Philly Antifa looks back on their campaign to expose the long standing neo-Nazi group Keystone State Skinheads/United, which has members that are officials within the local Republican Party.
We hope that the info we’ve collected is helpful to comrades around Pennsylvania and elsewhere. We will be copying all the Keystone United Exposed articles to a stand-alone blog so, as time passes and new content is published here, that info remains easy to find.
Keystone United Exposed effectively identified the major players within KSS, as well as many of its foot soldiers and supporters. It provided a start in mapping out the distribution of KU/KSS around the state and region, so we can know where they are really strong and when they are swelling numbers with out-of-town support.
Having identified this many members and associates of KU/KSS will also lead to us identifying future associates more easily. We exposed many bones at their jobs and to people who live in their communities. However, one drawback of a project like this is such a flood of information can make it inevitable that people will begin to slip through the cracks. It’s possible that by focusing on a smaller number and really campaigning around, for example, getting Steve Smith fired from Gertrude Hawk’s Chocolates warehouse in Dunmore, we could have had a larger impact. The good news is there’s no reason why we can’t still do that.
While preparing these articles, we learned several things that had to be considered and reconciled with our subjects’ associations with a violent white supremacist gang; filled with men who glorify Hitler and Colonialism, who promise “Freedom Through Nationalism” but practice racial terror. Including the frequency that Keystone United members and associates had successfully either totally hidden or sanitized the group’s image for many people in their lives. This sort of “low-intensity,” year round outreach work (aka being fake friendly) is insidiously effective in minimizing the eventual impact once they are eventually exposed. “Oh no! Not Bob… He’s never said anything offensive to me! Well, a few jokes…” is what some will say. Nazis collect these “friends” as an insurance policy against future exposure.
Keystone United has largely maintained their course during the Trump era. Unlike Heimbach and the TWP or the NSM, KU/KSS did not overreach early or open up the gates to any potential murderer they could slap a white polo on. Keystone United abandoned publicly using language about “Racial Holy War” (RaHoWa) or overthrowing the “Zionist Occupied Government” of the U.S. long before Trump. What has changed, though, is that now KU/KSS has a new PR tactic at their disposal, the label of “Trump Supporter.” KU/KSS uses that aforementioned outreach work to reinforce the notions being pushed by right wing media that a) anti-fascists are indiscriminately describing as nazis and attacking all trump supporters or anyone who disagrees with far left politics and b) all actions against trump supporters are being done by Antifa crews or organizations. Both of these claims are patently false. But now, with many major media outlets pushing similar narratives, they have a more receptive audience.
We know that we convey to everyone as to the level of threat KU/KSS represents. This is disheartening, both as Anti-Fascists and as people who, largely, have experienced direct violence from this group or groups allied to them. And ultimately, the conclusion is that white conservatives generally, (and some POC conservatives) don’t really dislike Nazis very much at all. It would seem, that for many of them, the biggest concern is being lumped in with them, and a frustration with nazis not being able to keep their racist rhetoric in the coded language that is popular among “white america.” That said, we hope that this series has made it clear that KSS has not gone away, and their influence and support network extends far beyond their membership.
When members of the Golden State Skinheads (a crew allied with KSS), wearing TWP shirts, attacked and stabbed anti-fascists in Sacramento in 2016 before being driven off the streets, TWP spokesman Matt Parott attempted to frame it to the media as a fight between “pro and anti-trump groups.” Because of the spiteful mentality of Trump supporters in the face of ever-increasing evidence of his incompetence, narcissism, and corruption, they will defend anyone willing to still publicly identify as a pro Trump. Anti-Fascists need to be aware of this dynamic and begin formulating new strategies to wedge groups like KSS and Blood and Honour from the GOP base. The evidence of what happens if we fail is in the increasingly Fascist rhetoric and tactics being used by pro-trump sectors of government and law enforcement, not to mention all the recent dog whistles to nazism coming out of those sectors.
Exposing a nazi is crucial. It can largely neutralize their crossover political organizing, add a tremendous social cost, and makes them think twice about attacking someone, knowing that they will be identified immediately by Anti-Fascists. For KU/KSS, public exposure also undermines the generous amount of effort they put in to distancing their group from its more openly neo-nazi past. However, it is the follow-up that gets the goods. The people who contacted workplaces, passed out flyers around the homes of KSS members, pushed for their expulsion from social clubs and sports teams, and took other actions have done just as much as us to make this a success.
One area we did not touch on during this series as much as we’d like is KU/KSS’ involvement in the “Anti-Antifa movement.” Anti-Antifa Pennsylvania shirts are printed and sold by KSS members, and they are involved in running an Anti-Antifa blog and website that publishes information on Anti-Racists and Anti-Fascists. KU nazis are very encouraging of the Anti-Antifa label as a stand in for more openly nazi imagery and as a unifying point between white nationalists and other far right nationalists who conflict with antifa because of our left and anarchist politics. Pushing Anti-Antifa as a brand within the larger pro-trump right is likely to be a strategy for KU/KSS over the next few years, and the groundwork has already been laid by media outlets, Trump, and 4chan.
We have successfully identified almost all of the attendees of last year’s Leif Erikson Day event in Philly. Only those who hid their faces or stayed away from Fairmount Park have escaped detection so far. So while ultimately our goal is to stop KU from holding Leif Erikson Day at all, the information we gather from it’s continuation is a nice consolation prize. Thanks to last year’s LED, we were able to identify Joe Garvey, Chris Croumbley, Anthony Marcink, and Travis Cornell (rip lol), all previously unknown to us, as Keystone United associates. We were also able to confirm the continued involvement of several individuals who had not been sighted at public KU events for several years, including Shane Dilling and Liam Schaff.
Some of those KSS nazis wore masks because they have something to lose from being exposed by us. Help us identify the “unknowns.” If anyone has information about the any of the unidentified nazis picture in this series, please send it our way.
It is common to end on a note acknowledging that white supremacy and racism are much larger than neo-Nazi bonehead crews or their more media-friendly iterations. While this is true, attempts to compartmentalize groups like Keystone United from the larger “mainstream” right seem rooted more in wishful thinking and denial than reality.
KU has synthesized American libertarian conservatism with national socialist “race science” to make both more palatable to the other. Two Keystone United leaders are Luzerne County GOP officials. In the process of this article, we exposed KU members/associates as working for city governments, in large unions, and for international software firms. Keystone United associates are/were active in biker clubs, veterans groups, roller derby leagues, music scenes and local government. Tired tropes and finger pointing about “living in mom’s basement” on both sides of this conflict are generally inaccurate, Daniel “Jack Corbin” McMahon excepted. Antifascists in this state should not discount how embedded Keystone United are in their communities.
When Bob Gaus and several other KU members attended Trump’s rally in Harrisburg, they did not sit in some special section. When they (likely) went out to get a drink afterwards, they did not go to a nazis-only bar. When they talk politics at the bar with people belonging to “the mainstream right,” those people are most likely left with the impression that they have more in common than difference with the KU members. If we learn nothing else from Trump’s ascension, it should be that the distance between a “non racist” Republican (or democrat/independent for that matter) and a neo-Nazi is much smaller than we like to believe, and the unifying of those forces is a very real threat.
Republicans have utilized dog whistle and crypto-fascist talking points to retain supporters among the racist right, while not alienating POC and non-racist conservatives. Anti-Fascists have relied too heavily on accusations of racism as a panacea solution to the far right, and the far right has adapted. They have dozens of strategies in place to undermine those accusations before they are even made. We have to take the more difficult path of dissecting the full contents of the ideologies of the far right and conveying why they should be opposed on a plethora of grounds, including cis hetero-sexist positions, militarism and colonialism, and supporting capitalist exploitation of the working class, in addition to white supremacy and racism. Otherwise we will continue to hand groups like Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer and American Guard an easy way to insulate themselves from association with orthodox fascist groups, and an easy way to portray us as hysterical or dishonest.
We would like to thank all those who took action this month based on the articles we’ve released. As we mentioned, actions have already begun and are likely to continue for some time. As this is being written, it is unclear when or if Keystone United will hold their Leif Erikson Day event in Philly. It is possible they’ve even held it already in secret. Should they do so, we have the tools to hold them accountable long after they scurry out of Fairmount, back to their homes in Philly or elsewhere in the state. It is a point of pride for us to put a stop to this demonstration, but not only have we effectively neutralized it as a source of recruitment or propaganda for KU, we have purposed it as an intelligence trove for ourselves. So stay home or come on out, boys. Either way, we’ll use it to our advantage and to further our ultimate goal of destroying Keystone United for good.
Finally, predictably, there has been some blow back from KU/KSS/BNH regarding this series. Threats and harassment has been sent from KU members and supporters in all directions, including to non-involved persons and former members. Sometimes for something as simple as sharing an article. We send our respect and solidarity to the folks facing any sort of harassment as a result of the series. Threats against ourselves have also been levied, both of legal action and assault. For our part, we refuse to be intimidated by a group of coward liars. Two-faced scumbags who have the nerve to call others “degenerates.” Who attack brutally in swarms and talk tough behind police but who cower in our city, coming unannounced and bitterly unwelcome, staying briefly and leaving quickly. Every flash demo and rally, every threat and assault, every rape and murder, creates more of us. It reinforces our resolve. This is the city of gritty, fuckers, and we’re just getting started.
Eternal War on the Hitler Youth,