt-right issues while primarily focusing on denigrating and dehumanizing women, sometimes even advocating physical and sexual violence.

After the van attack that killed 10 people and injured 14, mostly women, other incels took to social media to applaud Minassian for killing more people than Rodger, who they dubbed the “Supreme Gentleman.”

In August, another suspect with a trail of alt-right online activity struck. Joden Rocco, 25, is accused of fatally stabbing a black man outside a Pittsburgh North Shore bar.

On Facebook, Rocco “liked” approximately 50 pages trafficking in memes and slang favored by the alt-right and the white nationalist movement.

He also subscribed to neo-Confederate hate group Identity Dixie’s page and expressed a liking for videos featuring speeches from neo-Nazi William Pierce, the late leader of the once-influential National Alliance. Activists are calling for Rocco to be charged with a hate crime.

Then, in October, a gunman went on a rampage at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 and seriously wounding six others. The suspect, Robert Bowers, has been charged by police for the hate-fueled murder spree, the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history.

Before the Oct. 27 mass killing, the 46-year-old suspect’s social media footprints showed he frequently reposted content from influential alt-right accounts on the social media platform Gab, an alternative to Twitter that caters to racists.

He made numerous antisemitic remarks on Gab. He called Jews “the children of satan” and appeared to support the conspiracy theory that the U.S. is controlled by the “Zionist Occupied Government.” The accused gunman also seemed to buy into another conspiracy theory that Jewish forces are scheming to dilute the white race by importing refugees and immigrants.

Bowers, who lived in Baldwin, Pennsylvania, was armed with three .357 Glock handguns, and a Colt AR-15 assault-style semiautomatic rifle.

In February 2018, the SPLC wrote in its report on alt-right killers, “After a year of escalating alt-right violence, we are probably in for more.” That 2018 became the deadliest yet confirms the danger posed by alt-right propaganda and its widespread circulation enabled by social media platforms.

Photo by John Rudoff/AP Images

Taking It to the Streets

By Intelligence Report Staff

Last summer, as melees and riots broke out at so-called free speech rallies around the country, the white nationalist movement’s top brass found themselves — somewhat reluctantly — heaping praise on the Proud Boys, an all-male hate group founded by far-right media personality Gavin McInnes. The “alt-lite” group that white nationalists previously sneered at was now doing what they couldn’t since the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia: namely, bringing men to the streets to square off against their left-wing enemies.

“I’m never makin fun of the proudboys again,” Jesse Dunstan, co-host of “The Daily Shoah” podcast, which is popular with the racist “alt-right,” tweeted in response to one of the group’s rallies this summer.

The moment when the Proud Boys seemed to win over the more hardcore elements of the white nationalist movement came on June 30, when roughly 200 members of the Proud Boys and their West Coast partner group, Patriot Prayer, clashed with counterprotesters at a march through downtown Portland. During the melee, which police eventually declared a riot, Proud Boy Ethan Nordean knocked out an opposing demonstrator with a single punch.

“It’s so much fun to see that guy get fucking clocked,” Mike Peinovich said on “The Daily Shoah” as he watched the hit in slow motion. “This is the fucking enemy,” his co-host added. “I hope they all drop dead.”

The rally in Charlottesville left the alt-right hamstrung. Rallies, marches and other forms of street activism became too risky for the movement as it became burdened by lawsuits and intense public scrutiny. But since its founding in 2016, the Proud Boys has worked to avoid that same public relations trap, conveniently sidestepping the issue of race by painting themselves as ultranationalist “Western chauvinists” who celebrate capitalism, praise traditional gender roles and embrace the views of McInnes, their self-proclaimed “Islamophobic” founder. They prefer to talk about differences in “culture” rather than race, and they accept nonwhite members. As a result, they often elude the “racist” label.

Though they might not look like the alt-right’s ideal army, the Proud Boys accomplish the movement’s goals by battling anti-fascists in the streets and pushing the narrative that the left is violent and unhinged. White nationalists hope the increasing political tension fomented by the Proud Boys will help steer Trump supporters closer to their side and, in turn, accelerate an eventual showdown between themselves and those on the left.

“Don’t be fooled — these are /ourguys/,” Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin and Luis Castillo wrote after the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer rallied in Portland on Aug. 4. One commenter on the site referred to them as “Our own Indische Legion,” a Nazi military unit made up of Indian soldiers.

Others on the site praised the Proud Boys for “exposing antifa to normies as the true scum” and creating visuals seeking to radicalize those already on the right. “Antifa will take the bait and come and engage in violence which can be shared on social media, Fox News and Republican attack ads in the midterm elections,” Brad Griffin, an alt-right Southern nationalist, wrote on his blog, Occidental Dissent, in August.

“I think an important seismic shift in conservative circles is underway now,” Roy Batty wrote in a Daily Stormer article about the June 30 Portland riot, which he argued would help convince people on the right that institutions — including the police — were not on their side.

“Historian[s] will examine this period as the build-up to an inevitable blood-letting,” he wrote.

For now, white nationalists seem content to let the Proud Boys act as their foot soldiers. But watching men like Nordean brawl against their shared political enemies has gotten them riled up, too. “Up until a year or two ago, I was anti-violence and hated conflict,” a commenter wrote in response to Batty. “Now, I’m ready to go.”

Illustration by Sunny Paulk

Violent Nostalgia

By Dave Neiwert

The photo of three men posing in front of an ordinary apartment’s parking area would normally be so nondescript as to barely warrant any notice, until the members of Atomwaffen Division explained, when they posted it on social media, where it was taken: at the site of Alan Berg’s murder. Berg, a Denver radio talk-show host, was assassinated outside his home in 1984 by members of the neo-Nazi gang The Order. The photo spoke volumes about the nature of Atomwaffen Division and its brand of white supremacy.

Though its origins lie on the internet and the now-defunct white supremacist Iron March forum, Atomwaffen is rather different in its outlook from most of its racist “alt-right” brethren. Unlike most such groups, it is very backward-looking, positively nostalgic for the terroristic brands of neo-Nazism promoted by white supremacists from years gone by. Their icons are ideologues like the American Nazi Party’s George Lincoln Rockwell (who died in 1967), “Turner Diaries” author William Pierce, 1970s neo-Nazi activist James Mason, even 1960s mass killer Charles Manson, who advocated a war between races. Their heroes are terroristic thugs like The Order leader Robert Mathews and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Atomwaffen Division is proof that such ideologies continue to prevail even after their original progenitors have passed away. Central to the group’s action plan is the belief, drawn from these older sources, that the old, established version of Western civilization has to be destroyed utterly and rebuilt entirely free of Jewish and nonwhite influences, reinstituting the totalizing order of National Socialism.

Thus, Atomwaffen’s propaganda posters promote the idea of National Socialism — in the form of a swastika — rising from the ruins of an utterly destroyed America, declaring: “A New Order Will Rise From the Ashes of the Kike System.”

Their strategy is also drawn from these older sources: Form discrete action cells, much like The Order, and embark on campaigns of terrorism that will eventually inspire an American race war and a Nazi-like “purification” of the nation’s racial landscape. So places like the site of Berg’s assassination hold special meaning for them: Berg, who had verbally humiliated neo-Nazi leaders on his talk show, was gunned down by Mathews’ gang in the summer of 1984 as Berg arrived home.

Such a violent worldview has violent real-world outcomes: Atomwaffen Division members are associated with as many as five known killings, including the murder of a gay Jewish man in California. A ProPublica exposé published in February 2018 showed how members engage in tactical weapons training in the woods, called “hate camps,” during which the shooters shout, “Gas the kikes!”

This violent and vicious ideology is almost entirely enabled by the internet and its ability to connect people with fringe ideologies across large distances. Atomwaffen claims it has about 20 cells scattered around the U.S., with membership in each cell estimated between three and five people each. That means the group may have about 80 members altogether nationally.

The victims of The Order’s 1984 rampage certainly can recall how easily only a handful of people can terrorize communities through murder and violence. That, more than anything, may have been the point of taking a selfie outside Alan Berg’s parking spot.

Photo illustration by SPLC

Patriot Front: A Year After 'Unite the Right'

By Dave Neiwert

The photo of three men posing in front of an ordinary apartment’s parking area would normally be so nondescript as to barely warrant any notice, until the members of Atomwaffen Division explained, when they posted it on social media, where it was taken: at the site of Alan Berg’s murder. Berg, a Denver radio talk-show host, was assassinated outside his home in 1984 by members of the neo-Nazi gang The Order. The photo spoke volumes about the nature of Atomwaffen Division and its brand of white supremacy.

Though its origins lie on the internet and the now-defunct white supremacist Iron March forum, Atomwaffen is rather different in its outlook from most of its racist “alt-right” brethren. Unlike most such groups, it is very backward-looking, positively nostalgic for the terroristic brands of neo-Nazism promoted by white supremacists from years gone by. Their icons are ideologues like the American Nazi Party’s George Lincoln Rockwell (who died in 1967), “Turner Diaries” author William Pierce, 1970s neo-Nazi activist James Mason, even 1960s mass killer Charles Manson, who advocated a war between races. Their heroes are terroristic thugs like The Order leader Robert Mathews and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Atomwaffen Division is proof that such ideologies continue to prevail even after their original progenitors have passed away. Central to the group’s action plan is the belief, drawn from these older sources, that the old, established version of Western civilization has to be destroyed utterly and rebuilt entirely free of Jewish and nonwhite influences, reinstituting the totalizing order of National Socialism.

Thus, Atomwaffen’s propaganda posters promote the idea of National Socialism — in the form of a swastika — rising from the ruins of an utterly destroyed America, declaring: “A New Order Will Rise From the Ashes of the Kike System.”

Their strategy is also drawn from these older sources: Form discrete action cells, much like The Order, and embark on campaigns of terrorism that will eventually inspire an American race war and a Nazi-like “purification” of the nation’s racial landscape. So places like the site of Berg’s assassination hold special meaning for them: Berg, who had verbally humiliated neo-Nazi leaders on his talk show, was gunned down by Mathews’ gang in the summer of 1984 as Berg arrived home.

Such a violent worldview has violent real-world outcomes: Atomwaffen Division members are associated with as many as five known killings, including the murder of a gay Jewish man in California. A ProPublica exposé published in February 2018 showed how members engage in tactical weapons training in the woods, called “hate camps,” during which the shooters shout, “Gas the kikes!”

This violent and vicious ideology is almost entirely enabled by the internet and its ability to connect people with fringe ideologies across large distances. Atomwaffen claims it has about 20 cells scattered around the U.S., with membership in each cell estimated between three and five people each. That means the group may have about 80 members altogether nationally.

The victims of The Order’s 1984 rampage certainly can recall how easily only a handful of people can terrorize communities through murder and violence. That, more than anything, may have been the point of taking a selfie outside Alan Berg’s parking spot.

Photo by Jason Andrew/Redux

Violence Rises Above

By Dave Neiwert

From the get-go, the Rise Above Movement (RAM) was an all-white men’s fight club, with a political twist: When they weren’t sparring for sport, what they really wanted to do was beat up “leftists” and Donald Trump critics.

The organization first announced its presence in March 2017 at a pro-Trump rally near Huntington Beach, California. Described in the local media as a “South Bay-based white supremacist fight club DIY [do-it-yourself] Division,” its members descended on the sandy beach where the rally was held and assaulted not only members of the counter-protesting contingent of anti-fascists, but local journalists as well. Four people were arrested, mostly for using pepper spray and for assault, after the scene devolved into a running melee in which several participants suffered minor injuries. Police broke up the rally.

The skirmish occurred in the context of a number of similar pro-Trump rallies held at various locales around the nation that day, but the Huntington Beach brawl was noteworthy for its violence, which appeared to shape RAM into what it is now: a street-brawling hate group dedicated to fomenting violence in confrontations with its perceived political enemies.

Its image is clean-cut and well-dressed, muscular young men with clean-shaven faces, in the fashion of European street-fighting gangs. But in the streets, they are renowned for donning death’s head kerchief masks and American flag bandanas. Its members claim they are not racist, but on social media it is common for them to post the neo-Nazi credo “the 14 words” (“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”), as well as a broad range of hateful racist and antisemitic memes.

Among RAM’s core members are individuals with criminal records for charges related to violence, making them prime recruits for a hate group bent on violent extremism. As a ProPublica exposé detailed, they all shared a taste for fighting and for the right-wing politics of Donald Trump, though many felt he didn’t go far enough. Most of all, they were dedicated to physically attacking the enemies of the far right.

These origins include the darkest corners of the radical right: Some of RAM’s founding members came from the ranks of the racist skinhead crew Hammerskin Nation, of which domestic terrorist Wade Michael Page was a member.

Some of RAM’s members stepped up their activism after the Huntington Beach rally, traveling to Berkeley to participate in the massive street riot on April 15, 2017, in which multiple people were injured and nearly a dozen were arrested. RAM then played a leading role in creating violence at a “March Against Sharia” event (part of a nationwide series of protests organized by anti-Muslim hate group ACT for America) in San Bernardino, California, in mid-June 2017; some of its Hammerskin members were key participants in both rallies.


Illustration by Cierra Brinson

Some of the same RAM leaders — particularly Benjamin Drake Daley, 25, Walter Gillen, 34, Michael Paul Miselis, 29, and Cole Evan White, 24, all from California — traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia, for the Aug. 11-12, 2017

“Unite the Right” rally that descended into violence, chaos and death. Those four were arrested in October 2018 and face federal charges for crossing state lines to riot. The men not only participated in multiple assaults that weekend, they boasted about it on social media.

Their legal troubles seem to have forced the group underground. An inside source told ProPublica that the group is withdrawing from the street-fighting scene for now, but says it will be making its ongoing presence known through other means. In the meantime, its members remain violent individuals interested in manifesting their violent ideals.

RAM is future-facing in its monetizing and recruiting. Like other such groups, it offers a clothing line that sells members a limited variety of uniforms to wear for street events. And it attracts new members by explicitly promoting its ethos of embracing violence — although, with its most active members and leaders behind bars, recruiting efforts may be down, at least temporarily.