Hate in Europe: June 2018

The following is a list of activities and events linked to American white supremacist, neo-Nazi, anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim groups and personalities in Europe. Organizations listed as hate groups are designated with an asterisk.

France

On June 24, 10 men from an extreme-right terrorist cell, the Action des Forces Opérationnelles (Action of Operational Forces, AFO), were arrested for plotting attacks against Muslims. According to Mediapart, police found weapons and a bomb-making lab in the suspects’ homes.

AFO is a seceding faction of a far-right group called Volontaires pour la France (Volunteers for France, VPF) that includes current and former police officers and soldiers, among others. The group claims to have 800 members who want to combat what they call the “Islamization” of the country. The leaders of VPF include former French army general Antoine Martinez and former Front National member Yvan Blot. AFO broke from VPF in fall 2017 and no longer accepts its members.

VPF lists Iowa U.S. representative Steve King, known for racist comments and for recently retweeting a prominent neo-Nazi, as one of its honorary members. They also list Rosine Ghawji, the head of the French Donald Trump Committee, and Renaud Camus, the progenitor of the Great Replacement doctrine — the racist idea that white Europeans are being replaced by immigrants.

In a response to the Mediapart investigation, VPF claimed there was not enough evidence that AFO members were going to actually follow up on their threats. Meanwhile, it reaffirmed its dedication to “protecting the identity of the French nation and its struggle against Islamization,” claiming that it had no “violent or obscure objectives.”

June was a big month for the violent far-right group Bastion Social. On June 20, members of the group dropped a banner from the roof of a refugee rights advocacy group in Lyon before being ejected by law enforcement. The banner read: “Close down the accomplices of immigration. Bastion Social.” This action was publicly supported by Jacques Bompard, the far-right mayor of Orange and a founding member of the National Front.

On June 28, two Bastion Social leaders, Clément Duboy and Jérémy Palmieri, were sentenced to six months in prison for violently beating two men on April 27 in Marseille. The victims included a man hailing from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and an off-duty police officer. Both men were hospitalized for six days. According to the Guadeloupean victim, he asked the Bastion Social members for a smoke and they replied that he “had fallen on the wrong people.” One Bastion Social member then told the off-duty police officer, when he identified himself as such: “Wow, you are a cop and you spend time with this [referring to his friend].” The court didn’t elevate the crime to an act of racism for lack of corroborating evidence, but did condemn the completely unmotivated violence.

Duboy was also sentenced in May to one year in prison (eight on probation) after he and other Bastion Social militants beat up a couple with a metal bar in Aix-en-Provence, yelling: “go back to do Ramadan, dirty Arab.”

Russia

The international far right flocked to Russia this June, but not necessarily for the World Cup. Far-right YouTube personalities Brittany Pettibone and Lauren Southern traveled to Russia to produce a series of videos. Notably, they met ultranationalist philosopher Alexander Dugin. Both figures said they were impressed with Dugin’s talk about topics like “identity or returning to traditional roots or the Great Replacement—things that if you mention these in America or Canada, it’s like, whoa, suddenly it’s like, too spicy.” Banned from the United Kingdom for their heavy involvement with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim identitarians, the two women have made a career of smuggling far-right anti-immigrant and racist ideas into wider circulation among mainstream audiences.

Rebel Media’s Katie Hopkins also went to Russia and spent a significant amount of time praising Vladimir Putin. Her travel political commentary — including awe at the Russian subway and the Russianness of the Russian people — was roundly mocked. Hopkins is known for her inflammatory racist statements, notably calling migrants “cockroaches” and advocating for the use of gunships to stop them.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Home Office banned 1,200 known football hooligans from going to Russia, fearing clashes. While there have been some clashes between various nations’ hooligan factions — including between some British hooligans — around the World Cup, there have been fewer than expected, especially given anxiety at the lifting of the ban on some Russian hooligans ahead of the tournament. Russia’s soccer federation was fined by FIFA when a fan held up a neo-Nazi banner at a game.

United Kingdom

The anti-immigrant far-right United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) had seemed more or less condemned to insignificance after its Brexit victory and the departure of its anti-Muslim firebrand Anne-Marie Waters. UKIP, which rose to fame with its Brexit campaign, was also the object of scrutiny this month after revelations that one of its initial financial backers, Arron Banks, had had extensive contact with Russian officials. Russia has famously backed anti-European Union far-right parties in Europe, in part as a counterbalance to the power of the EU.

But this month, initially as part of a joke, far-right social media influencers including Carl Benjamin (also known as Sargon of Akkad), conspiracy theorist and Infowars editor-at-large Paul Joseph Watson, and Mark Meechan (also known as Count Dankula), all decided to join UKIP. They were then joined by U.S.-based far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Since then, 500 new members have joined , raising speculation about whether or not the party could be resurrected as an alt-lite/alt-right stronghold.

Meanwhile, a member of the Knights Templar International (KTI) attended the joint conference of white nationalist hate groups the American Freedom Party* and the Council of Conservative Citizens* the weekend of June 16 in Tennessee. KTI is a shady anti-Muslim group created by one of the founders of the far-right anti-Muslim organization Britain First, Jim Dowson. The group has been supporting paramilitary activities in Eastern Europe, notably a Serbian pro-monarchy group.

The chairman of the far-right Swiss Nationalist Party (PNOS) also attended the American white nationalist conference.

Spain

HazteOir, a partner of the anti-LGBT hate coalition the World Congress of Families*, used an orange bus reading “leave the children alone” to campaign against an LGBT non-discrimination law proposed in the parliament of Cantabria on June 19. HazteOir claimed the law promoted “sexual indoctrination.” In the summer of 2017, Hazteoir also used a similar bus to campaign against a proposed LGBT Non Discrimination and Equality Bill, which they branded the LGBTI “gag law” (in Spanish, Ley Mordaza LGBTI).

HazteOir, through its organization CitizenGO (another WCF partner) and alongside WCF president Brian Brown’s International Organization for the Family* and National Organization for Marriage, organized a similar anti-trans “Free Speech” campaign in the United States back in 2017. A design on the bus read: “Boys are boys…and always will be. Girls are girls…and always will be. You can’t change sex.” Since 2017, similar CitizenGO buses have gone through Chile, Germany, France, Italy and Kenya. Brown attended HazteOir’s awards ceremony in December and praised HazteOir’s head Ignacio Arsuaga as “doing amazing work defending [the] natural family.”

In a talk also organized by HazteOir, Alicia Rubio, the vice-secretary of the far-right party Vox, spoke in Valencia on June 22. In her book When We Were Prohibited from Being Women and They Persecuted You for Being Men , she has pushed fear-mongering around a “homosexual lobby” that uses “gender ideology” to raise money and pervert the youth and society at large. Rubio lost her teaching job after outrage following the book’s publication. Many of her talks were canceled due to pressure by several associations calling her work “homophobic” and an incitement to hatred.

HazteOir has been linked to the Catholic paramilitary secret society El Yunque by a Spanish judge. According to a report that was used in court, El Yunque seeks to influence political power and the media, to create "networks of recruitment of young people and adolescents."

Italy

In Italy, the far-right Lega, or League, has delivered on its virulent anti-immigrant campaign promises since gaining power. Far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini is refusing to accept migrant and refugee boats and has supported the Italian Maritime force’s decision to ignore migrants’ SOS calls. He has also called for a census of Roma people in the country to expel all Roma non-citizens from the country, declaring: “We need a mass cleansing, street by street, piazza by piazza, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.”

The new Italian minister for family, Lorenzo Fontana, is also a member of the League. The minister is a far-right Catholic, and he spoke at the International Festival for Life, an anti-abortion meeting organized by Pro Vita, an ally of the World Congress of Families*, in February 2018.

As Corriere della Serra uncovered, Pro Vita has a remarkable number of ties to the neo-fascist group Forza Nuova. Pro Vita’s mail distribution service shares an address with Forza Nuova headquarters. Its head, Toni Brandi, describes himself as a friend of Forza Nuova leader Roberto Fiore, and both collaborated on a Russian anti-gay documentary featuring Fiore’s family. Forza Nuova members and Fiore’s children are also involved in Pro Vita. Additionally, Alliance for Peace and Freedom, a coalition of hard-right parties at the European parliament of which Roberto Fiore is the chairman, funded Pro Vita’s book The Attack on the Family. Fiore wrote the introduction. The book is replete with classic anti-LGBT rhetoric and extreme-right dog whistles, claiming that “the cultural Marxists have made the demolition of the Family a key part of their long war against Christian Civilization and European identity.”

The head of Pro Vita, Brandi, has a record of peddling a myth linking homosexuality to pedophilia popular on the anti-LGBT Christian Right.

As Hatewatch documented, the Russian representative of the Pro Vita ally WCF, Alexey Komov, has networked and collaborated with European neo-fascists, including Fiore, who he described in an email as “our pro-Russian Italian friend.”

Finally, the influential hate music Italian band Bronson performed a show in Rome. The show was organized by the violent Italian neo-fascist group CasaPound, within which Bronson was created. CasaPound is said to normalize “fascism for hipsters.” In May, they performed in a show organized by the far-right anti-immigrant group Atalante in Québec.

Austria

According to his latest email update, Martin Sellner, the leader of anti-immigrant activist group Defend Europe, was in Brussels alongside French and British identitarians after an invitation by a member of the European Parliament.

Sellner praised Austrian authorities for using the #proborders hashtag that identitarians use for their anti-immigrant actions. The Austrian authorities used it to discuss a military training exercise they staged on Austria’s border with Slovenia on June 26, where hundreds of police officers, soldiers, used helicopters to demonstrate how the security forces would keep migrants out. Over 200 Austrian police cadets took on the role of immigrants trying to break through the fence.

Despite this celebration, Sellner and sixteen other identitarian members are currently being sued by Austrian authorities over hate speech, with court proceedings due to start July 4. Sellner was also banned from Instagram and Facebook in June, as has Hungarian identitarian leader Abel Bódi. Breitbart claimed that Bódi was suspended for posting a Breitbart article, while Bódi added it might be linked to planning a protest in solidarity with jailed anti-Muslim far-right provocateur Tommy Robinson. Identitarians have been involved in scores of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim actions and call for the return of immigrants to their home country. For instance, a paltry four identitarian activists dropped a banner from the roof of the Copenhagen station in Denmark calling for remigration on June 19.

Czech Republic

The Center for the Study of Political Islam International, founded by anti-Muslim activist Bill French as an offshoot of his American group Center for the Study of Political Islam, held two lectures in the Czech Republic on June 12 and June 25. According to the event's description, the lectures alleged that Islam is not a religion but a political ideology that places an undue burden on non-Muslim societies. It further describes Muslims as being encouraged to promote principles in contradiction with a European understanding of human rights. While French did not provide these two lectures himself, he occasionally travels to the Czech Republic to lecture on behalf of the organization, as he did in April 2016.

Upcoming events:

  • Poitiers, France: Civitas, a French far-right Catholic group that opposes LGBT and reproductive rights, is holding its summer university in August near Poitiers. According to Mediapart, Civitas has been involved in trying to recruit Catholic soldiers and law enforcement officers for its far-right efforts. Its leader, Marion Sigaut, has worked for the antisemitic and racist publishing houses of neo-Nazi author Alain Soral. She attended a “Eurasia” meeting organized by ultranationalist philosopher Alexander Dugin alongside European WCF members earlier this year.
     
  • Lisbon, Portugal: The Southern California hate music band Brassic will attend a “Patriotic concert” in July, hosted by the Pan European Brotherhood (PPDM). A seminar and conference are held in parallel to the concert, which PPDM claims gathered 250 people from 10 countries during its first iteration in France last year. The violent Italian neo-fascist group Casapound will be at the conference. The Portuguese anti-immigrant group Portugueses Primeiro has said it will also be attending.

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