Oswalt Convicted, Antifascists at Courthouse

It appears that this chapter of the Andrew Oswalt saga will soon be coming to an end; the young fascist was convicted on Thursday, Nov. 27 of three counts of first-degree intimidation, a felony hate crime, and two counts of criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. The intimidation charge carries up to a five-year sentence, but based on sentencing guidelines, it’s more likely that Oswalt, having no prior convictions, only faces up to 90 days in jail. Sentencing is set for Dec. 12 at 11 a.m.

The charges stem from an incident on June 17, 2017, that took place in the First Alternative Natural Food Co-op parking lot. Oswalt and an accomplice targeted members of a local racial justice group, “Showing Up for Racial Justice,” (SURJ) and attached racist slur-laden bumper stickers to their cars. Summarized, state law categorizes first-degree intimidation as an incident involving more than one person acting to substantially inconvenience a person based on their racial, sexual, or religious, or national identity. A hate crime, by definition, does more than target a specific person, but aims to intimidate and demoralize an entire community, race, or class.

This is precisely what Deputy District Attorney Ryan Joslin argued to the court.

“The impact of his actions goes beyond the vehicles and individuals he targeted,” explained Joslin. “His intent was to terrorize an entire community.”

Evidence shows that Oswalt had participated in various fascist activities before the June 17 incident, mostly involving the distribution and display of neo-Nazi propaganda. One such event culminated in Oswalt’s arrest for a concealed weapon during the distribution of fascist propaganda at the University of Oregon. He was in the company of James Marr, a well-known area neo-Nazi. Oswalt was found not guilty of the charges.

The Advocate is aware of at least one instance of Oswalt attempting to menace Corvallis’ anti-racist movement while awaiting trial. Criminologist Dr. Randy Blazak claimed to have received an email from Oswalt prior to an Oct 23 talk Blazak gave on hate groups and crimes to the Corvallis City Club. According to Blazak, Oswalt presumed that Blazak’s talk was about him, which it wasn’t, and Oswalt assured that his fascist allies would be attending the talk. In the message, Oswalt also declared himself to be the most successful white nationalist politician since David Duke, a similar claim that he had previously made to an Advocate staffer. Both instances occurred before President Trump had publicly declared himself to be a nationalist.

On the day of Oswalt’s conviction, a rally to oppose fascism organized by Brandy Fortson was held on the Benton County Courthouse lawn. Prior to the rally, fascists did what fascists do: intimidate and threaten the opposition. Fortson told The Advocate that they had received online threats of violence prior to the event. One such threat came from a profile that was subsequently deleted, telling Fortson that they would be seeing violence at the rally, and that they should expect it.

While the rally concluded without violence, some in attendance were present in opposition to the rally’s message, and they made their presence known. Paige Kreisman of the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter urged rally-goers to leave the event in groups to discourage violence.

While Oswalt’s punishment is likely to be lighter than some would hope, his felony conviction sends a strong message to others of his ilk who might attempt to harass or intimidate anyone, let alone the most vulnerable among us. Corvallis does not tolerate hate.  

By Jay Sharpe

CORRECTION: Brandy Fortson was first referenced in this article using incorrect pronouns. Their correct pronouns are they/them.

 

Antifascist Action at the Courthouse

About 40 area residents gathered in front of the Benton County Courthouse at 5 p.m. the evening of Nov. 29 to mark the conviction of Oregon State University Ph.D. student Andrew Oswalt for criminal mischief and first-degree intimidation.

Although Oswalt was convicted on all five counts, the mood was not one of celebration. People attending generally said they were there to make a show of solidarity within the community against racism, fascism, and white nationalism. Several speakers emphasized the importance of creating a permanent anti-fascist presence in the community.

Various sentiments were expressed by signs, shirts, and buttons carried by people attending the rally, ranging from “Fight Hate With Solidarity and Love,” to “Trans Rights Are Human Rights,” to the one expressed on the sign carried by young Marion Roth: “All Cats Are Beautiful.”

Speakers included rally organizer Brandy Fortson, Paige Kreisman of Democratic Socialists of America, and Cameron Green of SURJ (Standing Up for Racial Justice), the group which had been targeted by Oswalt in his attempt at intimidation. Green explained that ethnic, racial, and sexual minorities are always targeted by fascist groups, who try to isolate them from the main population. He declared it the duty of the entire community to resist these attempts at isolation, and show solidarity with targeted minorities: “Stand beside them, or if necessary, in front of them.” The initial attacks by fascists, he said, must be “met with overwhelming resistance and consequences. This is how we win.”

Speaker Mark Harvey echoed the frequent sentiment of calling for a community group to defend against fascist activity, warning there is “not a lot we can do to affect things elsewhere unless we get organized locally.”

Another speaker said, “In school, I heard a lot about fascism, but not about how it got started.” He pointed out the similarity between the slogans “Deutschland Uber Alles” and “America First.”

One young man in attendance attempted to speak despite his lack of invitation. When he was denied the platform, he lambasted the rally-goers of being the actual fascists. He largely stood to one side, shuffling his feet nervously, shaking his head in disagreement at what the speakers were saying, occasionally adjusting his red MAGA hat. 

Rally organizers received internet threats of violence prior to the event. Five rally attendees were present in opposition to the rally’s message.
By John M. Burt