A wave of fascist vandalism that cannot be ignored

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Reprinted with permission from Cos of the day

Shameless fascist organizations like the Patriot Front pose a dilemma: They are numerically small but intense, and rely on very public stunts to gain attention and, they say, recruit for their cause. In some ways, it makes sense to ignore them as much as possible and deny them the oxygen they need.

But sometimes the stunts they perform demand a response, like when they brazenly marched through Washington, DC, with police escorts in both. February 2020 and January 2021. This was especially the case last month, as Patriot Front extremists scramble to degrade monuments to African Americans, especially George Floyd memorials. in brooklyn and Philadelphia cream, as well as a bust of a black explorer of the Lewis and Clark expedition in Portland, Oregon.

Patriot Front, the brainchild of a young Texan neo-Nazi named Thomas Rousseau, explicitly embraces fascism in his writings and recruiting materials (“Fascism: The Next Step for America,” the one of its leaflets). Its main strategy is performing attention-grabbing stunts – sticking their hateful stickers around communities and campuses, waving white nationalist banners on highways, harass leftist protest groups, and sometimes organizing marches intended to create the impression that their numbers are greater than they actually are, forcing the media to cover them, which they believe will eventually attract more recruits to them.

Many of these tactics have become ineffective over time, including banners and flyers on freeways, which are gaining less and less media attention. As a result, the Patriot Front increasingly appears to engage in more brazen attacks on leftists, particularly by vandalizing monuments.

The first such attack took place earlier this month in Philadelphia, when vandals sprayed white paint on a mural dedicated to George Floyd in the city’s Olney neighborhood. They then spray painted stencils with Patriot Front logos and slogans on white paint.

The mural was commissioned by the North 5th Street Revitalization Project in the summer of 2020 following the murder of Floyd by former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin on May 25.

Local residents were furious, reported channel 6 ABC. “It’s disrespectful. It’s disrespectful,” said a passer-by.

“You don’t touch her face. After what we’ve been through across the country and the world? You don’t touch her face,” said Scott Hilton of Mt. Air.

The Philadelphia Police Department said the vandalism was under investigation.

the Brooklyn degradation was even more brazen. Early Thursday morning, someone threw black paint on Floyd’s bust – dedicated on Juneteenth at Flatbush Junction near Brooklyn College – and then pasted graffiti with the Patriot Front’s inline URL onto its base.

Security cameras taken pictures of four men with bandanas covering their faces walking towards the memorial early Thursday morning. One of the men appeared to be shaking a can of spray paint. Another image took the license plate number of the vehicle which appeared to have brought the men to this location. New York Police said they were investigating the incident as a hate crime.

“It is the epitome of not only anti-darkness and racism, but also the lack of human decency, even elementary, about the life of George Floyd,” said Imani Henry, an organizer. from Equality for Flatbush. the New York Times. “For someone, desecrating the homage of an innocent person is just beyond pallor,” Henry said.

“The Patriot Front is explicit in its exclusion of people of color from its conception of pan-European identity as a genuine America”, Susan Corke, head of the SPLC Intelligence Project, said Christopher Mathias of HuffPost in a report. “And their method of operation is to stage offensive racist propaganda stunts. So this heinous and hateful degradation of the George Floyd statue is no longer the same garbage.”

the incident in Portland involved a rogue memorial to York, the African-American explorer who accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition to western Oregon in 1803 as a slave to Clark and who was said to have been the first black man to reach the Pacific Ocean. In February, a bust of York – made of wood and liquid urethane but simulating the appearance of a bronze – was placed atop a pedestal in Portland’s Mount Taber Park that once featured a statue of Once Oregonian editor Harvey Scott, who was knocked down during an anti-police protest in October 2020.

the the bust artist is unknown, and city officials have discussed its replacement, perhaps with a more durable version of the same memorial. It was attacked and vandalized earlier this month by a woman who was recorded spraying paint on her base; Jeanette Grode, 43, was subsequently charged with criminal mischief for the act.

But the Sunday morning vandalism – white paint again sprayed on parts of the bust and pedestal, with a stenciled logo painted red on the plaque marking the commemoration of the bust – was clearly the work, once again. , from a person affiliated with the Patriot Front.

These acts are a constant reminder of the limits of the strategy of denying attention to hate groups who seek it: almost inevitably, their hateful rhetoric generates real-world crime and violence directed against vulnerable minority communities that cannot be ignored. . And their small numbers, in the end, are often inconsequential: it only takes one or two of these violent extremists to wreak havoc on the public.

Front Patriote in particular prepared for the post-Trump era, relying on a strategy of “red-pilling” people already radicalized online by militias and the “Boogaloo” movement in extreme neo-Nazi beliefs. Yet they mostly regard rival far-right groups with contempt.

“The Proud Boys are a bunch of cuckolds,” wrote a member of the Texas Patriot Front. “They call themselves ‘western chauvinists’ which means they are a bunch of liberals who dislike PC culture and ‘snowflakes’ but they are too afraid to resist these things in any meaningful way. fear that they will be called RACISTS !! !!! “

A member of the Front Patriot, Bryan Betancur from Silver Spring, Maryland, is currently facing charges for participating in the January 6 insurgency at the United States Capitol. Betancur, who has expressed support for the man who murdered Heather Heyer in Charlottesville in August 2017, actually wore an ankle bracelet as part of his probation for a burglary conviction, and the evidence against him includes the data of this bracelet. A hearing on the status of Betancur today in federal court noted that discovery was still pending in the case.

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