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Extremism Headlines: Pelosi attacker, Atomwaffen plot, far-right university lecturer

Every week, we highlight stories on extremism and the radical right from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. Here are stories that caught our attention through May 17.

Antisemitic Soros tropes 

  • Hatewatch published an analysis on Thursday about far-right activists using antisemitic tropes centered on George Soros funding pro-cease-fire campus protests. Some social media posts and articles suggest that Soros, a billionaire philanthropist, is paying student activists involved in the protests. These claims often point to Soros’ grant-making organization, Open Society Foundations, which has awarded grants to some groups linked to the demonstrations. But the connections do not show that OSF has funded the protests.
  • The analysis explains that the use of Soros’ name in this context is an updated version of traditional antisemitic tropes, associating Jewish control, wealth, and power with societal disruption. Right-wing and far-right actors have amplified this narrative, contributing to a rise in antisemitism, according to the analysis. 
  • Hungary's ruling party Fidesz was the first to employ the Soros tropes for political gain. Hatewatch has extensively reported on links between the far-right Hungarian government and U.S. figures on the right.  

Guilty plea in case against Atomwaffen founder 

  • Sarah Beth Clendaniel pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and firearms charges related to a plot to attack multiple energy substations around Baltimore, ABC News reported on Tuesday. Authorities last year charged Clendaniel, from Catonsville, Maryland, with conspiring with Brandon Russell, the Florida-based founder of the neo-Nazi accelerationist group Atomwaffen Division (AWD). Prosecutors described the plot as a racism-fueled attempt to cause mass chaos in the majority-Black city. 
  • The pair planned to shoot up five substations while both were out on probation. The guilty plea now allows Clendaniel to cooperate with federal authorities against Russell.
  • Hatewatch has reported extensively on AWD's violent extremism and its influence over the radical right.

University Lecturer Behind Far-Right Publishing House

  • The Guardian published an investigation on Tuesday that identified Jonathan Keeperman, a former lecturer at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), as the man behind the prominent "new right" publishing house Passage Press and the influential Twitter persona "Lomez."
  • Keeperman’s involvement in far-right internet forums coincided with his time at UCI, where he was both an MFA student and a lecturer in the English department from 2013 to 2022.
  • Passage Press and similar publishers play a role in the development of the American far right, seeking to establish alternative institutions in opposition to what they perceive as a liberal "regime" in America, The Guardian said.
  • Hatewatch has reported on higher education instructors and their ties to extremism, including an investigation into a Georgia math teacher's extremist posts

Prosecutors ask 40-year sentence for conspiracy theorist Pelosi attacker

  • The Associated Press reported on May 11 that federal prosecutors have requested a 40-year prison sentence for David DePape, who a court found guilty of attacking with a hammer Paul Pelosi, husband of former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 
  • The assault took place in October 2022 when DePape broke into the Pelosi’s San Francisco home intending to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage, according to proecutors. DePape admitted to bludgeoning Paul Pelosi with a hammer when police arrived, stating his plan to end what he viewed as government corruption was unraveling. The sentencing hearing for DePape is scheduled for Friday.
  • DePape’s lawyer argued in court that DePape believes in baseless conspiracies that inspired his attack at the Pelosi residence, northern California public media KQED reported last November. These include ideas about Hollywood stars abusing children, a longtime tenet of far-right conspiracy theories like QAnon.

Read last week's edition here: Extremism Headlines: Sovereign Citizen shooting, Energy Substation Attacks and Holocaust Education

Above photo: Police tape blocks a street outside the home of Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in San Francisco, Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. (Credit Image:  David G. McIntyre/ZUMA Press Wire/Alamy)  

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