Filed under: Analysis, Anti-fascist, Featured, Southwest, The State
Northern California Anti-Racist Action brings us the following analysis and critique on the recent arrests of neo-Nazis from the group, the Rise Above Movement (RAM).
On October 2nd, as has been widely reported in the media, four members of the violent neo-Nazi gang known as Rise Above Movement (earlier known as DIY Division) were arrested and are now facing federal rioting charges that could land them behind bars for years if convicted. The criminal complaint brought against members of RAM by the FBI references and quotes the work of Northern California Anti-Racist Action (NoCARA) on RAM which was published in July 2017. In light of this development, we believe it’s important to examine and clarify a number of important points relating to RAM, the FBI, state repression, and anti-fascist research and organizing.
RAM, until now, had enjoyed an uninterrupted trail of violence across the country. This culminating in their attacks on anti-fascist protesters in the bloody battles that played out in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12th, 2017 which resulted in the injury of dozens and the murder of Heather Heyer by a fellow Unite the Right marcher of RAM, James Alex Fields Jr.
Perhaps nothing captures the spirit of RAM’s participation in the violence ofmore clearly than two widely circulated images of Benjamin Daley. In the first, he is making the throat slashing gesture commonly known to signify a death threat to a crowd of anti-fascist protesters, and in the other, he is viciously strangulating a non-combative woman significantly smaller than him while she is surrounded and being attacked by other members of RAM.
For over a year after that day, members of RAM have gone on to boast and celebrate their own violent attacks and use them for recruitment and selling neo-Nazi themed apparel through their Right Brand Clothing brand. This has even included Robert Rundo, the leader of the group and legal owner of Right Brand Clothing LLC uploading a video in late August bragging about beating anti-fascists in various cities, and claiming that their actions were legal because they ‘hadn’t been arrested.’ This confidence was misplaced as less than two months later, a fact that perhaps wasn’t lost on Rundo as the video was removed soon after the upload, RAM members were swept up by the FBI and held without bail and currently are facing two felony charges each.
While the arrest and criminal prosecution of these individuals is a significant moment in terms of the state’s stance and action on neo-Nazi violence during the Trump presidency with all the racists that it has emboldened and mobilized, it should not by any means be considered a victory for the anti-fascist movement, nor should it remotely be confused for the state making a sincere attempt to, in any real way, address white supremacy or even neo-Nazi violence in the US. While the recent wave of street-based and grassroots white supremacist and neo-Nazi movements have intensified and become more visible, they compose a relatively minuscule segment of a greater social system of white supremacy existing in the US that functions in concert with capitalism, patriarchy, and State as a part of a violently maintained social hierarchy that controls our lives.
We reject the notion that the state can ever address this fundamental social issue because it itself is a critical component of upholding the racial caste system in the US that relegates millions of human beings to being murdered by the police, locked up in prisons, struggle against the weight of structural poverty, homelessness, and displacement just to survive, and daily are subjected to violence and humiliation. As the history of repression by the state has shown us time and time again with programs such as COINTELPRO, whatever repression it is willing to level against the most overt, violent, and indiscreet neo-Nazis and racists, it has no qualms about unleashing its much greater and more heavy-handed authority against those struggling to overcome oppression, domination, and exploitation and put into practice collective ways of life based on solidarity, equality, and autonomy.
RAM and Selective Prosecution of Neo-Nazis
One of the most consistently performed feats of mental gymnastic by neo-Nazis and others in the far-right is framing their aggression and violence as self-defense and legally justified. This notion has been further strengthened by a general lack of consequences they’ve experienced for their actions from the State. This attitude has been clearly visible in the conduct and online postings of RAM which proudly showed images and video of members engaging in violence, even when it was initiated by them, without any concern for facing any charges from the State.
For instance, Robert Rundo was arrested and initially charged with assaulting a police officer in the process of getting arrested for attacking anti-fascists in Berkeley on April 15th, 2017. While the State has had no problem pursuing charges of assaulting officers against people for things like involuntary reflexes to extreme physical pain when being restrained, Rundo’s charges were not pursued. This happened while an anti-fascist named Eric Clanton faced serious charges purely on the basis of manipulated images from 4chan for the same Berkeley rally.
The State has even gone so far as to repeat completely baseless claims made by the far-right and repeated in the Daily Cal about NoCARA carrying out “cyber attacks” against members of Berkeley College Republicans when all the information in our research was obtained through open social media profiles and public records, and no evidence of any hacking has ever been produced by anyone making these claims. The fascists crying about our work being cited in the criminal complaint against RAM conveniently forget these and other ample examples of the police accepting fascist propaganda and misinformation as legitimate intelligence on anti-fascists and acting on it.
The State is also constantly refusing to investigate and act on the clear threat of right-wing and white supremacist perpetrated violence and terror. No matter how hard they downplay this reality, far-right and neo-Nazi violence is currently claiming far more victims in the US than any other form of political violence. One only needs to look so far as the comments on RAM’s posts in support of their arrested members to witness the leisure at which violence and even threats against the police are discussed and promoted in their movement.
It’s clear that the prosecution of these individuals is not based on the threat they pose or proportional to the harm they’ve inflicted, but rather what is politically expedient for the State as it works to maintain the fiction of the rule of law and its image as the neutral mediator of society’s functioning.
Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman, a fascist known for committing violence at rallies in Berkeley and his support of RAM, is a clear example of this selective prosecution. Despite being arrested three times for his involvement in violence, including participating with RAM members in the brutal gang beating of anti-fascists cornered in Berkeley that was cited in the criminal complaint against RAM, Chapman is only facing charges for possessing the stick he used to attack people on March 4th, 2017. This only happened after his group the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights participated in the violence of Charlottesville, and increasing public outrage began building around the inaction of the State on such a brazenly violent fascist. Chapman is not facing charges for any of the other amply documented violence he carried out at political rallies.
As RAM members are arrested and extradited to Virginia to face their charges, another trial in California is set begin for William Scott Planer, a neo-Nazi member of the Golden State Skinheads and the now defunct Traditionalist Worker Party. The bloody rally at the State Capital in Sacramento on June 26th, 2016 in violent clashes at the rally resulted in 6 anti-fascists being stabbed by the neo-Nazis with ample video and photo evidence documenting the individuals responsible.
Planer is the only member of GSS facing charges for his role in the violence. Planer was recorded holding a knife and violently attacking anti-fascists including smashing a large wooden stick on the head of a downed anti-fascist.
As our previous work on RAM has shown, members of RAM are connected with members of GSS. RAM members Skyler Segeberg and Matthew Branstetter have been photographed with GSS members Jason Wayne Judd and Joseph Ryan Simmons who were both present and engaged in documented violence at the June 26th rally. Similar to RAM, GSS enjoys not just selective prosecution of only the most brazen and indefensible of their crimes, but the police also granted them an assumed victimhood and help in protecting their identities from the public. Just as Rundo and Boman avoid any consequences for their amply documented violence so do Judd, Simmons, and other GSS members enjoy impunity.
RAM also shares close ties with Identity Evropa and its founder Nathan Damigo. RAM not only fought alongside Damigo in Berkeley and in Charlottesville, members such as the individual that goes by “Robert Smithson” on social media are also members of IE based on their own social media postings. Smithson was in Charlottesville and fought along with the other 4 RAM members that were arrested by the FBI. Again, like other RAM members, Damigo enjoys impunity for his widely seen attack on a woman anti-fascist perhaps in part due to his familial connections to law enforcement.
The Sound of One Fed Clapping
“The only fucking way this country’s ever going to get turned around is it will be a bloodbath and it will be a nasty, messy motherfucker. Unless a lot more people in this country wake up and smell the fucking coffee and decide they want this country back … we might be too late, if they do wake up … I think we can get it done. But it ain’t going to be nothing nice about it.”
– Patrick Stein, The Crusaders
It is important to point out how much a show the FBI is putting on by arresting members of RAM. We believe the FBI was pushed to do so largely because of the recent video documentary from ProPublica, which makes the argument, along with the help of an ex-member of the FBI, that the intelligence community is not doing enough to go after violent Alt-Right and white nationalist groups. It seems in many ways, the FBI took this to heart.
The problem however, is that when looking at the broader picture, there are plenty of other white nationalist, militia, and far-Right groups that have committed acts of violence and terror, yet still have failed to trigger a clamp down against an entire group.
For instance, in October 2016, three members of ‘The Crusaders’ were arrested in Kansas, after the FBI was tipped off by one of their associates, before they could carry through on their plans to bomb both a mosque and an apartment complex filled with Somali immigrants. The Crusaders were part of the 3%er militia.
Then, less than a year later and only a few days before Unite the Right, FBI informants arrested a man in his early 20’s that was also part of the 3%er militia, after he attempted to detonate a bomb in front of a bank in Oklahoma City, in order to kick off, “the next revolution.” A few days later, members of the 3%ers were carrying high power weapons in Charlottesville.
Likewise, members of the Atomwaffen Division, (which today still organizes on the social media networking site Gab, and currently has been promoting an alliance with ISIS), were found in the summer of 2017, (after one member killed two others), with ingredients to make a “dirty bomb” and plans to possibly blow up a nuclear power plant. The group would go on to kill three other people.
Meanwhile in the Pacific Northwest, while they haven’t resorted to bombs and grisly murders, the Proud Boys have still been linked to a variety savage attacks on the public. In 2018, members of the Proud Boys attacked an African-American youth in Vancouver, Washington at a mall, a random man on the street in Portland, Oregon, and young boys at an open air festival in Austin, Texas wearing Obama hats. This is to say nothing of the numerous times the group has been involved in violence at political rallies and demonstrations, including the most recent attacks in New York and Portland.
The point in bringing all of this up, is that the State is much less concerned about “keeping the public safe” from the threat of far-Right violence, than it is about keeping down the success of grassroots radical change. This is evidenced by the fact that when far-Right violence does happen, it is always presented as a fluke, or the work of just a few people. This is very unlike how the State responds to popular social movements as well as poor communities of color.
For instance, when 3%ers repeatedly attempt to murder people by blowing them up in racist bomb plots, one might think the State would label them gang members or terrorists and then have cause to pull over every chud with a Punisher sticker on the back of their truck. But of course, this doesn’t happen, however the State deems it as a necessary precaution for even a music subculture like Juggalos.
Everywhere across the social terrain we see this reality expand: as the label of either gang member or terrorist; an open invitation for the State to engage in the suspension of an individuals’ rights, movement, and freedoms, is slowly applied to both poor communities, especially those of color, and broad autonomous social movements. Thus, the Black Lives Matter tactic of blocking freeways becomes even more criminalized, as does the wearing of a mask by antifascists, or even simply stepping onto the private property of an oil pipeline, while the rhetoric of “terrorism” amps up and the ruling party presents itself as the chief victim within society.
Everywhere we see this reality permeating except against groups and movements on the far-Right. This is why an occasional ‘pound of flesh’ must be offered up to the public to show that the government is still paying attention, or to show the far-Right, in the case of someone like Timothy McVeigh, that the State will allow attacks on those below on the social hierarchy, but never above against the State’s own infrastructure.
A Question of Legitimacy
In the era of the Trump presidency with the wave of neo-Nazi and white supremacist activity and violence that has closely followed it, one of the central sources of arguments and contentions playing out across the political spectrum from the far-right to liberal centrists has been the question of who has the legitimacy and moral authority to name someone as a neo-Nazi or racist. Both the right and centrists are united in wanting to impose strict institutional controls and professionalized gatekeeping on the subject as both in practice are bitterly opposed to the idea of an anti-fascist movement that is autonomous from the State and other social institutions operating within it’s sanctioned and respectable confines.
NoCARA and other anti-fascists collectives committed to researching and exposing neo-Nazis have established credibility through the factuality of the research we’ve produced, and have done so from a position of being anti-State and promoting a broad range of direct action for dealing with the fascist threat. For everyday people, the media, and even State institutions to accept the conclusions drawn by anti-fascist sources such as NoCARA is a challenge for the State or certain authoritative institutions’ ability to be the arbiter of who is a racist and a nazi and what the consequences for that may entail. An autonomous anti-fascist movement that identifies and acts against white supremacists by relying on its own analysis and dynamic understanding of the social circumstances we live under is a threat to a system that depends on immobilizing and pacifying people against taking direct action to improve their lives and communities through the slight of hand of elections, political representation, petitions for change on power, and authoritative professionalization.
Mainstream media sources, until more recently, have been far more comfortable with publishing content and linking to far-right and neo-Nazi websites over the work of anti-fascists exposing these individuals. In other words, mainstream media, especially liberal-centrist leaning publications and pundits prefer giving a platform to those advocating for carrying out the ethnic cleansing of the US through violent and state-based means, over factual information compiled by anti-fascists which advocate for the defense of communities facing these threats through autonomous and decentralized struggles against white supremacy.
The dynamic discussed earlier is clearly apparent in the Southern Poverty Law Center, a private organization that researches and publishes information on what it deems “extremism,” and draws equivalences between neo-Nazis and autonomous anti-fascists, anarchists, Black radicals, and others deemed “far-left.” The SPLC enjoys close ties with law enforcement agencies which act at times as sources for their research, and are the participants in the training programs it conducts. The SPLC makes it clear that it does not condone any form of anti-fascism that doesn’t adhere to their strict liberal-centrist framework which generally entails sitting on one’s hands and waiting for the State and law enforcement to deal with neo-Nazi violence. This is an absurd delusion to promote in a country founded on genocide and slavery, where police annually murder thousands of black, brown, indigenous, and poor people with impunity, and has the highest rate of incarceration in the history of humanity. The SPLC’s associations and political line betray the true depths of their complicity with the regime of white supremacy in the US as the police are objectively a far more violent and powerful arm of upholding this system than this recent wave of neo-Nazi street politics.
Representatives from the SPLC have even gone so far as to host an event at UC Berkeley, one of the primary targets of fascist activity in the past couple of years, which advocated against non-liberal forms of anti-fascism, and regurgitated the same tired and asinine arguments about violence that one can also commonly hear from fascists. Embarrassingly, while the SPLC had ordered pizza for their anticipated audience of 200 people, only a small handful of individuals attended, leading to the event being changed to a group discussion instead of a talk.
In light of all this, it’s even more embarrassing that the SPLC has plagiarized the work of NoCARA. In a recent article announcing the arrest of the four RAM members, the SPLC directly copied an entire paragraph from our earlier article on RAM without attribution. Comparing the original NoCARA text and that published by the SPLC using text analysis software reveals that minor edits were made to the text but the overwhelming bulk of the text remains the same. This strikes us as extremely lazy on the part of an organization that enjoys over three hundred million dollars in endowments ($300,000,000) and a full-time paid staff, while our collective has a free blog service (shout out to Blackblogs.org) and funds our research work out of our own pockets.
We can only speculate about how and why the FBI came to cite our work in their criminal complaint, but it appears that copy/pasting of information from a source like SPLC had something to do with it. We also don’t know how closely the FBI looked into our anti-State politics before making the decision to cite us. We harbor no delusions about the role of the FBI as an institution that was founded and has devoted most of its efforts to repressing leftist and liberatory movements.
A similar dynamic also exists with Propublica which published their widely shared and celebrated research on RAM based on an earlier article published by the East Bay Express several months after we published our original research. These works largely cover the same ground from our research. At the time of their publication, comrades at It’s Going Down (itsgoingdown.org) and Berkeley Antifa tweeted Ali Winston, one of the authors of the EBX article, asking why they failed to acknowledge that NoCARA’s research influenced their work. Winston’s response was to dismiss the work as inconsequential and inaccurate. This was while their work failed to identify individuals such as Skyler Segeberg and Spencer Currie by their real names whereas our work had identified their real names months earlier. Winston would go on to at least partially acknowledge the information released by NoCARA served as a basis for part of his writing on RAM.
While one of the co-authors of the EBX piece, Darwin Bond-Graham has recently acknowledged NoCARA’s contributions, A.C. Thompson has so far refused to acknowledge any influence from NoCARA. It appears that at least part of this comes from a desire not to be associated with anti-fascists like NoCARA in order to maintain respectability and career prospects within the mainstream.
To Propublica’s credit, we do admire the work they’ve done in exposing the violent neo-Nazi organization Atomwaffen Division and the killings carried out by its members. Despite this, we find their work’s emphasis on legitimizing and rehabilitating law enforcement to be counter-productive and part of creating a false narrative that the State actually acts to put a stop to violent neo-Nazis when in reality prosecutions like that of RAM are a rare occurrence. Propublica has also refused to release the names and chat logs of neo-Nazis in Atomwaffen Division in order to milk them for additional stories and content rather than allowing anti-fascists and others to access the logs to identify and potentially protect their communities from these individuals.
These issues aren’t brought up in an attempt to demand recognition or credit for our work, but to highlight the fact that these organizations while making use of and at times plagiarizing our research also actively work to undermine, demonize, and criminalize autonomous anti-fascism. Our work has shown that a collective of ambitious and determined individuals lacking any funding or institutional support can come together to produce work that rivals and even eclipses that of organizations with millions of dollars of funding and law enforcement connections and sources.
Stripe and GoDaddy Love Nazis
Like any business operating today, RAM’s Right Brand Clothing depends on a number of corporate services and products to maintain a presence online, sell merchandise, and collect payments. Recent experiences have shown us that tech companies and other corporations generally have no qualms about offering services to and collecting money from neo-Nazis so long as there isn’t much negative attention brought to their brands. This trend continues with Rise Above Movement.
Right Brand Clothing is currently hosted by GoDaddy, a large hosting and domain registration service. GoDaddy is notable for being the domain registrar for The Daily Stormer for a number of years until the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville when the company finally decided to drop the site. Here, again, the company continues to host the e-commerce site for neo-Nazis.
Stripe also acts as the payment processing system for the site, allowing RAM to collect credit card payments. Stripe is currently playing a critical role in fundraising for members of RAM, and has allowed RAM to collect thousands of dollars by selling $10 stickers for the legal expenses of those arrested.
RAM directly uses their reputation and image as neo-Nazis ready and able to fight and engage in violence as a part of promoting and profiting from the goods sold on their website. The violence that the group has carried out has been instrumental in launching and promoting this clothing brand, and this includes them building the credibility with European neo-Nazis that allowed them to travel across Europe in order to better organize and develope their business connections.
Very recently, they traveled to Ostritz, Germany, where a fascist MMA tournament named Battle of Nibelung was taking place. This tournament was sponsored in part by White Rex, a neo-Nazi clothing brand, and this trip allowed them to sell White Rex merchandise along side other neo-Nazi brands such as Svastone from Ukraine. The group would also travel to Kiev, Ukraine which appears to be the country for origin for Robert Smithson, and meet up and workout with local neo-Nazis. Rundo participated in the neo-Nazi tournament Reconquista Club in April.
Considering the actions and history of RAM, it’s clear what the group is referencing when their about page features an image of members in Berkeley, one of their most violent engagements to date, along with text celebrating their “boldness” in “standing against waves of the left.” Rundo has been gambling on translating the image of RAM created through violence into dollars and movement building. One thing is clear, regardless of their ‘optics,’ RAM would not be able to operate at the level it has been without counting on the help of these corporations.
GoDaddy customer service: (480) 505-8877
Stripe customer service: [email protected]
Beyond Stopping Nazis
As discussed in this writing, any form of anti-fascism that attempts to address the growing fascist threat by adhering to the sanctioned framework for political action enforced by the existing power structures and through the institutions of the State and capitalist media is ultimately doomed to bolstering the very same white supremacist social order from which neo-Nazis like RAM emerge. Effective anti-racist and anti-fascist movements must invariably contend with the social hierarchies produced and protected by the State, capitalism, patriarchy, and other social relations of domination and exploitation existing in our societies.
The prevailing power structures and those who serve them desperately want to maintain their grip on who exactly and how people are allowed to understand and act on the social problems in their communities. They insist that we permanently wait on the State, police, and businesses to fix problems that they helped to create in the first place and violently prevent anyone else from solving. They want us to consume the narratives and analysis fed to us by those who profit from maintaining this oppressive status quo, and discredit anyone who refuses to parrot their line.
Anti-fascists have shown that it’s possible to refuse the surrender our collective power and to create a multitude of ways to act directly on the problems we face. The State, liberals, far-right, and fascists are unified in their disdain and fear of this approach to politics, and make every effort in their propaganda to speak against it. Let their bitter protestations be the orchestral score to which we drop the closing curtains on their world. We seek to build a form of life based on the vibrance and joy of caring and fighting for each other as equals and will settle for nothing less.
If you have information about Rise Above Movement and their associates that you’d like to share with us, please contact: diy.division [at] protonmail [dot] com