Focusing the public’s disillusionment toward “the other” can be a powerful political tool; it can even get someone elected as President. White supremacy is nothing new—our country was founded in it, Oregon was founded on it. Many of us, nonetheless, choose to ignore or are ignorant to what extent white supremacy continues to permeate our society, but in recent years it has become more obvious. Even the most extreme example, hate groups, have taken their place in mainstream America, but hate may have become even more socially acceptable than we imagined.
Throughout the history of the United States, violent homegrown political extremism has occurred with regularity. Incidents have been perpetrated from all sides of the political spectrum: from the Ku Klux Klan committing terrorism in the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era and again in the first half of the 20th Century, to high profile leftist groups like The Weather Underground and the Symbionese Liberation Army, who wreaked havoc throughout the country in the 1970s.
In recent years, right-wing violence is on the rise again. An Anti-Defamation League report shows that in 2017, 59% of murders unquestionably involving ideological extremism were committed by right-wing extremists, up from 20% in 2016. The report acknowledges that the rise of the alt-right may partially account for the dramatic uptick in violence.
Right-wing violence certainly existed before racists were energized by the campaign and election of President Trump, however. ADL studies have also shown that between 2008 and 2016, 74% of extremist-inspired murders were committed by white supremacists, sovereign citizens and militia adherents.
Hate crimes are on the rise as well, according to recent studies. In 2017, it was reported that Oregon sent the highest rate of reports—per capita—to ProPublica’s “Documenting Hate” project, a database of hate crimes and bias incidents. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino found that in 2017, reported hate crimes in the 10 largest U.S. cities had increased by 12%. In fact, they have increased for the last four years, despite a falling rate in overall crime.
“If we look across the data spectrum, hate crimes are confirming an increase in bigotry that not only exists in society, but is frequently more mainstreamed and more publicly manifested,” explained Brian Levin, the Director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
In Corvallis, we’ve had our own brushes with hateful ideology, most notably the outing of then OSU student government rep, Andrew Oswalt, as a white supremacist. He was subsequently arrested for affixing racial slur-laden stickers to the vehicles of racial justice advocates. Ringleader Jimmy Marr, or “Genocide Jimmy,” then frequently visited Monroe Avenue with his racist slogan-emblazoned panel truck. Oswalt’s trial begins on Nov 28, where he faces three counts of intimidation (a hate crime) and two counts of criminal mischief.
Oregon’s history of white supremacy may continue to exert its dark influence on the state, as several hate groups continue to operate within our borders. These groups include neo-Nazis, KKK, white nationalists, as well as anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim groups. These groups operate online, in physical spaces, and even in the Oregon House of Representatives. We’ve profiled some of the most significant of these organizations to shine a light on their methods and intentions.
Identity Evropa: Radicalizing America’s Youth
Remember the halcyon days when white supremacists weren’t littering college campuses with hate propaganda? This method was popularized by Identity Evropa(IE). This group was started in 2016 by Nathan Damigo, who was discharged from the Marines and imprisoned for robbing a man at gunpoint for “looking Iraqi.” The poisonous combination of PTSD and David Duke’s book, My Awakening, which Damigo read in prison, would end up doing untold damage to our country.
After prison, while navigating through the white supremacy underground, Damigo studied many strategies of the French New Right, such as propaganda and banner drops, and adopted them as strategies of his new group: Identity Evropa. These tactics would eventually be used by hate groups nationwide, including here in Oregon. Identity Evropa would aim its propaganda at young people— photos of their OSU flyering from 2016 can still be seen on their Twitter page. Andrew Oswalt and company have employed similar tactics in the Willamette Valley. Oswalt was arrested at the University of Oregon in Eugene in 2017 during a late-night propaganda drop, and has been implicated in other similar activities.
Another strategy utilized by IE is to “take up space.” Damigo insisted that his cohorts flood the Internet with white supremacist ideology: in Facebook groups, YouTube comment sections, Reddit, wherever they could. The idea was to expose people to white supremacy talking points on a massive scale, at a level where others would first become used to them, hoping some would eventually adopt these toxic beliefs as their own.
Identity Evropa’s politics would come to encapsulate the politics of the Alt-Right. Damigo’s goal was to “racialize” whiteness, by presenting those of European descent as just another ethnic group, while simultaneously and conveniently ignoring the stark reality of the world’s white supremacy problem. He could then paint white people as victims, and twist racial progress as evidence of racism toward whites. IE and the alt-right push the notion that terms like “racist” and “Nazi” are actually racial slurs toward white people, contorting the very concept of racism itself.
Before the 2016 election, Identity Evropa’s membership consisted of a very small amount of people, but their numbers dramatically increased afterwards. When it was first founded in 2016, Identity Evropa had around 15 members, which increased to nationwide by the end of July, 2017, as reported by Damigo. Emboldened by their new President, the Alt-Right would soon occupy physical spaces in 2017’s “Summer of Hate.”
The Proud Boys: Hate Fraternity
This violent group of neo-fascists was founded by Gavin McInnes, co-founder of Vice magazine. They identify themselves as “western chauvinists,” and claim to have no connection to the alt-right, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They, along with the other two groups profiled here, are designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Proud Boys bear some resemblance to the racist skinhead movement that originated in 1960s England, right down to their outfit of choice: black Fred Perry polos with gold trim. They are fervently nativist and spout anti-Muslim rhetoric; their members share the same memes and use the same buzzwords as their alt-right peers.
They were present in the deadly “Unite The Right” rally in Charlottesville, and frequently appear alongside Joey Gibson’s Patriot Prayer group on the streets of Portland as Gibson’s attack dogs. They were also enlisted as security by infamous right-wing provocateur and hatchet man, Roger Stone, during his visit to Salem in March, 2018.
After the June 30, 2018 Patriot Prayer rally in Portland, a video surfaced of Washington state Proud Boy, Ethan Nordean, being attacked by a masked counter protester with a baton; Nordean then knocked the assailant to the ground with a single punch. The collective cheer from right-wing extremists could be heard from space; proof of their victimhood had arrived. Part of Nordean’s victory lap was an interview with Alex Jones of InfoWars.
“How good did it feel, at least later, when you saw his head hit the pavement?” asked Jones.
Nordean replied, “Like Gavin McInnes says, violence isn’t great, but justified violence is amazing.”
Members of the group have committed numerous acts of violence throughout the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere, including beating antifascist activists with flag poles during the aforementioned Prayer Rally in Portland.
Oregonians For Immigration Reform: Mainstreaming White Supremacy
You might not find them street-brawling with anti-fascists or radicalizing your children with hip, edgy memes, because OFIR is up to something much more nefarious: writing legislation. OFIR’s website names Republican Mike Nearman, Oregon House Representative of Benton, Polk, Marion and Yamhill counties, as its vice president. Nearman denies holding this position, but admits to sitting on OFIR’s Board of Directors. Nearman claims that allegations of white nationalism are ad hominem attacks designed to discredit the organization and its political goals, but OFIR’s connections to organized white supremacy are hiding in plain sight. We have published a more detailed explanation of OFIR’s white nationalist ties in this week’s issue. The piece is titled “Benton State Lawmaker Tied To Hate Group.”
OFIR co-founder, Frank Brehm, had previously headed up an anti-immigrant group, also called Oregonians For Immigration Reform, whose website was hosted by white supremacist URL newnation.org, an overtly racist site plastered with racist and homophobic slurs. Former OFIR Vice President, Richard LaMountain, has contributed writings to the white nationalist website VDARE on three occasions, his most recent in 2016. VDARE has featured articles titled “One Problem With These Hispanic Immigrants Is Their Disgusting Behavior,” and “America Does Not Need ANY Immigrants From Africa.” LaMountain has also been published in racist publications such as Middle American Man, and American Free Press.
Current OFIR President, Cynthia Kendoll, was interviewed by the Willamette Week in 2014. “We are told all the time that people come here and want to become Americans,” she said. “I don’t think they’re interested in becoming U.S. citizens. It’s just an organized assault on our culture,” a statement that would feel right at home coming out of David Duke.
The SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) has come under fire for labeling seemingly mainstream organizations like OFIR as hate groups. The brunt of the attacks have come from sketchy, hard-right publications, but even some reputable sources like The Washington Post have questioned the hate watchdog’s credibility. The SPLC’s imperfect track record aside, the facts don’t lie when it comes to organizations like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Center for Immigration Studies, and OFIR. One scratch to their slick, official-looking surfaces, and the white supremacist rhetoric and ties to organized extremism come pouring out.
OFIR has succeeded in bringing an initiative to the Oregon ballot in November: Measure 105, a repeal of Oregon’s sanctuary state law. They have received significant support from other SPLC-identified hate groups, including the Federation of American Immigration Reform..
This initiative was proposed by Oregon House lawmakers Mike Nearman of District 23 (R-Independence), Sal Esquivel of District 6 (R-Medford), and Greg Barreto of District 58 (R-Pendleton). Another proponent of Measure 105 is gubernatorial candidate Knute Bueler. Once again for those in the back, a member of the Oregon legislature is either vice president or a member of the board (depending on who you ask) of a known hate group, and a candidate for Governor is supporting an initiative pushed onto the ballot by that same group. The normalization of white supremacy has never really left us.
Standing Up To Hate
Publicity regarding pushback to the current wave of right-wing hate activism has been largely centered around Antifa, who’ve been filmed in dust-ups with the Proud Boys and others in the streets of Portland, Berkeley, and additional cities. Public feelings regarding the tactics of Antifa have largely been negative.
Hate group expert Dr. Randall Blazak, who has previously been embedded with racist skinhead groups for research purposes, is the Chair of the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crimes. He sees many parallels between Antifa and an older group called “Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice” (SHARP), who used to violently oppose racist skinheads in the 1990s.
In a 2017 interview, Dr. Blazak said, “The SHARP’s, on many levels, I can’t advocate violence, but they have driven the skinheads out of a lot of scenes. I don’t know if it’s driven them away from their racism. I don’t know anyone who’s decided to not be a Nazi because they got punched in the face.”
Violence isn’t Antifa’s only tactic, however. The Pacific Northwest Anti Fascist Workers Collective ( https://pnwawc.com/ ), along with other Antifa cells, have engaged in the gathering of intelligence regarding right-wing hate groups. The PNAFWC were the ones who initially provided evidence of Andrew Oswalt’s alleged involvement with Genocide Jimmy’s group of Willamette Valley neo-Nazis. The PNAFWC website is a trove of information about individual white supremacists and groups.
They often “doxx” such individuals, a method of revealing personal information online about people including workplaces, phone numbers, addresses, and emails. Doxxing, however is a controversial tool and has also been used against civil rights advocates and feminists, forcing some to go into hiding. There have also been numerous instances of mistaken identity and incorrect information.
This sort of elimination of anonymity may have been a major reason that the “Unite The Right II” rally in D.C. was such a failure for the alt-right, as only a small handful of them attended. Before the rally, neo-Nazis like Andrew Anglin, founder of The Daily Stormer, were warning others of the dangers of attending. “Getting doxxed as a neo-Nazi street fighter will ruin your life, forever,” wrote Anglin.
Of course, the murder of Heather Heyer, etching her name onto the slate of history as a martyr, may have been the deadliest blow to the forces of hate. This act of violence would ultimately end up hurting the perpetrator, as violence often does.
“Life After Hate,” is an organization involving former members of hate groups, dedicated to liberating people from the hatred in their hearts. They share some suggestions for when hate groups come to your town:
“Violent Far-Right Extremists only benefit from media attention. They’re trying to trigger you and want you to act on your anger. It validates their victim mentality.”
“They want to be hated and they want you to get violent. But most of them did not join these groups because they hate people. Many are trying to fill a void in their own lives. And for many, it is themselves whom they hate.”
Ultimately, the best method of countering right-wing extremism may be to use Nathan Damigo’s own methods against him: Take up space. Wherever hate and racism attempt to occupy, take up that same space with the opposite message: Acceptance and equality. This method has been used by thousands of counterprotesters wherever hate groups take to city streets, just off camera from the brawls that the media accentuates. This method can also be used in online spaces. Where hate-filled trolls try to spin convoluted tales of “white genocide,” “cultural Marxism,” and the dangers of multiculturalism, take up that same space with the truth. In 10 to 20 years down the road, when America looks back at this period of history in shame, you’ll take solace in the fact that you stood up to hatred.
A more detailed account of OFIR’s white nationalist ties can be found in this week’s issue, titled “Benton State Lawmaker Tied To Hate Group.” Click here.
By Jay Sharpe