Gigi Broadway and Cheats are back with another amazing episode of The Cheats Movement on WRIR. Joining the show this week is former Governor Terry McAuliffe. He talks about his new book, Beyond Charlottesville: Taking a Stand Against White Nationalism. Cheats also linked up with Cultural Expert John Gotty (of Complex) to discuss Zion Williamson’s massive sneaker deal with Jordan Brand. Gigi and Cheats talk about A$AP Rocky still in jail and if President Trump is reading this one wrong. All of that and more. The Cheats Movement is sponsored by Work & Friends.
Vandals spray-painted 19 swastikas on the walls of the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia last October. A young woman leaving a mosque with her friends in Sterling, Virginia, after nightly prayers in the summer of 2017 was raped and killed. Someone scrawled “F*** God & Allah” across a Farmville mosque in October 2017. Later that year, a Fairfax teacher pulled off a Muslim student’s hijab in front of her class.
“These events aren’t isolated,” said Samuel J. West, a doctoral student of social psychology and neuroscience at Virginia Commonwealth University. “They’re happening in conjunction with a well-documented rise of activity of the white power movement and white supremacist organizations.”
In Virginia, hate crimes include illegal, criminal, or violent acts committed against a person or property on the basis of race, religion, or ethnicity. But often, such offenses are not classified as hate crimes. Because it’s hard to assess intent, it’s rare to be charged with a hate crime.
“The bar is pretty high for that conviction of ‘hate crime,’” said West, whose research focuses on the development of aggressive behavior across populations. “You not only have to be proven guilty of intent, but you also have to be proven of a specific kind of intent … not only are you the one who attacked them, you attacked them because they’re queer or black or Muslim.”
Tangible forms of intent for religiously based hate crimes can be anything from social media posts expressing hatred for the specific targeted group to verbal slurs yelled when committing the hate crime.
But if intent can’t be proved, offenses that may involve bias aren’t considered hate crimes. A case in point: In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 2015, three Muslims were shot dead by a white man in their apartment over an argument about a parking spot in the complex. The case was classified as a parking dispute.
West said classifying acts like the Chapel Hill shooting as a parking dispute are a reflection of the nation’s judiciary system.
“The U.S. legal system is absolutely created by white men,” West said. “And it certainly makes sense that it would favor them, especially in these cases.”
Because of how hard it is to prove intent, several episodes of religiously motivated violence are often labeled “bias incidents” by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group that collects data on religiously motivated hate actions and crimes.
“Not only are incidents like those increasing, but the violent nature of those incidents is also increasing,” said Zainab Arain, CAIR research and advocacy manager.
In its 2018 Civil Rights Report, CAIR found nearly 2,600 anti-Muslim-based bias incidents in 2017 — a 17% increase from the previous year. Almost half of those took place within the first three months of the year.
That rise parallels a 23% national increase in religiously motivated hate crimes against any religious group — the second-highest number of hate crimes based on religion. The highest number of religiously motivated hate crimes was recorded in 2001, following the 9/11 attacks.
Virginia State Police recorded 44 religion-based hate crimes in 2017, the latest year for which data are available. That was almost double the 23 religion-based hate crime the previous year.
Of the 44 offenses in 2017, half were anti-Jewish, and eight were classified as anti-Muslim. White men were the largest group of offenders for all hate crimes in Virginia.
Arain said the number of hate crimes is likely higher than what reports show for two reasons: underreporting due to fear of retaliation and inaccuracy of FBI data.
“The FBI does collect it only from law enforcement agencies, and law enforcement agencies are not required to report it to the FBI,” Arain said. “Many law enforcement agencies don’t event collect hate crime data in their own municipalities.”
As hate crimes and bias incidents on the basis of religion sharply increase, Arain said, a few factors are at play.
“This across-the-board rise in nativist movements is playing a role in increasing religious discrimination and religious-based hate crimes,” she said, mentioning a slew of nativist campaigns around the world, including the Chinese cleansing of Uighur Muslims.
When it comes to the U.S., Arain said she considers President Donald Trump a “white supremacist.” She said his election has contributed to rising hate.
“That emboldens people who share the same beliefs or ideas and have similar biases and prejudices to act out on their ideas and commit and perpetrate these hate crimes targeting various religious minorities,” she said.
In conjunction with rising hate-fueled violence, domestic hate groups have also increased. There are more than 1,000 hate groups in the U.S. — the most the nation has seen more than in two decades — according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Thirty-nine of those groups call Virginia home.
West called these groups “terrorist organizations.”
Hate crimes and acts of terror do overlap. There is, however, one characteristic that separates the two.
“A hate crime doesn’t have to be politically motivated,” said David Webber, assistant professor in VCU’s Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. “But an act of terrorism does.”
While there isn’t a standard definition of “terrorism,” the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations defines it as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” Recent incidents like the mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the church bombings in Sri Lanka are classified as acts of terror since they were fueled by political motives.
Hate crimes are also punishable by law, while domestic acts of terror are not. International acts of terror in the U.S. or by U.S. citizens, however, are punishable under U.S. law — for example, pledging allegiance to ISIS or al-Shabaab.
Webber referenced the car attack at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville as an example of domestic terrorism labeled and punished as a different crime. An avowed neo-Nazi, James Alex Fields Jr. was convicted of murder for driving into a group of counterprotesters and killing Heather Heyer.
“When he used his car to kill that person in Charlottesville, he was never charged with an act of terrorism,” Webber said. “Even though by a definition of terrorism, he was involved in an act of political violence for political reasons, and he killed someone for it. We call that an act of terrorism.”
But since acts of domestic terrorism aren’t punishable by law in the U.S., Webber said, Fields was charged with a hate crime. On March 27, Fields pleaded guilty to 29 counts of hate crimes — one resulting in Heyer’s death and 28 in connection with injuries to other people.
Both hate crimes and acts of terror are forms of aggression. But aggression is not always expressed as physical violence.
“There are many forms of aggression,” said West, a doctoral student who researches the topic. “You’ve got your run-of-the-mill physical violence, your verbal aggression … then you get into ‘mark your territory’ with things like instrumental violence or relational violence.”
Simple examples of instrumental violence on the basis of religion would be vandalizing the side of a mosque, or defacing a Jewish cemetery.
“Most people are not very violent, and don’t really like to be unless someone has provoked them or attacked them or offended them in some way,” West said. “That phenomenon (of violence and aggression) is one that is so inconsistent with much of human nature.”
But there are reasons why people are drawn to acting out aggressively.
Webber, who researches violent extremism, identifies three key factors why individuals are drawn toward extreme violence and hate-fueled aggression: needs, narratives, and networks — “the three N’s,” as he calls them.
“People become extremists because they’re striving to fulfill an important psychological need that is universal for all of us,” he said. “The need to feel significant, to feel like you’re valued, to feel like you’re respected.”
Webber said people drawn to extreme violence — whether it be a hate crime, terrorist attack or another form — see an aspect of “heroism” in their actions. This is amplified by the ease of creating communities through social media, he said.
“You used to have to meet with people secretly, talk to them; or they have to find a poster on the street,” Webber said. “Now, they can log online and see everything. It expands your reach, the potential recruitment pool that you have. You can put information up and people can read it instantly. And you can draw people into a cause really quickly.”
Recruitment for hate groups outside of social media still exists. White supremacist propaganda — in the form of leaflets handed out on college campuses, flyers, rallies and other events — increased 182% in 2018, according to research conducted by the Anti-Defamation League.
Adding to the hate targeted at specific religious groups is how news outlets portray members of these communities.
“A large contributing factor is likely the negative coverage in the media of certain religious groups,” said Raha Batts, imam of Masjid Ash-Shura in Norfolk, Virginia.
Batts said Western media outlets portray Islam as a “religion of terror.”
West said media bias likely plays a significant role in the dehumanizing of certain outgroups.
“Individuals of different races are treated much differently by the news media,” he said. “A more heinous crime could be committed by a white person, and those [news] articles often are quick to refer to mental illness as being the primary motivation or a primary factor at play.”
But if the perpetrators of violence are non-white, the media raise the specter of terrorism and ties to extremist groups, West said.
Batts is no stranger to bias incidents. A few years ago, he and his family stayed in a hotel in Norfolk before moving to the area permanently. After checking into the hotel, his wife passed a group of men who Batts said had been drinking outside of the building.
“One of them was terribly angry at just the sight of my wife,” Batts said. His wife dresses in niqab, a full-length veil that covers her face. “He began acting kind of erratic. He had a beer bottle, and he slammed the beer bottle on the ground.”
The other men stopped him from approaching his wife, Batts said. But she felt the hostility.
“They were military guys, and they served in Afghanistan together,” Batts said. “This particular person, he had a problem with Muslims.”
Batts said negative media coverage played a role in the bias incident he and his wife experienced.
“I spoke to the young man for some time,” Batts said. “Just explained to him that we’re not terrorists, we’re not anti-America. We’re not your enemy.”
Other faith leaders have recognized the spike in hate crimes and acts of terror against their communities.
“Hate crimes have always committed against us; it’s just a fact of being a Jew,” said Rabbi David Spinrad of the Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria, Virginia. “It’s not a new phenomenon.”
Nearly 60% of hate crimes perpetrated across the U.S. in 2017 were anti-Jewish, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League. Between 2016 and 2017, anti-Jewish hate crimes rose by 57%.
On Saturday, authorities said, a man with an assault rifle opened fire in a synagogue in a suburb of San Diego, California, killing one person and wounding three. The man has also been charged with arson at a nearby mosque.
Spinrad said interfaith dialogue and solidarity is the best combatant to rising hate.
“This is big — this has so much momentum,” Spinrad said. “The importance of the relationship of American Jews and American Muslims … I can’t overstate that it is huge. They’re coming for you, and they’re coming for me.”
Amid negative news coverage of the Muslim community, Batts echoed Spinrad’s thoughts on interfaith dialogue and building community.
“It’s our job,” Batts said. “We can coexist with one another, and we can work together. There will be certain things that you believe that I don’t necessarily believe. But we can still be good to one another, we can still be kind to one another. We all have the same goals in mind.”
*This article originally appeared in RVA Mag #34, on the streets now at all your favorite spots.
He stood in an alley on the south side of Chicago, smoking a joint. His parents didn’t know where he was, or if they did, they were most likely too busy working to be concerned. The child of Italian immigrants, most days he was left on his own while they worked to ensure their future in America. He was 14.
A man approached him, a stranger with a shaved head. The man pulled the joint from his mouth, looked him in the eyes and said, “That’s what the communists and the Jews want you to do, to keep you docile.”
He didn’t know what a communist was, or what Judaism was. But he knew he was alone, lonely, and purposeless. Joining a neo-Nazi Skinhead group was a way out — the only one he saw at the time.
“I hated black people — I didn’t know any,” said Christian Picciolini, the boy in the alley, now 45 and a former neo-Nazi. “I hated Jewish people — I never met one. I don’t think I met one until I was in my 20’s. And I blamed them for every problem in the world from when I was 14 to 22.”
Now Picciolini sits in a coffee shop in Richmond after speaking at the National Legislative Services and Security Administration. Having spent eight years terrorizing minorities and recruiting other vulnerable youth to his Skinhead group, Picciolini now dedicates his life to traveling the country and speaking out against hate. Through his nonprofit peace advocacy organization, Free Radicals Project, he has pulled over 200 people from the darkness he pulled himself from in 1995.
“I was angry,” he said. “I never felt like I ever found the three really important things that I think everybody looks for, and that’s a sense of identity, community, and purpose. I didn’t feel like I had a family. I didn’t know who I was. I was idealistic, but I never had an outlet to be passionate about anything. This guy was the first person to offer me a place.”
This misguided sense of belonging led Picciolini to put all his energy into the movement. He quickly rose to a position of leadership in his Skinhead group, staging sit-ins and white power protests at his high school. He even terrorized the employees of color at his school, including the school’s black custodian. His main focus was recruitment, which in the 90s meant writing loud, angry white power music. It worked. Suddenly, this lonely kid with few friends and no control felt powerful, and that power felt good.
“I got really intoxicated by it,” Picciolini said. “It sent me deeper in, because the more I got in, the more important I was. The interesting thing was I felt marginalized as a kid, and then I became part of this group that marginalized me further from society… It was like a drug. I was a drug addict. I knew it was killing me, but at the same time I did more and more of it to feel better. It’s really the same thing that drives people to groups like ISIS, or a cult, or a gang.”
He had opened a record store in Chicago, from which he sold his white power music. However, things were starting to change. There was always a small voice in his head, telling him something about this was wrong, but that voice grew to a cry when his family couldn’t condone his actions any longer.
“I got married at 19. We had our first kid at 19, second one at 21,” he explained. “I had this family. I had this challenge to my identity, community, and purpose. Was I a hate monger or a father? Was my community the one I had surrounded myself with to boost my ego, or was it the one I had given life to? It challenged me, but I was still too afraid. It was everything I had known for seven years at that point. I was too afraid to make the right choice, and my wife and kids left me.”
In the year afterwards, he continued to work in the record store. Although some customers were fellow Skinheads, many were regular people looking for hip-hop, rap, or rock music. His customers knew who he was, and who he associated himself with, but chose to reach out. Many of them were people of color, or people of different backgrounds and cultures.
“They didn’t break my windows. They didn’t slash my tires. They didn’t knock me out. They didn’t spray paint anything,” he said. “They came in to talk to me, even though it wasn’t their responsibility. I’m not saying people of color should go hug Nazis, but it was really their courage to say, ‘I’m not going to confront this man, I’m going to speak to him like a human being.’ Over time, I started to see them as more similar to me than the people I surrounded myself with.”
It was then Picciolini saw the value in things like different languages, cultures, food, music, and religion. The things that made him different from his customers also gave them something to talk about, and the very human aspect of these interactions forced him to realize that he could no longer justify his white nationalist politics. He stopped selling white power music, and since it brought in 75 percent of his revenue, he closed the store.
“It was the compassion that I received from [neighbors] at a time when I least deserved it, from the people I least deserved it from, that really destroyed the demonization and replaced it with humanization,” he said. “I couldn’t justify my prejudice, my racism. I felt too connected to them.”
Over the next five years, he tried to run from his past. He thought he could slowly fade away, blend into regular society without denouncing the movement. He moved, made new friends, and hoped the world would forget all about Skinhead Christian Picciolini. But even if they did, he couldn’t.
He returned to his old high school, hoping to rediscover himself in the place it began. He tried volunteering and being present for kids who might be in the same position he was nearly a decade ago. While he was there, he saw a familiar face, and followed his high school’s custodian to his car after seeing him leave the school. At first, the man felt threatened, but Picciolini stepped back and gave him a simple, teary, “I’m sorry.” They embraced, and Picciolini knew what needed to happen next.
Over the next 20 years, Picciolini began a new life of seeking redemption – not just for himself, but for anyone who had fallen into the sick, seductive trap of the white supremacist movement. He founded Life After Hate in 2010. When he’s not giving Ted Talks or speaking with college students, he’s traveling around the country meeting with neo-Nazis and white supremacists to show, not tell them why their hate is founded in fear and not reason.
“I always see the child, whether that person is six or 60, and not the monster,” Picciolini said.
One convert was a 16-year-old girl from Florida. After feeling lonely, she turned to online chat rooms and found an Internet boyfriend — or so she thought. Picciolini, who keeps tabs on white supremacist Internet trolls, discovered she was being catfished by two individuals: one in Union City, CA, and one in Moscow, Russia. The men had convinced her to send nude photos, then blackmailed her.
They coerced her into the white power movement, and she developed a deep hatred for Jewish people, denying the Holocaust. Rather than tell her she was wrong, Christian simply introduced her to a Holocaust survivor – a woman named Elsie, who was herself 16 when she was taken to Auschwitz. The woman sat with her for hours, and the young Floridian realized she had been shown fake online propaganda.
“The way that they’re recruiting people is going to these really safe zones online, like autism forums, depression forums, multiplayer games, kids playing with headsets,” Picciolini explained. “They’re recruiting people in those platforms because they know a lot of marginalized, vulnerable kids are there that may not have a lot of friends in real life, if they’re living with autism, or if they’re ‘weird,’ or whatever. So they go to these places and the Internet.”
“This is the fastest growing movement I’ve ever seen,” he continued. “I’ve never been more terrified than I am now, with the level and the amount of people that are getting sucked into this. Because it’s the same tactic that we came up with 30 years ago — and I feel very guilty about this — to normalize it. To mainstream it. It’s almost like mainlining a drug.”
Picciolini cites many reasons for the speed at which the white power movement now moves, among them countries electing officials like Donald Trump, as well as the concerted effort he sees from anti-democracy group agendas, like the fake news campaigns coming out of Russia.
“We knew that even American white racists were put off by swastika flags or saying ‘Jews’ and all that,” he said. “Now they’ve just traded that language off for ‘globalist,’ or the ‘global elite.’ That just means ‘evil Jew.’” Picciolini calls this a “dog whistle,” referring to the way innocent-sounding terms take on sinister hidden meaning for those involved in far-right politics.
“They also use other dog whistles,” he said. “Trump was just Tweeting South African farmer conspiracy theories that were started by the AWB (Afrikaner Resistance Movement), which was the neo-Nazi apartheid group. This was all garbage.”
Picciolini is particularly worried about this notion of normalization, as it allows for language and discussions to emerge from the white power movement that feel logical and are difficult to argue with, yet are founded in violence and ulterior motives.
The reliance of these movements on rhetoric doesn’t mean they won’t become physically violent. Just as Picciolini and his fellow Skinheads prepared for a race war in the 80s, white supremacists still prepare now. According to Picciolini, there are an estimated 100,000 people training in white supremacist paramilitary and militia camps around the country. Their best tactic is to hide in plain sight.
“I used to fool people with, ‘This is not white power, this is white pride. You should be proud of who you are. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.’ That’s hard to argue with,” Picciolini explained. “‘Free speech, I can say whatever I want.’ That’s hard to argue. They choose all these things, and they hide behind things that are very, very difficult to argue with without sounding hypocritical. That’s their intention. Their intention is to cause disruption and mayhem.”
While Picciolini is very concerned about the fate of our country, and the white supremacists who are suffocating it, he also sees many ways for us to stop this dangerous movement. One is having social media platforms take responsibility to keep their channels clean and clear of those who might incite violence. Picciolini recognizes the importance of free speech, but also knows social media companies are not government entities, and much like a landlord of an apartment building, it’s their responsibility to clean up the environment they control.
The most important piece of the puzzle is to prevent radicalization before it happens, beginning with children. Adults must learn to be more vulnerable with young people, so that young people may be vulnerable with adults, and forthcoming about their struggles. Ideology is not radicalizing – whatever causes kids to be angry is.
“I’m one piece in the puzzle,” Picciolini said. “I certainly cannot fix this. I can do a lot for interpersonal racism, but unless we fix systemic and institutional racism, it will always be a fertile ground for people to become extreme. The political and socio-economic situation in our country right now is the perfect breeding ground for extremism… The only thing I’ve ever seen break hate is being compassionate with people.”
Last month marked the one-year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Between the overwhelming images of riot police and confederate flag insignias, it’s easy to get downtrodden and feel like no progress has been made.
However, after talking to a local activist, who goes by Goad Gatsby, and remembering that only 20 came in support for this year’s Washington, DC repeat of the Unite the Right rally (as opposed to the 400 that Jason Kessler pulled from his ass), it’s clear that anti-fascist activists have had success.
The small showing at Kessler’s rally suggests that something has changed since last year’s gathering. Gatsby pointed to the willingness of activists to name and shame racist activists, even telling their employers about participation in rallies like Unite the Right. When you tell your boss, Gatsby said, “You’ve given a very good case for this person to no longer be working alongside with you. They have to reevaluate their resources if they’re going to continue what they’ve done.”
After acknowledging the success of deplatforming, Gatsby pivoted quickly to what he sees as the next battleground: police reform.
“When counter-demonstrations show up, the police are always going to have their weapons out, looking at the counter-demonstrations instead of the white nationalists,” Gatsby said. “[Those who] have come out to say they are going to commit violence, who have a violent ideology who are just waiting for the opportunity. There is a huge disconnect within the police system.”
Gatsby said the important question was who the police are there to protect; who do they see as needing their support? As a recent parade of police lip sync challenges, including local forces, have spread over social media, Gatsby noted that the timing coincided with the death of Marcus-David Peters.
“It is absolutely no coincidence that the lip sync videos came out at the same time as the Marcus Peters investigation,” Gatsby said. “They are a PR department, of course, this is something they would intentionally want to do. Richmond Police [Department] has always done something to make them look like the good guy.”
Gatsby recalled public meetings he attended where members of the community would raise issues they’d thought the police department was working to address, only to find out that nothing had happened. “That’s the problem with the Richmond Police Department,” Gatsby said, adding, “No matter how well-meaning your intentions may be, they’re always dodging what the community really wants.”
While deplatforming has removed neo-Nazis and retrograde racists from public speaking positions, such as former Trump adviser and Richmonder Steve Bannon, Gatsby maintained that there is much more to do. He said part of the problem was generational, pointing to a sharp divide between younger and older people.
“What can we do for a generation that isn’t listening?” Gatsby “There’s one side, we’ve looked at the facts, we’re willing to make a compromise. Then there is another side that says ‘Fake news, not going to listen to you.’ It’s an older generation that has decided to believe a conspiracy theorist over the lived experiences of children. That’s just where we’re at.”
From the activist side, there isn’t any one answer, but rather a series of steps in the ongoing fight for the safety and dignity of people who are targeted for oppression. While deplatforming counts as a success, the role of law enforcement remains a serious challenge to people who push back against marginalization and oppression.
RVA Tank, Parkland Shooting, Democratic-nominee Spanberger, families separated at the border, KKK effigies, Governor Northam, punching Nazis, getting punched by Nazis.
It’s been a long year.
As we approach the one year anniversary of Unite the Right, the alt-right rally held in Charlottesville on Aug. 12 last year that ended with the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer, it’s hard to ignore the tension in the air. Whether that tension has increased or decreased, or the political dissension within our country is better or worse, Americans are certainly motivated. We’ve seen protest after protest, breaking news stories flying in each day with news of Russia, North Korea, Robert Mueller, Corey Stewart, and Jason Kessler.
The white nationalist movement has not slowed down, nor has it given up. Identity Evropa came to Richmond to pick up trash in hopes of normalizing their cause. The FBI has as many open cases concerning white supremacist propaganda online as they do for ISIS. And Unite the Right is happening again, but this time, its headed to Washington, D.C.
Here is a brief roundup of events from the past year to get you up to speed on the white nationalist movement in Virginia in preparation for this weekend’s latest appearance from our best-known racists (this list may not include every event related to white nationalism in Virginia):
August 2017: Jason Kessler, online blogger, and white nationalist, successfully organizes an alt-right rally called Unite the Right on Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, in the name of protecting the Confederate statues in two local parks. Several physical altercations occurred during the rally, and attendees were armed with bats, guns, or other weapons.
James Alex Fields, Jr., a white nationalist, drove his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters after the rally was deemed unlawful by police. His attack killed Heather Heyer and injured multiple others. Fields was part of Vanguard America, a white supremacist organization. He was placed in jail and denied bail.
President Trump suggested the blame for the violence rested with “many sides.”
September 2017: The Dreamers, young first-generation immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act, mobilized after Trump’s threat to end the program. Long marches between Charlottesville and Richmond as well as Charlottesville and Washington sprung up as September clung to summer temperatures. DACA was rescinded later that month by Trump, but at least temporarily upheld by the Supreme Court.
An activist group hung Ku Klux Klan effigies in Bryan Park.
The New Confederate States of America planned a rally in Richmond to support Confederate statues on Monument Avenue, claiming to be motivated by the Monument Avenue Historical Commission convened in June by Mayor Levar Stoney and tasked with providing recommendations for what to do with the statues. The rally took place on Sept. 16, attended by over 400 counter-protesters, a heavy police presence, and a small handful of CSA members who arrived in twos and threes. The CSA was severely outnumbered in what RVA Mag called a “win for Richmond,” as the protest ended peacefully.
Later that month, the FBI claimed white nationalists are just as dangerous as Islamic terrorists.
October 2017: At the beginning of the month, a circuit court judge in Charlottesville handed down a ruling signaling that the Commonwealth’s laws protecting war memorials could be retroactively applied to Virginia’s Confederate monuments.
The City of Charlottesville and several small businesses in the area filed a novel lawsuit to prevent future militia groups from entering their city again. This lawsuit is ongoing and continues to seek a verdict in August of 2018. Six defendants have settled since May 2018.
White nationalist Richard Spencer held a torch-lit rally in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, glorifying the Robert E. Lee monument and mimicking a similar torch-lit rally held on UVA’s campus the night before Unite the Right. Around two dozen white nationalists were present.
Jason Kessler began a new white nationalist group called New Byzantium following Unite the Right. It’s one of many new alt-right groups that continue to crop up to this day, largely spread through online forums.
November 2017: In a Democratic sweep, Ralph Northam became the new Governor of Virginia, joined by Justin Fairfax as Lt. Governor, and Mark Herring as Attorney General. It was a significant Democratic victory similar to the victory of then-Senator Obama when he won the presidency in 2008. The blue wave was accompanied by a new wave of female representatives in the General Assembly, the largest number of women to be elected to the GA in Virginia’s history. This included the first Latina women, the first Asian-American, and the first transgender woman to win a seat in the GA.
January 2018: Chris Cantwell, the notorious “Crying Nazi,” faced up to 20 years in jail for pepper-spraying counter-protesters at a torch-lit white supremacist rally on UVA’s campus the night before Unite the Right. At the beginning of the month, he attempted to sue anti-fascists, claiming that they discharged the pepper spray against themselves.
Thousands of women come to Richmond for the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March.
March 2018: Deandre Harris, a black man viciously beaten by white nationalists during the Unite the Right, was charged and then acquitted of assault by the District Court in Charlottesville. During Unite the Right, Harris was assaulted by six men with wooden pikes in the Market Street Parking Garage, eventually sustaining a spinal injury and receiving 10 staples in his head.
June 2018: Nathan Larson, a self-confessed pedophile and white supremacist, runs for Congress in Virginia. Previously an accountant in Charlottesville, Larson is running as an independent. Jason Allsup, another white nationalist who attended the Unite the Right rally, was elected as a Republican official in Washington state. This marked the beginning of many white supremacists and anti-Semitic candidates running on the Republican ticket in America ahead of midterm elections. This trend continued with Corey Stewart, Virginia’s Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. He appeared on CNN and struggled to answer questions about his past ties to white supremacists and anti-semites. He continues to be aggressive online and has not revoked his white nationalist ties.
Abigail Spanberger, the Democratic nominee for Virginia’s 7th District, wins a huge primary victory and will run against Dave Brat in the fall for the congressional seat.
President Trump begins his “zero tolerance” immigration policies and enacts legislation that separates immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. National and international outrage sparks protests throughout the Commonwealth, including one outside Dave Brat’s office, who publicly supported Trump’s decision.
The National Parks Service approved an application submitted by Jason Kessler for another alt-right rally to be held in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 11 and 12 this year. This will come to pass this weekend in Lafayette Park, Washington, D.C.
Identity Evropa visited Richmond for a little community service by picking up trash around town in an attempt to normalize their organization and beliefs. In Lexington, local restaurant owner Stephanie Wilkinson refused to service White House Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at her restaurant, The Red Hen. It was followed by five days of protests against and for her restaurant. In one instance, someone threw chicken feces on their storefront window.
July 2018: The Monument Avenue Commission recommended that the Jefferson Davis monument be removed from Monument Avenue, with Mayor Stoney’s approval. Later in August, an unknown individual vandalized the Robert E. Lee monument with red paint, writing “BLM” (Black Lives Matter) on the statue’s base. This is only the latest act of vandalism concerning the statues over the past year.
Chris Cantwell, the aforementioned “crying Nazi,” was barred from entering the Commonwealth for the next five years. He plead guilty to assault and battery for spraying two anti-racist activists with pepper spray the night before Unite the Right.
Now that August approaches, we look to another year that will hopefully not result in death or injury. Jason Kessler will be in D.C. this Sunday, Aug. 12, in Lafayette Square to march and protest in the name of “white civil rights.” Regular faces like Kessler, Spencer and former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke are said to appear and speak, although the movement has suffered serious divisions and other prominent white nationalists are disavowing Kessler.
A vigil will be held on Saturday, Aug. 11, in Charlottesville at 5 p.m. for Heather Heyer, in remembrance of her life, as well as an anti-racist march the next day in an attempt to heal from the events of last year.
Stay with RVA Mag on Instagram (@rvamag) and Twitter (@RVAmag) for updates on these events this coming weekend.
Incidents of anti-Semitism are on the rise in the US, up 57 percent in 2017, the largest single increase on record since the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) started tracking incidents in 1979. The ADL classifies anti-Semitism as, “The belief or behavior hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish. It may take the form of religious teachings that proclaim the inferiority of Jews, for instance, or political efforts to isolate, oppress, or otherwise injure them. It may also include prejudiced or stereotyped views about Jews.” According to their most recent audit, the majority of incidents have appeared at schools and on college campuses and have doubled for the second year in a row.
What is driving these incidents? The report draws conclusions that should be obvious to just about anyone who has been alive since President Trump has been elected, but among other things, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, Chief Executive of the ADL gave the New York Times three main reasons: the divisive state of US politics, an emboldening of extremists, and the adverse impacts of social media. All of which culminated last summer during the Unite the Right rally when white supremacists marauded through Charlottesville chanting, “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil” (a Nazi slogan).
While these incidents would have been an outlier in a previous political era, the full Republican embrace of President Trump has normalized the kinds of racism and anti-Semitism now on the rise. His claims that there were some “very fine people on both sides in Charlottesville” (one side being the Nazi side), gave agency to white supremacists and nationalists who’s anti-Semitism directly comprises their core ideology, and has empowered a new group of GOP candidates to run for office, namely Nazis and anti-Semites.
So here we are, in a political age where white supremacy, nationalism, and anti-Semitism is becoming normative and mainstreamed as a political tactic to ensure Trump’s base stays ever loyal. Have a look at some of the mid-term contests this season where the GOP ticket is actually being held by a Nazi, anti-Semite, or someone who has been in direct support of white nationalists, supremacists, or anti-Semites.
Arthur Jones is a member of the American Nazi Party who is running in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District and has referred to Jewish teachings as “satanic”. On his campaign website he legit has a section titled “Holocaust?”, and refers to the death of six million Jews as a “racket” and claims, “This idea that ‘six million Jews,’ were killed by the National Socialist government of Germany, in World War II, is the biggest, blackest, lie in history.”
In June he told told Politico that he “snookered” the Republican Party into winning the nomination. “I played by the rules, what could I say?” Some notable Republicans denounced his candidacy including Senator Ted Cruz who tweeted, “To the good people of Illinois, you have two reasonable choices: write in another candidate, or vote for the Democrat. This bigoted fool should receive ZERO votes.” While the Illinois GOP was publicly aghast with horror at what their party has become – refusing to endorse Jones – he still ran unopposed and collected 20,681 votes from Republicans in his district. Fox News claims the Illinois GOP will start a campaign for a write in candidate–don’t hold your breath waiting.
Regardless, this only highlights the continued disconnect between what the GOP base has come to assume their political agency is in the age of Trump versus the normative conservative policies preferred by status-quo Republicans, yet impossible to have it both ways in this new era of extremist politics.
Fitzgerald is running in California’s 11th District against an incumbent Democrat. After capturing close to quarter of all votes in California’s “jungle primary” he qualified for the state’s GOP primary. However, soon after his ascension to the hallowed ranks of the GOP, his anti-Semitism and holocaust denial started to become somewhat an unmanageable open secret – thanks to a section on his campaign website – basically just the top post of his website – offering $3,000 to anyone who can prove the holocaust actually happened.
Since the Republican Party in California finally uncovered Fitzgerald’s not so subtle anti-Semitism they have rescinded their endorsement, which has led him to only increase his Jewish resentment. According to the New York Times, the GOP Candidate has appeared on numerous podcasts spewing holocaust denial. In one such instance he told Andrew Carrington Hitchcock, a known anti-Semite, that, “Everything we’ve been told about the Holocaust is a lie,” going on to further say, “my entire campaign, for the most part, is about exposing this lie.”
The GOP in California claimed that it was their policy to automatically endorsed their candidate and that they conducted minimal vetting on Fitzgerald. But in the age of Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and the mainstreaming of the alt-right, which is heavily intoxicated on anti-Semitism, this no longer seems like a solvent policy. What do they say about assumptions? The mother of all anti-Semitic fuck ups?
This Republican is making his second attempt to to fill the largely diminished shoes of soon to be retired Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District seat. In a not unfamiliar twist of GOP identity politics, Nehlen has described himself as a “pro-white” candidate who supports banning all Muslims and tweeted a deeply racist and offensive picture of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, where she is photoshopped, according to Ballotpedia, to look like a “dark-skinned prehistoric man nicknamed Cheddar Man.” Shortly thereafter on a subtweet he posted an article about “disappearing whites”, the whole incident led him to be banned from Twitter.
Nehlen’s anti-Semitism, however, is rooted in the age old conspiracy theories of Jews controlling global media. As far back as January this year, Buzzfeed uncovered communications on private Twitter DMs where he is lamenting the “Jewish media” and fake conservatives who “happen to be Jewish.” A short time later he essentially doxxed Jewish executives at leading media organizations, along with Tweeting out a meme of said executives with the star of David next to their image. Nehlen wrote, “Do the people pictured seem to have anything in common?” before deleting the tweet.
The Atlantic has also covered his fusion of anti-Semitism with Christian identity politics, reporting, “And he loves making odd generalizations about what Jews are like. ‘”Poop, incest, and pedophilia. Why are those common themes repeated so often with Jews?'” he tweeted. One of Nehlen’s 89,000 followers declared that “@pnehlen is one of the few American Christians courageous and honest enough to defend the Faith against Islamists and Talmudic Pharisees alike even when it’s unpopular. God bless you, Paul!” Nehlen hit retweet.”
Last and of course not least, there is the Commonwealth’s very own Corey Stewart, who is running against incumbent Senator Tim Kaine. Stewart’s stances on Confederate culture, immigration, and his public appearances with Jason Kessler, the organizer of Unite the Right, makes his candidacy the embodiment of the kinds of racism and anti-Semitism that has now overtly taken over the GOP.
And in a strange twist of fate, CNN reported that Stewart actually engaged Wisconsin’s Nehlan (mentioned above) to act as a “fundraising commission” according to reports filed with the Virginia Department of Elections. Additionally a video surfaced of the GOP contender praising Nehlan, calling him “one of my personal heroes”. Stewart has since dialed back his support, which is clearly an attempt at political expediency claiming, “When he started saying all that crazy stuff, I wanted nothing to do with him after that.” He also made similar claims about Kessler telling the New York Times, “Nobody knew who Kessler was back then…Certainly I didn’t. I didn’t know he stood for all those horrible things. I want nothing to do with those things.”
Given Stewart’s long history of support for racists, xenophobes, and anti-Semitic provocateurs only changing direction after they have been exposed, it is hard to imagine a scenario where he is not a believer in the underlying ideologies that govern this growing political menace. Stewart is a shrewd operator only touching the fringes of anti-Semitism without jumping in full-stop, yet the implication and dog-whistles remain the same.
Anti-Semitism is one of the world’s oldest forms of hatred and one that has been used over the millennia to justify some of the most repressive and brutal policies, ending in gross atrocities like the holocaust. Anti-Semitism does not exist in a vacuum, however, and the mainstreaming of holocaust denial, conspiracy theories, and overt attacks against Jews and Jewish symbols by candidates running for high office is a harbinger for anyone concerned with how this political age is shaping up.