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Jul 24, 17

Police Are Giving the Alt-Right Free Reign – And They Know It

On the most recent episode of the Fash the Nation podcast, (fash, as in fascist), neo-Nazi organizers Mike Peinovich from New York along with Richard Spencer from Virginia and “Jazzhands McFeels,” a former Republican staffer, discussed both their upcoming rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, as well as their evolving relationship with President Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. In short, they claim that both Trump and Bannon are helping to hold back law enforcement from arresting and prosecuting those on the far-Right at various mobilizations while also stopping both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from investigating them.

As Matthew Sheffield in Salon wrote:

“He’s going to give us space to operate, and frankly, it is space to destroy,” Peinovich continued.

“Now is the time that we have to make hay while the sun shines . . . while these investigations of ‘domestic terrorist groups’ are not being funded by the government, they’re not being pushed by the Department of Homeland Security” argued one of the co-hosts of the program, an anonymous former Republican political staffer who calls himself Jazzhands McFeels.

“We’d probably be facing fucking [racketeering] charges or some shit like that,” Peinovich said, discussing what he believed might have happened if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 presidential election.

“We have to use these four years to grow into something that can’t be defeated by that kind of thing,” Peinovich said, referring to possible future investigations of neo-fascist groups.

“They kind of expect us to be doing this. I’m not saying he’s our guy, but they want — at least Bannon, I would think — wants us to be able to operate in that space. So we should and we are,” [Jazzhands] said.

While we do not believe there is a direct line of communication from the Alt-Right to the White House, certainly the Alt-Right makes up part of Trump’s base and does have influence within the larger far-Right media ecosystem which many Trump supporters find themselves surrounded by on social media. Moreover, some within the GOP are inching closer and closer to some far-Right elements, while some within the Alt-Right have attempted to enter the GOP and Libertarian parties.

But while the Alt-Right has grassroots pull, it is also becoming much like the Tea Party before it, simply a base that the regime can pull from, but also one that doesn’t need to be acknowledged or supported. For instance in Josh Green’s new book about Bannon’s role in the Trump campaign, he mentions how Bannon brushed aside Richard Spencer, but then goes on to speak of the broader Alt-Right as a force that will also do his bidding. When speaking of Paul Ryan he said, “Pepe’s gonna stomp his ass.”

But what is most clear from the last year is not a ‘smoking gun’ connection between Trump and white nationalists, but instead the reality that police and prosecutors are coming down hard on anarchists, water protectors, black lives matter protesters, and antifascists, as they are giving a free pass to the Alt-Right. Ironically, as the Right portrays grassroots social movements as simply the ‘puppets’ of the Democratic Party and billionaire financiers like George Soros, it is the racist and anti-Semitic movements on the Right which are being used as shock troops for Trump’s elitist and corporate agenda.

The Growing Relationship Between Police, the Alt-Right, and far-Right Militias

“While police were looking, they stopped to vandalize an antifascist poster to make it read, “FASCIST ZONE,” while the police officer looked on and gave a “thumbs up.”‘

At every large scale antifascist demonstration in the past year, police have been quick to bring the hammer down on anarchists, antifascists, and Leftists, and lenient towards Trump supporters, the Alt-Right, and neo-Nazis.

In the just the last two weeks in Sacramento, CA the police have arrested three antifascists, all of color, and only one member the neo-Nazi group, the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP), for their participation in a violent rally at the California capitol. While members of the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP) have chalked this up to “repression” of the white nationalist movement, in reality the only reason that William Planer was arrested was because his crew, the Golden State Skinheads (GSS), are both under FBI investigation and that he was caught vandalizing a synagogue. Crew leader Nathan Lowry was arrested several hours after Planer but was caught up on gun charges and faced no reprimand for participating in the 26th. Meanwhile, people like Derik Ryan Punneo, who was both photographed and seen on video stabbing multiple people with a knife in the weeks following the 26th, has yet to receive any charges. Punneo was on probation during the rally and was sent back to prison soon after for domestic violence.

Berkeley, CA has seen a similar scenario unfold, as Trump supporters, members of the Alt-Right, and neo-Nazis have been arrested and then let go without charges at numerous demonstrations, while antifascists and anarchists are facing felonies. Kyle Chapman, aka “Based Stickman,” a ex-con on his 3rd strike, has been arrested for fighting in Berkeley at far-Right rallies now three times, and has yet to catch any charges. Recently, Chapman even assaulted someone at Trump rally in Sacramento for pointing out that he talks and associates with known white nationalists, and still faces no consequences.

Furthermore, both Richard Black, the organizer of the March 4th and April 15th Berkeley rallies, and members of the Oath Keepers wrote openly about how they met with the Berkeley police before the 15th rally. They detailed how both militia groups and Alt-Right organizers worked out a strategy with law enforcement to allow them to hold their rally while also pushing back counter-protesters, despite the fact that they didn’t have a permit. Clearly, in the instance of Berkeley on the 15th, the police were committed to protecting the Alt-Right, militia members, and Trump supporters, and actively repressing counter demonstrators.

After the Berkeley rally on April 15th, Alt-Right trolls on 4chan pressured the Berkeley police department into arresting Eric Clanton on felony charges for supposedly fighting against members of the Alt-Right at the demonstration. Police have been open about the fact that trolls on 4chan “did the work for them,” setting a dangerous precedent of bowing to pressure campaigns from the far-Right to arrest political dissidents of the ruling regime.

Several weeks later, Alt-Right trolls claimed that they successfully “red pilled” the Berkeley police, through the “weaponized parody account” of @OfficialAntifa, a twitter account that produces troll posts in an effort to discredit anarchists and antifascists. Trolls celebrated with the above video when two students were arrested for engaging in political graffiti, and credited the @OfficialAntifa account for pushing the Berkeley police to do so. Around the same time, several Alt-Right trolls held a livestreamed pro-Trump march in Berkeley, got scared, and called for a police escort. As police looked on, they stopped to vandalize an antifascist poster to make it read, “FASCIST ZONE,” while the police officer watched from their car and gave a “thumbs up.”

In other large scale mobilizations such as in Portland, OR and recently in Charlottesville, VA, we saw a similar dynamic playing out. On June 4th in Portland, only a week after a white nationalist killed two people on a train while almost killing another, Trump supporters, militia members, and neo-Nazis held a “free speech” rally. As in Berkeley, when the far-Right crowd was ready to leave, police attacked the antifascist contingent with projectile and chemical weapons, allowing the members of the far-Right to escape to their cars. Later in the day, members of the III%ers helped police in making arrests.

As Ami du Radical wrote on that day:

Even [Patriot Prayer members have] bragged about the level to which police and militia members are intertwined. “All I have to do is snap my fingers,” [one] allegedly warned one protester, “and the cops will arrest you.” The officers thanked the militia for their assistance afterward.

Weeks later, it was announced that the Multnomah County GOP in Oregon would use far-Right militias like the Oath Keepers and III%ers to “protect it” from protesters, again pointing to a dangerous marriage of State government and insurgent far-Right groups.

In Charlottesville, in the lead up to a large KKK protest on July 8th, police began an aggressive campaign of door knocks and harassment of local activists in an effort to scare organizers from coming out to confront the KKK. The KKK rally on the Klan side ended up being very small, only about 40-50 people, but after police allowed the KKK to leave, they began attacking the crowd of up to 1.5K with tear gas; arresting several on trumped up charges.

Also in July, both during liberal impeachment rallies and on July 15th during marches, members of the far-Right, militias, and the Alt-Right came out to counter-rally, harass, and at times, attempt to block, anti-Trump protest events. Police in all of these instances largely did nothing but protect those on the far-Right and allowed them to harass and intimidate demonstrators, often while armed.

When we add this on top of the over 200 people who face up to 75 years in prison for protesting Trump’s inauguration, people facing down grand juries, and police even suing Black Lives Matter – we get a very clear picture of where things are headed. The police are attacking grassroots autonomous movements that challenge the State and capital, while coddling, protecting, giving safe passage, and in some instances, even working with – the extreme Right, from militias to neo-Nazis.

“The Space to Destroy” 

In February, the Trump administration moved to take white supremacists groups out of the ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ program, in order to focus it solely on Islamic terrorism, however the Department of Homeland Security still lists terror threats from the far-Right on its website. Trump did however freeze about 10 million dollars in funding to groups that are doing counter far-Right recruitment programs, such as ‘Life After Hate,’ which is run by former white supremacists.

As Spencer Sunshine wrote for Truth-Out: 

The Trump administration’s reported new plan to change a federal program which combats violent “extremism” into a project focused exclusively on “radical Islam” looks like another step toward demonizing Muslims — while adding to concerns that the administration will actively empower open white supremacist groups. Reuters reports that multiple inside sources say the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) grant program will be being renamed either “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism.”

Almost every year, the white supremacist movement is the political movement that kills the most Americans. (In the rare year that they don’t come in first, they come in second.) But, for many years now, the federal government has refused to focus resources on violent far-right groups. Instead, efforts have been poured into surveilling the Muslim community at large — even going so far as to entrap Muslims in order to arrest them. The FBI also spent years fixating on eco-saboteurs and animal liberation activists, even though they had not killed anyone. The far right, however, has gotten a relative pass. This is despite white supremacists having committed mass shootings in Charleston, South Carolina and Oak Creek, Wisconsin; armed conflicts with patriot movement paramilitaries in rural Nevada and Oregon; and multiple police killings by sovereign citizens.

Spencer goes on to point out that ignoring even government warnings about the rise of far-Right violence isn’t new. As we wrote on July 14th:

[I]ronically in the recent past various members of the so-called ‘intelligence community’ have even attempted to sound the alarm against far-Right terrorism, only to be literally laughed out of their jobs.

The most famous is analyst Daryl Johnson, a former member of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Johnson was tasked with determining if there would arise credible threats to Barrack Obama should he become President after the 2008 election. Johnson reported that a mix of an African-American president, far-Right anger over immigration, and the recent economic recession would all help fuel an insurgent far-Right movement that would become violent. Turns out Johnson was right. 

When Johnson’s findings became public however, people within the right-wing media such as Fox News took it as a threat that DHS would soon send FBI agents to Tea Party rallies and begin monitoring ‘ordinary Americans.’ Right-wing pundits went on to claim that there were ‘no Timothy McVeigh’s out there’ and that Johnson was manufacturing threats in order to justify repression. Keep in mind, this was only several years after the FBI had done just that through the JTTF as it spied on and surveilled the anti-war movement in the lead up to and in the aftermath of, the Iraq War in 2003.

Growing Connections in Government and Media

There has also been several examples of white nationalists and neo-Nazis entering into the Republican Party, from members of skinhead groups to Alt-Right organizations such as Vanguard America. It should be pointed out that for groups like Identity Evropa, this is their stated strategy, to slowing gain access and influence in largely elitist political and economic organizations in order to radicalize them towards a white nationalist set of politics. People like Kyle Chapman have also attempted to build a bridge between far-Right Republicans and members of the Alt-Lite and Alt-Right, by hosting events and speaking engagements for both groups.

Lastly, right-wing media outlets such as Fox have also attempted to shift their coverage to a more ‘Alt-Right’ audience, pushing to demonize the Left and playing up white fears and anxieties. This reality has also been coupled with more and more members of the Alt-Right and Alt-Lite entering into journalist positions at a variety of conservative and Right websites, from the Daily Caller to Heat St.

As Trump base shrinks, the far-Right and Alt-Right will continue to make up more and more of his remaining supporters, and this reality is surely only going to grow as more and more people abandon the billionaire’s sinking ship.

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