A Clarion Project supporter shared a strange scene from what she described as the neo-Nazi group Identity Evropa (aka American Identity Movement) on her college campus:
“Just saw a large group of shirtless white supremacists walking on central entrance in our very own town. They all had large Nazi tattoos on their chest. They also smiled and waved at me like it’s all good … I’m so confused.”
Our friend is a brown-skinned Muslim who wears a hijab. While this specific local group was known to her from photographs they had posted on social media of their symbology, what was astonishing to her is that they’re now very comfortable moving openly on a college campus — especially in a time where more and more students fear sharing their beliefs or opinions due to political (and peer) pressure.
Meanwhile in Indiana, men wearing armbands emblazoned with the Nazi flag were giving out applications for the “Nazi political party” and handing out antisemitic literature in a park on Saturday.
Nazis in Henryville, Indiana today. (Near Louisville KY) Handing out anti-Semitic pamphlets and ‘nazi political party’ applications. The woman was there too and apparently one of them is a marine. I’m so disgusted these people live here pic.twitter.com/g9N42kqhzi
— j (@GoldvesterCos) August 8, 2020
One of the men in the photo, Dylan Anderson, confirmed his identity to Newsweek magazine, saying, “I was exercising my First Amendment right of freedom of speech and right to peacefully assemble.”
“Multiple people came over under their own will and asked questions and took literature and pamphlets. We were polite and we were not rude or used foul language or racial slurs. I have just as much rights as anyone else to voice my opinions,” he said.
In 2019, recruitment flyers for Identity Evropa were found at the University of California’s Davis campus. Elsewhere, college campuses report a rise in open recruitment for extreme ideological groups in decades-old patterns that now include white supremacists. Given the pattern and increase in youth recruitment, swastika-bearing neo-Nazis strolling through campus or setting up shop in a park is more than a walking advertisement, especially when it’s packaged peacefully.
As Clarion Project reported in 2019, Identity Evropa gained notoriety in 2017 as a co-organizer of the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, which kicked off the most open example of neo-Nazi hatred in the U.S. in recent memory.
The Charlottesville “tiki torch” march confirmed what many analysts and activists had long tried to ring the alarm over as the fastest rising extremism in the United States: white supremacy.
In all this, digital spaces are just as important to pay attention to. Millennials spend about five hours a day online (double that figure for Gen Z) and are skilled at rapid-fire data exchange and processing. Digital spaces are capable of escalating the real-time conflicts that Clarion has dubbed the “War of Extremes.”
These groups now organize online and platform themselves in online spaces with often more skill than their ideological competitors — and are even faster at it. In the riots of 2020 for example, Identity Evropa members were found creating fake Antifa accounts and promoting violence online.
Identity Evropa was started in 2016 by an ex-Marine and its members include several current members of the U.S. military as well as a police officer (assigned to a high school in Virginia) who was discovered to be involved in recruiting new members for the group. In March of 2019, a Huffington Post investigation into leaked chat logs discovered 7 U.S. active-duty military servicemen identifying with Identity Evropa. In December of 2019, another Identity Evropa member was found in the U.S. Air Force.
Identity Evropa and other similar white supremacy groups point to the alarming story out of Germany, where it was recently revealed that a network of neo-Nazis had infiltrated state institutions, including the police and military sectors.
In fact, a specific plan had been hatched through a nationwide chat network for soldiers that included killing political enemies that defended migrants and refugees. The plan grew out of a conversation between members of elite special forces and spread to include parallel groups that included doctors, engineers and even interior designers.
In the United States, we can no longer afford to look at those who openly identify as neo-Nazis as belonging to fringe outlier groups. These people are getting very comfortable coming forward, openly. The question is, why?
One answer is the United States actually recruited Nazis after World War II. We gave them shelter when it benefited us. We can assume that this ideology has always been alive in the U.S., and through the internet, its supporters have found an ideal tool to grow it.
Another explanation is that American businesses during World War II did not uniformly denounce Nazi ideology, with corporations profiting from the business of war and creating a soft cultural climate for sympathizers to stake new roots in the post-war environment.
Another answer is that we don’t talk about these issues as a nation. There is little real interest in or understanding of these critical social issues, which gives race supremacists ripe opportunities to inject simplistic language into the conversation stream.
We’re a technocratic culture that likes “shoot-from-the-hip” soundbites, meaning, we’ve been well-primed for extremist rhetoric. To our own demise as a nation, we have oriented ourselves toward ideological influencers who offer the most simple classification of race and ideology (see Clarion’s article “Will the Death of Nuance Lead to a Civil War?“).
This will only ensures that the “War of Extremes” will drive a deeper wedge between us.
Tonight around a dozen of us took to the same spot fash scum, American Identity Movement, tried to flex & rep on our turf (26th Street/35w North).
We responded in kind. The Twin Cities is an Anti-Fascist zone. We will defend our streets & neighborhoods.#TwinCities #AntifaZones pic.twitter.com/4xkYbFjVCV
— MN United Against Fascism🏴 (@MNUnitedAF) February 3, 2020