Monday, June 12, 2017

At Seattle 'March Against Sharia,' Opposition Makes Islamophobes Look Small

The crowd reminded the anti-Muslim activists about the Portland train murders.
[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

SEATTLE — A small gathering of less than a hundred ACT supporters showed up at Seattle’s City Hall Plaza on Saturday and soon found themselves outnumbered by a massive counter-protest of around a thousand people who showed up to voice their disapproval.

The large crowd was deafening at times, though held back by a large police cordon, and various speakers inside the plaza had to shout to be heard.

“ACT! for America is not an anti-Muslim organization!” asserted rally organizer Anthony Parish. “We are anti-radical Islam!”

Meanwhile, ACT! supporters carried signs labeling the Muslim prophet Muhammad a pedophile; others denounced Islam and the supposed threat of Sharia law: “No Shitria” read one.

Several Oath Keepers were present in the crowd, providing “security” by escorting random protesters from the plaza.

The huge crowd across the street from the plaza, which called itself “Seattle Stands With Our Muslim Neighbors,” remained during the three hours or so the rally went on. A handful of fights broke out as the diminutive cluster of anti-Muslim marchers attempted to march from the plaza to Occidental Park in Pioneer Square, a few blocks away. Police said several protesters were arrested in the fighting.

More photos from the scene:

This woman, from Spanaway, met with representatives from the Muslim community
before the rally; during the rally, she joined the anti-Sharia crowd in shouting at them.

There were over a thousand people marching in support of Muslims.

Various signs carried by alt-righters belied the claim their rally was not anti-Muslim.
The sea of faces on one side.

Rally organizer Anthony Parish.

One of several alt-right banners making appearances at the rally.

Wrapping himself in the flag.

Flag waver.

Portland alt-right organizer Josh Gordon was present.

An exuberant alt-right supporter.

Fighting Sharia, one flag at a time.

More exuberance.

Tusitala 'Tiny' Toese of Portland also made his presence felt.

Community members remained defiant afterward.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Defiant Alt-Right 'Patriots' Encounter Portland's Simmering Anger After Train Killings

'Based Stick Man' Kyle Chapman, at right, mugs with his alt-right fans.
[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

PORTLAND, Ore. – The mood of the 300 or so Trump supporters and alt-right “free speech” defenders at Terry Schrunk Plaza in the heart of downtown Portland on Sunday was mostly defiant. After all, they were holding the event only a little over a week after a horrific hate crime committed by a white nationalist acting out alt-right talking points had shaken the city to its core.

The city’s mayor had even taken the unusual step of requesting the federal government to revoke the permit for the rally, though that was refused. Yet the organizers and their “Patriot” movement supporters came anyway – some of them prominent alt-right and militia leaders from around the country.

As it turned out, so did thousands of counter-protesters, angry over the week’s events, who vastly outnumbered the small crowd inside the park, chanting and shouting at them from all sides.

“It is so awesome that you guys came out here today, because you are challenging the corrupt belief system, I hope you understand that,” said Joey Gibson, whose Patriot Prayer organization was the event’s main organizer. “Think about the belief system in Portland. You’re not supposed to be here. And by challenging the current belief system, that is how revolutions begin!”

Yet for all their bravado, the assembled “Patriots” could not escape the reality that they were heavily outnumbered, outprotested, and surrounded by the various factions of Portlanders who came out to protest their gathering and their message. To the west, a coalition of socialist and liberal organizations occupied the plaza in front of City Hall with a large banner reading, “Portland Stands Against Hate,” backed by a crowd of about 500. To the east, and within direct earshot, a collection of over a hundred labor union activists stretched along Third Avenue, their banner reading “Portland Labor Against the Fascists”.

However, it was the collection of black-clad anarchists and “antifascist” activists who took up occupancy of Chapman Park, the large open space directly to the north of the alt-righters’ designated spot, that drew most of the attention and concern of the gathered Trump supporters, especially as the day wore on and they grew larger, louder and more raucous, numbering in the hundreds, many of them with their faces obscured by kerchief masks.

Two alt-righters gave benign explanations for their Pepe banner to onlookers.
Eventually, while the alt-right crowd listened to speeches and waved their Gadsden flags and Kek and Pepe banners, the antifascist crowd grew increasingly agitated. Police began arresting protesters, and then used flash-bang devices to clear them out of the park altogether. A large group of antifascist activists then marched en masse downtown along Fourth Avenue, their progress halted at the intersection with Morrison, where police in riot gear ordered them to disperse, and then began rounding up and arresting protesters who were caught within their cordon. By the day’s end, 14 arrests had been made.

The dark shadow looming over the day was the shocking knife murders of two men on May 26, after they had attempted to intervene in the verbal harassment of two young nonwhite women, one wearing a hijab, aboard a commuter MAX train in northeast Portland. Both of the men had their throats cut in a sudden knife attack, and a third man suffered similar injuries but survived.

The killer, 35-year-old Jeremy Christian, was arrested by police shortly after the attacks. His background revealed a political gadabout (he had earlier supported the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders) who, in the previous year, had become enamored of white-nationalist ideology and seized upon it obsessively on social media. He voiced admiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, a far-right icon, and adopted the longtime white-supremacist agenda of converting the Pacific Northwest into a whites-only homeland.

He also was obsessed with the claim that left-wing oppression was stifling free speech, the raison d’etre of recent right-wing “pro-Trump” events in Seattle and Berkeley, CA, that were met with violent shows of force from left-wing antifascists. It soon emerged that Christian had attended a previous Patriots Prayer-sponsored “Free Speech” rally, blurting racial epithets and carrying a baseball bat that was confiscated by police. After giving Nazi salutes and shouting “Hail Vinland!”, he eventually was ejected from the event by organizers.

More broadly, the threats that Christian was making at the time of the attacks – using anti-Muslim rhetoric directed at the young woman’s hijab – reflected a popular alt-right talking point first engendered by neo-Nazi organizer Andrew Anglin.

Christian made his motives clear at his first hearing. "Free speech or die, Portland,” he shouted. “You got no safe place. This is America – get out if you don't like free speech."

Then, as he was escorted out, he added: "Death to the enemies of America. Leave this country if you hate our freedoms. ... You call it terrorism. I call it patriotism."

The crime sent shock waves through the city, long regarded as a bastion of progressive politics. Many local citizens, the mayor most notably, feared that given the simmering anger over the killings, another right-wing provocation in the form of an alt-right “free speech” rally might unleash more civic violence.

Certainly, the crowd that gathered to protest their presence had no hesitation in laying the killings at the alt-right’s feet. “You Have Blood On Your Hands,” read one banner. The labor activists chanted: “Fascist murderers!”

An African-American woman gives the alt-righters a piece of her mind
The interactions between the two sides were angry and inflamed. Early in the gathering, a lone black woman stormed through the park where the pro-Trump crowd gathered, threw down a ballcap she had taken from one of the alt-righters bearing the word “Coon,” shouted that she was a proud black woman, “not a coon,” and then proceeded to lecture the crowd about the rights of black people; most of the crowd responded meekly. Police eventually escorted her from the park.

At first, some activists from the pro-Trump crowd wandered over to where the black-clad antifascists gathered and attempted to engage them, but found themselves being chased around the park and shoved back across the street. Alt-right activist Brian Fife found himself confronted by a sea of angry antifascists who blocked his attempts to enter their park.

The rally’s organizers not only were acutely sensitive about the association with the train murders, but angrily rejected it, claiming that Christian’s ejection from their event proved he wasn’t one of them. The hate, they asserted, was all coming from the angry Left.

“It’s not about politics anymore,” Gibson told the crowd. “It’s about a lack of respect, a lack of courage. And I see it all over the place. These protesters come to my rallies and they say they want to fight hate, but then they say, ‘Eff you, Joey!’ and they spread hate all over the place. We gotta knock it off!”

Event organizer Josh Gibson
Gibson led a moment of silence for the two men who died: Ricky John Best, 53, of Happy Valley, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, of Portland, and described them as “heroes.” One speaker similarly described them as heroic, and eagerly mentioned that Best was a Republican. Another speaker claimed that the mayor and the media missed the real story behind the killings, namely, Christian’s alleged mental-illness issues.

At other times, however, the “love” was not altogether apparent. Gibson at one point explained to the crowd that opposing Muslims “is not racism,” because “Muslim isn’t a race, it’s an ideology.” He compared it to the Ku Klux Klan.

Brian Fife told Guardian reporter Jason Wilson that Jeremy Christian “did everything right up until the point he started killing people”.

“I do not support killing people,” he said, “I don’t think anyone does. But calling out the changing elements of our culture, I think that’s something I wish more of us would do.”

Some of the alt-right movement’s celebrities came from around the country and posed for photos and signed autographs for admirers, then spoke to the gathering. Tim “Treadstone” Gionet, better known as alt-right troll “Baked Alaska,” told the crowd to be proud of its mostly white heritage.

“I never thought I would live in a country, where I say I’m proud to be a white Christian male, and they say I’m racist, OK?” he told the crowd to applause. “Can we say this? You should be proud of who you are. I don’t care what you look like, what you believe, you should be proud of who you are. And the Marxists, the Left, the liberals, they don’t want you to be proud of who you are. And frankly, I’m sick of it. I think we’ve had enough. I’m not going to feel guilty because I’m a white male. I’m sorry, I’m not.”

Kyle Chapman, a Bay-area-based commercial diver who gained fame in alt-right ranks as “Based Stick Man” after bringing homemade weapons and shields to the Berkeley rally – and then forming a band of alt-right “warriors” called “Proud Boys,” some of whom were present Sunday – attracted perhaps the most attention.

“If you want this country to stay free, you have to be willing to sacrifice,” he told the crowd. “Our Founding Fathers, our ancestors, my ancestors that were on the boats in the Boston Tea Party, they knew they faced the threat of violence, death, incarceration for their actions – actions that brought us our constitutionally free republic. If that republic that they gave us is to stay free, you have to be willing to bleed.”

Among the other right-wing luminaries drawn to the event was Stewart Rhodes, founder and president of the Oath Keepers, who wandered the crowd and chatted with militiamen and alt-right characters alike. As promised, Rhodes’ camo-clad and heavily armed “security detail” arrived early at the scene to provide extra muscle to stave off the threat of attacks from antifascists or other protesters.

Shortly after their arrival at mid-morning, the Oath Keepers – readily identifiable by the bright yellow stripes they attached to their clothing – were seen conferring with several police officials. Rhodes had said beforehand that his organization was “conferring” with local police, though Portland police denied it.

Reports from other observers at the scene suggested that some of these militiamen actively engaged in helping make arrests of antifascist protesters, and one journalist published a photo of what appears to be such an arrest.

After the police battalions cleared out Chapman Park and then followed the antifascists down Fourth Avenue before finally making their culminative arrests, the mood of the crowd began to simmer down. The alt-right speakers finished up and the rallygoers began to drift away.

Across the street, labor-union activists doggedly kept up their chants, well past 5 p.m. When the last of the Trump supporters left the park, they finally pulled up their stakes and left. The opposition had made its point, too.

More photos:

Across the street from the alt-right, "Portland Stands Against Hate" peacefully protested.

Large crowds of counter-protesters included several notably nonviolent groups.

Labor-union activists formed a large anti-alt-right contingent to the east of the park.
The tattoos on the shoulders of alt-right figure 'Based Trojan' read "White ...

... Pride." 

A woman wearing a Kek banner engages a labor protester in conversation.

The pro-Trump crowd waved a lot of banners.
An alt-righter with a Kek banner.
A pro-Trump supporter berates the antifascist protesters.
Alt-right fans at the gathering.

Chapman signs an autograph for a fan.
'Baked Alaska' defends being a white man.
Chapman addresses the crowd.

Gibson introduces his 'Guardians.'

A "Proud Boys" member (left) chats with an alt-righter bearing a Kek banner.

Oath Keepers founder and President Stewart Rhodes.

Tusitala 'Tiny' Toese of Warriors For Freedom hands out flags.

Toese performs a ritual haka before the gathered alt-righters.

A Trump supporter.

Police arrest antifascist protesters several blocks away.

Friday, May 19, 2017

With DHS Position, Clarke Would Be the First ‘Patriot’ Leader to Hold a Federal Post

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

The apparent elevation of Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke to a position within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would mark another “first” of sorts for the Trump administration: It’s the first time any known participant in the antigovernment Patriot movement, let alone one of its leading figures, has ever held a federal position of any significance.

Clarke told a radio talk-show host earlier this week that he was accepting the job as assistant secretary in the Office of Partnership and Engagement at DHS, serving as a kind of liaison between local law enforcement the federal agency.

This would be a remarkable position for someone long affiliated with Richard Mack’s extremist Patriot organization, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, to hold. Among the core tenets of CSPOA dogma is the far-right “constitutionalist” belief that sheriffs represent the highest law of the land, and are capable of overturning or ignoring federal laws within their own jurisdictions. Moreover, Clarke's history of incendiary remarks includes his advocacy of "a second American revolution."

“I’m both honored and humbled to be appointed to this position,” Clarke told WISN-AM host Vicki McKenna.

Officials at DHS, however, were not so forthcoming. “The position mentioned is a secretarial appointment. Such senior positions are announced by the department when made official by the secretary. No such announcement with regard to the office of public engagement has been made,” it said in a released statement.

While a number of Donald Trump’s appointments to his new administration have drawn criticism and opposition for holding extreme right-wing views, the president so far had not elevated anyone associated with direct ties to Patriot groups to a federal position, particularly not placed so highly in the hierarchy. No previous administration has ever knowingly employed a leader in any extremist antigovernment movement.

Clarke’s record of extremism is long and multifaceted, as is his history of incendiary remarks. He originally rose to prominence among Patriot organizations, but in 2014 became a favorite pundit on Fox News, called to provide a black face for conservative criticism of civil-rights activists in the Black Lives Matter movement. Nor has he hidden from his extremist associations.

In May 2016, he was honored by the militant Patriot organization Oath Keepers with its second annual “Leadership Award”. During his speech accepting the award, Clarke let his radical flag fly freely:
  • He asked where the media in the room was, because “it’s always good to know where the enemy is.”
  • Told the audience: “I’m one of those that believes that only a citizen uprising is going to allow We the People to resume our rightful place in this republic.”
  • “Our government has been coopted. Our government is corrupt. All of our institutions of government are corrupt. The White House is corrupt. The Congress is corrupt. Our courts are corrupt.”
  • Demanded that the SPLC designate Black Lives Matter a hate group: “They are a dangerous movement full of rage, bitterness and hate because of some phantom grievance status that they themselves never experienced.”
  • Fed the group’s conspiracism: “Is there anyone here tonight, and I want to see you hand, if you believe that Barack Obama is living up to his oath with his circumventing the separation of powers, ignoring court orders, his appointment of czars and his executive orders that go beyond the power of the executive. Folks, this a slippery slope into a very dark place. A place called tyranny.”
Notably, Clarke also warned Trump, whose support he openly embraced, that “if he [Trump] doesn’t [break up the “Washington cartel”], then we’ll get rid of him too.”

Since the election, Clarke has become even more inflammatory, particularly on his Twitter account. There, he has continued his incendiary rhetoric, referring to Chelsea Clinton as a “cockroach,” and liberal pundit Marc Lamont Hill as “a jigaboo.”

Even more ominously, given his plans to oversee coordination between federal and local law enforcement, Clarke has posted tweets that suggest the depths of his political radicalism and authoritarianism. In one, published after the Women’s March on Washington and other anti-Trump protests, he displayed a photo of himself holding up one of those pocket Constitutions, declaring: “The left isn't protesting. It's resistance to our constitutionally elected POTUS. It's showdown time. Pushback time. Are you ready? I am.”

Along similar lines, Clarke posted shortly after the election, amid anti-Trump protests: “How to stop riots. 1)Declare state of emergency.2)Impose early curfew. 3)Mobilize Nat Guard.4)Authorize ALL non lethal force. 5)Tear gas.”

[Ironically, one of the Oath Keepers’ major bugaboos is a fear that the federal government will impose martial law through a state of emergency declaration: On the group’s list of “10 Orders We Will Not Obey,” No. 4 reads: “We will NOT obey orders to impose martial law or a ‘state of emergency’ on a state, or to enter with force into a state, without the express consent and invitation of that state’s legislature and governor.” However, no admonition or correction of Clarke has appeared on the Oath Keepers’ website or social-media feeds.]

His influence has spread to other, more ostensibly mainstream venues, including a keynote address to the National Rifle Association (at which he suggested adding an assault rifle to the national seal), as well as a recent CBS News report profiling “other voices” in the national debate over gun rights.

As Media Matters notes, Clarke’s contribution consisted of the discredited claim that mass shootings are occurring largely in “gun-free zones” (in reality, only 13% of such shootings occur in these zones). The report included similar disinformation from gun-rights extremist Larry Pratt.

All of these programs, as well as Clarke’s voluminous media appearances (primarily on Fox News) presented Clarke as some kind of a normative law-enforcement officer with conservative views, but in reality, Clarke’s views and advocacy go well beyond the mainstream and are, in fact, deeply mired in right-wing extremism.

Clarke calls himself a “constitutional sheriff” – which is not the benign label it appears, but rather signifies his membership in the CSPOA, the antigovernment organization that promotes the Posse Comitatus-derived belief, among others, that the county sheriff is the supreme law-enforcement entity in the United States. Not only is Clarke a member in good standing with the CSPOA, he was named its “Sheriff of the Year” in 2013, and addressed its annual convention. His speech openly endorsed the organization’s radical interpretation of the Constitution, and he called its members “the true patriots.” Clarke also emphasized his view that “our common enemy” is “the government,” which he claimed constituted a greater threat to freedom than terrorists.

Earlier that same year, Clarke made an appearance on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars radio program, during which he contended that any attempt by federal authorities to confiscate guns would inspire “the second coming of an American Revolution, the likes of which would make the first Revolution pale by comparison.” He then appeared on a Fox News show to explain that he and Jones were envisioning a scenario with “the feds coming in and going into homes, forcing their way into homes and removing firearms,” an idea he admitted is “preposterous.”

Clarke’s subsequent career as a frequent guest on Fox News included segments featuring vicious attacks on President Obama, whom he claimed was attempting to foment racial unrest due to his “divisive policies,” as well as accusing Obama of waging a “war on cops.” He has been especially vicious in his attacks on black activists and the Black Lives Matter movement, describing them as “scum” and “subhuman” and calling for their eradication.

Clarke put his "constitutionalist" background on public display in February 2016 during a radio show he hosted, when he launched into a strident defense of Ammon Bundy and his cohorts in Oregon, who had just been arrested at the culmination of the monthlong standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He described the takeover as potentially "that crystallizing moment, where that critical mass builds, and a movement is started by We the People, to push back against this intrusive and overbearing federal government. I certainly hope so." His rant promoted several Patriot conspiracy theories, notably the groundless claim that the federal government is not permitted to hold large tracts of public lands in the West.

Nor is his extremism the only cloud on his record. Clarke faces scrutiny in Milwaukee over the death of an inmate in the county jail operated under Clarke's oversight; the mentally ill man died of dehydration after being denied water for seven days by Clarke's employees.

Clarke's record of extremism is considerable, as we detailed previously in an October 2015 profile:

His rise to conservative media stardom began in early 2013 with a contentious appearance on CNN with Piers Morgan, defending his anti-gun control policies and a controversial public-service announcement Clarke had made urging residents to arm themselves with guns. Mack later said that the appearance caught his eye, since he had not heard of Clarke before then.

Shortly afterward, Clarke was named “Sheriff of the Year” by the CSPOA, a selection which provoked a piece from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Dan Bice exploring the organization’s background and radical beliefs. Clarke fired back with a press release attacking Bice and defending the CSPOA as “a group of honorable Sheriffs and officers who vow to uphold their oath of defending the U.S. Constitution.”

Joining Clarke on the CSPOA stage that year was Stewart Rhodes, whose Oath Keepers organization has a long record as a fiercely antigovernment, militaristic group. As Media Matters notes, among others attending CSPOA that year were Larry Pratt, head of the far-right Gun Owners of America; Michael Peroutka, an active member of Neo-Confederate hate group League of the South, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio's "chief birther" Mike Zullo.

An excerpt from Clarke’s CSPOA speech:

I want to thank you folks. You’re the true patriots. Every successful movement in the history of mankind started at the grassroots level, with true believers. ….You folks are the modern founders, because you want to return where I want to return, and it’s back to the promise that this document made to the people of the United States of America.

…What’s happening today is what was happening then. And a courageous group of grassroots individuals – that’s what the Founding Fathers were, they were grassroots people – said, ‘Enough,’ and started to push back. And that’s what I started to do, and that’s why I started to become more outspoken.I didn’t just wake up one day and have an epiphany start believing this stuff. But I said it’s not enough to just keep it in here. I know I have to join this movement. You folks. I’m just a footsoldier in this. You folks got it started.

To be successful, this movement’s going to have to have two things: You have to have a common enemy, and you have to have a common language. And I’m not here to tell you what to do, or this group what to do, because as I said, I’m a Johnny-come-lately. But I know about movements. And in this movement, the common enemy – and let’s not make this mistake, because I think sometimes you do – this is not about Democrats and Republicans, this is not about liberals and conservatives. Because the ruling class in Washington, D.C., sees us as nothing more than subjects. We’re not citizens anymore, in their minds.

So don’t get caught up with liberals, Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, and even people. Obama – Obama will be gone in a couple years. But guess what will still be there, and this is the common enemy: It’s government.That’s the common enemy. It’s not Nancy Pelosi, it’s not Barack Obama, it’s not the faces and the names. These people come and go. The government remains. That’s what’s becoming oppressive, that’s what’s starting to become intrusive, more and more intrusive, and that’s what’s encroaching on our liberties.

His interview with Alex Jones earlier that year had rung a number of similar notes from antigovernment conspiracy theorists:

JONES: What about this issue? Many sheriffs have said, Sheriff Clarke, that if the executive orders come down banning semi-autos, or whatever … Seriously, if they try to take physically take semi-autos, I know a lot of veterans and people that have had enough, and I would not want to be the police or sheriff’s department ordered by the Feds to try to go get guns. What is your take on the fact that, from a lot of analysts that I talk to, think that the Obama Marxist types want to start a civil war in this county. Ah, they gotta know what’s gonna happen when they try to confiscate guns.

CLARKE: Well, first of all, to me, that would be an act of terror. So, the people of Milwaukee County do not have to worry about me enforcing some sort of order that goes out and collects everybody’s handgun or rifles or any kind of firearm and makes them turn them in. And the reason is, I don’t want to get shot. Because I believe that if somebody tried to enforce something of that magnitude, you would see the second coming of an American Revolution, the likes of which would make the first Revolution pale by comparison. So the people of Milwaukee County don’t have to worry about me engaging in that sort of tyranny.

In the interview, Clarke also brought up the case of the horrifying massacre of six Sikhs at a temple near Milwaukee, an act perpetrated by a radicalized white supremacist. Clarke questioned the coverage of the case, saying: “This isn’t about reducing violence. This is about attacking the Second Amendment. This is going after the wrong crowd.”

Jones replied: “Exactly. Let me ask you this question: Why does the government class, the socialist class, why do they want our guns so bad right now? What are they worried about in the future?”

Clarke replied: “Well, I don’t want to get way out there and try to guess to what they’re getting at, but you know, government control cannot go on as long as people have some sort of ability to say, ‘Hey, wait just a doggone minute.’ And as long as that exists, the government, they – that’s what the government is, they don’t really scare the criminal, they support the criminal, after they’ve been arrested.

“But what they fear is a law-abiding person who’s gonna load up – I mean, read the Declaration of Independence. It’s right there. We’re a law-abiding people saying enough is enough, you are exerting too much influence in our lives, this is tyrannical, and it’s going to stop. That’s what we’re worried about.”

A year later, he appeared on Fox News to discuss that “second American Revolution” with Judge Jeanine Pirro:

CLARKE: It was talking about the feds coming in and going into homes, forcing their way into homes and removing firearms. And you know, the thought is preposterous.

PIRRO: You know what, the thought of it is preposterous. And people are very concerned about it. I mean, this whole idea of identifying gun owners in newspapers and chipping away at these gun rights. And getting a registry. This guy’s a chief, this guy McCarthy, the chief of the third-largest police department in the nation, who works for Rahm Emanuel, who’s so connected to the White House, who’s saying, ‘You know what, we should be able to put a chip in your gun.’ Are you crazy?

CLARKE: You know, that’s why the American people bristle at the thought of a national gun registry. And if the United States – the White House or anybody – would turn over the names of gun owners in the United States to a foreign nation,that would be an act of betrayal on the American people.

By early 2014, Fox began having Clarke appear on-air to discuss the contentious issue of police brutality when handling African Americans, which spurred the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement. In his Dec. 12, 2014, appearance on Fox News with Megyn Kelly, Clarke blamed President Obama for creating the problem.

“He built this racial divide,” Clarke said. “It was a wound that had been healing for a number of years, a number of decades […] and he reopened it with his divisive politics. … Who would have thought that after the election of the first black president in the history of the United States that we would need a period of reconstruction to try to put this country back together?”

He continued:

We have to begin to ask when white society is going to be through paying for the sins of slavery. We’re now punishing people for sins they didn’t commit. I’ve forgiven and I’ve moved on. I’ve stamped that bill marked for the wrongs of slavery paid in full. This country is now open for opportunities for all people. Instances of discrimination, racism had to go underground. OK, it’s been uprooted, the president of the United States said a couple of days ago that they were deep rooted, and that’s simply not true.

So we have to have that discussion as to when we’re really gonna be ready to move on and forgive people, especially people today who have no connection to what’s being talked about.

Clarke also has indicated his alignment with the CSPOA belief that the county sheriff has the authority to ignore other civic authorities, while discussing the riots in Baltimore this spring with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly:

O’REILLY: If the county commissioner – it’s a speculative question, it certainly could happen – gave you an order to stand down while people rioted and looted in the county, you’d have to obey that order, correct?

CLARKE: No. No. No, that’s not going to happen. I’m going to have to defy that order, obviously. I report to the people, that’s who elected me sheriff.

O’REILLY: So if you had been in Baltimore and you had received the order from the mayor to stand down, as we have credible reporting that she gave, you would have defied the order?

CLARKE: Defied the order, sent my officers out there, made sure they had the proper resources, and made sure that they know that they have the authority to use a reasonable amount of force to accomplish their mission.

Clarke’s rhetoric is frequently laden with racially incendiary vitriol. His remark on Fox that Hillary Clinton was willing to “prostitute herself to secure the black vote” is only one example. He also blamed Sandra Bland, a black Texas woman who died while in custody, for her own demise, saying he would “have been embarrassed” if Bland was his own daughter.

Clarke also regularly indulges in conspiracism, claiming that President Obama is trying to “emasculate” police in order to impose dictatorial control. He has even weighed in on LGBT rights, calling for “pitchforks and torches” in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

Nor has he slowed down on the references to armed revolt, telling a World Net Daily interviewer that it might take a “Lexington moment” to stop gay rights and the “socialist agenda.”

On the Oct. 11 broadcast Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News show, he attacked Obama for flying out to Oregon to meet with townspeople in Roseburg after a mass shooting on the community-college campus there, suggesting the president reduce his security instead:

You know, [President Obama] never misses an opportunity to politicize something. Any time there’s a tragedy that happens in the United States, he goes into his political bag of tricks to see what he can accomplish on his agenda and it’s sad that he exploits these people and I’m glad they saw through it. When he takes advantage and uses them to achieve a political agenda, I’m glad to see that they slapped back. This is a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ president and he speaks as he is surrounded by this protective bubble, which he should have. If he wants to disarm people, he should start with his security staff.

However, he went completely off the rails, veering into eliminationist rhetoric advocating the “eradication” of other citizens, when he went on Fox News with Pirro on August 29, 2015, to discuss the recent murders of a law-enforcement officer in Texas that, according to local law-enforcement officials, had been inspired by the anti-police rhetoric of the Black Lives Matter movement. (It shortly emerged that, in fact, there was nothing linking the murder to the black activists at all.)

Clarke was in a full rage. “Jeanine, I am too pissed off tonight to be diplomatic about what’s going on, and I’m not going to stick my head in the sand about,” he answered when Pirro asked if it was “open season” on cops out there. “I said last December that war had been declared on the American police officer, led by some high profile people — one of them coming out of the White House, one of them coming out of the Department of Justice.”

He continued: “It’s open season right now, no doubt about it. … I’m tired of hearing people call [Black Lives Matter] black activists. They’re black slime, and it needs to be eradicated from American society and American culture. I need every law-abiding person in the United States of America to stand up and start pushing back against this slime, this filth disparaging the American law enforcement officers within these communities.”

Clarke continued in a similar vein after hearing remarks from the sheriff in Texas suggesting that “all lives matter”:

We need to hear more of that from everybody. This whole movement — 'Black Lies' I've renamed it — because it's based on a lie, the 'Hands up, don't shoot.' That's why I said this slime need to be eradicated from American society and American culture.

That kind of rhetoric is fairly common among the militiamen and hatemongers of the extremist right. It’s fairly uncommon – and downright disturbing – coming from an elected officer of the law, especially for one with designs on a powerful position within the federal law enforcement apparatus.

Monday, May 08, 2017

What the Kek: Explaining the Alt-Right ‘Deity’ Behind Their ‘Meme Magic’

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Who, or what, is Kek?

You may have seen the name bandied about on social media, especially in political circles where alt-right activists and avid Donald Trump supporters lurk. Usually it is brandished as a kind of epithet, seemingly to ward off the effects of liberal arguments, and it often is conveyed in memes that use the image of the alt-right mascot, Pepe the Frog: “Kek!”

Kek, in the alt-right’s telling, is the “deity” of the semi-ironic “religion” the white nationalist movement has created for itself online – partly for amusement, as a way to troll liberals and self-righteous conservatives both, and to make a kind of political point. He is a god of chaos and darkness, with the head of a frog, the source of their memetic “magic,” to whom the alt-right and Donald Trump owe their success, according to their own explanations.

In many ways, Kek is the apotheosis of the bizarre alternative reality of the alt-right: at once absurdly juvenile, transgressive, and racist, as well as reflecting a deeper, pseudo-intellectual purpose that lends it an appeal to young ideologues who fancy themselves deep thinkers. It dwells in that murky area they often occupy, between satire, irony, mockery, and serious ideology; Kek can be both a big joke to pull on liberals and a reflection of the alt-right’s own self-image as serious agents of chaos in modern society.

Most of all, Kek has become a kind of tribal marker of the alt-right: Its meaning obscure and unavailable to ordinary people – “normies,” in their lingo – referencing Kek is most often just a way of signaling to fellow conversants online that the writer embraces the principles of chaos and destruction that are central to alt-right thinking, as it were.

The name, usage, and ultimately the ideas around it originated in gaming culture, particularly on chat boards devoted to the World of Warcraft online computer games, according to Know Your Meme. In those games, participants can chat only with members of their own faction in the “war” (either Alliance or Horde fighters), while opposing players’ chats are rendered in a cryptic form based on Korean; thus, the common chat phrase “LOL” (laugh out loud) was read by opposing players as “KEK.” The phrase caught on as a variation on “LOL” in game chat rooms, as well as at open forums dedicated to gaming, animation, and popular culture, such as 4chan and Reddit – also dens of the alt-right, where the Pepe the Frog meme also has its origins, and similarly hijacked as a symbol of white nationalism.

A popular meme explaining the Cult of Kek.
At some point, someone at 4chan happened to seize on a coincidence: There was, in fact, an Egyptian god named Kek. An androgynous god who could take either male or female form, Kek originally was depicted in female form as possessing the head of a frog or a cat and a serpent when male; but during the Greco-Roman period, the male form was depicted as a frog-headed man.

More importantly, Kek was portrayed as a bringer of chaos and darkness, which happened to fit perfectly with the alt-right’s self-image as being primarily devoted to destroying the existing world order.

In the febrile imaginations at play on 4chan’s image boards and other alt-right gathering spaces, this coincidence took on a life of its own, leading to wide-ranging speculation that Pepe – who, by then, had not only become closely associated with the alt-right, but also with the candidacy of Donald Trump – was actually the living embodiment of Kek. And so the Cult of Kek was born.

Constructed to reflect alt-right politics, the online acolytes of the “religion” in short order constructed a whole panoply of artifacts of the satirical church, including a detailed theology, discussions about creating “meme magick,” books and audio tapes, even a common prayer:

Our Kek who art in memetics

Hallowed by thy memes

Thy Trumpdom come

Thy will be done

In real life as it is on /pol/

Give us this day our daily dubs

And forgive us of our baiting

As we forgive those who bait against us

And lead us not into cuckoldry

But deliver us from shills

For thine is the memetic kingdom, and the shitposting, and the winning, for ever and ever.

Praise KEK

Kek “adherents” created a whole cultural mythology around the idea, describing an ancient kingdom called “Kekistan” that was eventually overwhelmed by “Normistan” and “Cuckistan.” They created not only a logo representing Kek – four Ks surrounding an E – but promptly deployed it in a green-and-black banner, which they call the “national flag of Kekistan.”

The banner’s design, in fact, perfectly mimics a German Nazi war flag, with the Kek logo replacing the swastika and the green replacing the infamous German red. Alt-righters are particularly fond of the way the banner trolls liberals who recognize its origins.

In recent weeks, alt-right marchers at public events planned to create violent scenes with leftist antifacist counterprotesters have appeared carrying Kekistan banners. Others have worn patches adorned with the Kek logo.

A Kekistan Banner was part of the scene at the
alt-right "free speech" rally April 15 in Berkeley, CA.
Besides its entertainment value, the “religion” is mainly useful to the alt-right as a trolling device for making fun of liberals and “political correctness.” A recent alt-right rally in support of adviser Stephen Bannon in front of the White House, posted on YouTube by alt-right maven Cassandra Fairbanks, featured a Kekistan banner and a man announcing to the crowd a “Free Kekistan” campaign.

One of the leaders of the group offered a satirical speech: “The Kekistani people are here, they stand with the oppressed minorities, the oppressed people of Kekistan. They will be heard, they will be set free. Reparations for Kekistan now! Reparations for Kekistan right now!”

“We have lived under normie oppression for too long!” chimed in a cohort.

“The oppression will end!” declared the speaker.

The main point of the whole exercise is to mock “political correctness,” an alt-right shibboleth, and deeply reflective of the ironic, often deadpan style of online trolling in general, and alt-right “troll storms” especially. Certainly, if any “normies” were to make the mistake of taking their “religion” seriously and suggesting that their “deity” was something they actually worshipped, they would receive the usual mocking treatment reserved for anyone foolish enough to take their words at face value.

Yet at the same time, lurking behind all the clownery is an idea that alt-righters actually seem to take seriously: Namely, that by spreading their often cryptic memes far and wide on social media and every other corner of the Internet, they are infecting the popular discourse with their ideas. For the alt-right, those core ideas all revolve around white males, the patriarchy, nationalism, and race, especially the underlying belief that white males and masculinity are under siege – from feminists, from liberals, from racial, ethnic, and sexual/gender minorities.

In such alt-right haunts as Andrew Anglin’s neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, references to the Kek “religion” have become commonplace, and Kek as the “god of chaos” has been credited at the site with, besides electing Trump, killing over 30 people in a fire at an Oakland artists’ collective. A very early Stormer disquisition on Kek by “Atlantic Centurion,” published in August 2015, explores the many dimensions of the Kek phenomenon in extensive theological detail, connecting their belief system to Buddhism and other religions.

It is the Kek the Bodhisattva who can teach our people these truths, if we are willing to listen and to commit ourselves to the generation of meme magick through karmic morality and through the mantra of memes. By refusing to cuck and by rejecting the foul mindsets of our invaders and terrorizers, we will move the nation away from its suffering under the pains of hostile occupation, and closer and closer to its final rebirth. If instead, our people cuck and adopt the foul mindsets, they will generate not Aryan karma but further mosaic samsara.

The trve power of skillful memes is to meme the karmic nation into reality, the process of meme magick. By spreading and repeating the meme mantra, it is possible to generate the karma needed for the rebirth of the nation.

Anglin himself makes frequent references to Kek, making clear that he too subscribes to the underlying meme-spreading strategy that the “religion” represents. Describing a black artist’s piece showing a crucified frog – which appeared to Anglin to be a kind of blasphemy of the Kek deity – he declared that “there’s some cosmic-tier stuff going on out there.” Another post, published in March, was headlined: “Meme Magic: White House Boy Summoned Spirit of Kek to Protect His Prophet Donald Trump.”

Anglin devoted the post to explaining a teenager’s use of an alt-right hand signal while meeting Trump, concluding that “the only possibility here is that this is an example of Carl Jung’s synchronicity – seemingly acausal factors culminating to create an event based on its meaning. But it is not really acausal – it merely appears that way to the non-believer. It is our spiritual energies, channeled through the internet, that caused this event to manifest,” he wrote. “It is meme magic.”

Whether they really believe any of this or not, the thrust of the entire enterprise is to mock everything “politically correct” so loudly and obtusely – and divertingly – that legitimate issues about the vicious core of white male nationalism they embrace never need to be confronted directly. The alt-right’s “meme war” is ultimately another name for far-right propaganda, polished and rewired for 21st-century consumers. The ironic pose that Kek represents, and accompanying claims that the racism they promote is just innocently meant to provoke, in the end are just a fa├žade fronting a very old and very ugly enterprise: hatemongering of the xenophobic and misogynistic kind.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Husband And Wife Accused of Planning Violence in Shooting at UW Milo Protest

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

After a three-month investigation that entailed combing through hours’ worth of video recordings, the King County Prosecutor’s office in Seattle announced this week that it was filing felony charges against a married couple accused of shooting a man involved in the Jan. 20 protests outside a Milo Yiannopoulos speech on the University of Washington campus.

Elizabeth Hokoana and her husband, Marc Hokoana, both 29, were charged with first-degree assault in the shooting of Joshua Dukes, a 31-year-old computer programmer who had been acting as a peacekeeper during the protest, which featured multiple violent melees. Marc Hokoana had been a participant in several of them, and according to the charging papers, had been dosing protesters with squirts from a small pepper-spray gun.

During one of these brawls, authorities say, Elizabeth “Lily” Hokoana pulled a Glock semiautomatic pistol from her coat and shot Dukes once. Dukes spent several weeks in the hospital recovering from the wound, which damaged several internal organs.

The charging papers claim that, the day before the event, Marc Hokoana had messaged a friend on Facebook: “I can’t wait for tomorrow. I’m going to the milo event and if the snowflakes get out off hand I’m going to wade through their ranks and start cracking skulls.”

The friend asked him whether he was “going to carry.” Hokoana replied: “Nah, I’m going full melee.” He then added: “Lily … is.”

Marc Hokoana had messaged Yiannopoulos via Facebook from the protest, saying his “Make America Great Again” hat had been stolen. He also asked Yiannopoulos for a new hat, but the alt-right provocateur never replied.

Video recorded by Hatewatch during the protests showed Hokoana acting as a provocateur throughout the evening, egging protesters on and trying to provoke them by demanding his hat back.

The charging papers say a witness identified as “B.F.” described his activities throughout the evening: “B.F. stated that the individual kept going over to the group of protesters and agitating the group by calling them snowflakes, libtards and saying that (Trump) was their president. B.F. stated that the man seemed to be there only to provoke the crowd.”

In a still taken from the video (about 2:00), Elizabeth Hokoana
 can be seen reaching inside the back of her coat.
A key portion of the Hatewatch video proved important in establishing the charges against Elizabeth Hokoana. Recorded nearly 30 minutes before the shooting, she can be seen, wearing a two-toned winter coat and pigtails, approaching the scene where a young Milo supporter had been hit with a blue paint ball by black-clad protesters. As the young man’s father pulls him away, she can be seen opening her coat and reaching behind her inside it, appearing to stand guard as her husband confronts the protesters. (He shortly afterward emerged, spoke briefly with his wife, and embraced the young man with the paint on his face.)

A detective cited in the charging papers said the movement “was consistent with a person who was attempting to pull a concealed pistol from a holster.”

Later in the Hatewatch video, Marc Hokoana, now wearing a bright yellow ballcap, can be seen chanting with a crowd of Yiannopoulos fans waving a banner bearing the image of Pepe the Frog, the hate-symbol mascot of the alt-right, and then briefly conferring with friends wearing red "Make America Great Again" ballcaps. In the final frame of that video — taken less than a minute before the shooting — the victim, Josh Dukes, is comes into view.

The Seattle Times reports that further video evidence found Marc Hokoana attempting to keep his wife in check, telling her to “calm down” and “don’t shoot anyone.”

An audio analyst told the Times: “Marc Hokoana can then be heard telling Elizabeth Hokoana that others in the crowd, ‘They have to start this. They have to start it.’ ”

The Hokoanas’ lawyers maintained their innocence. “We have provided the police and the prosecution evidence showing that our clients acted lawfully in defense of others,” a joint statement said. “The accuser, Joshua Dukes, has repeatedly stated that he does not want this to go through the criminal-justice system. We are disappointed that the prosecution has decided otherwise. We look forward to presenting our case to a jury and we anticipate an acquittal.”

Joshua Dukes, who was eventually released after weeks in the hospital since the bullet entered his stomach, traveled up his chest and lodged in his back, has been pleading for “restorative justice” in the case.

“Being shot was devastating for Mr. Dukes, his family, and his community,” his attorney, Sarah Lippek, told reporters. “The Hokoanas harmed many people by their violent actions. Mr. Dukes hopes that the defendants will take accountability for shooting him, for taking guns and other weapons into already unstable circumstances, and for their involvement in escalating violence in the situation. It is crucial for the Hokoanas to understand the damage they caused, in order to reach accountability and resolution for this violence.”

Yianniopoulos attempted to claim in his speech inside the hall that the roles were reversed — that it had been one of his alt-right fans who had been shot by an antifascist. Breitbart News and the Daily Caller both reported the same. The Daily Caller wound up writing a story that corrected the facts but, notably, did not explain that it was a correction of the site's previous reportage. Breitbart, meanwhile, not only never bothered to correct its reportage, it instead (without a hint of irony) accused the UW president of changing her story about the event, and left the shooting utterly unmentioned in its subsequent reportage.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Chobani Bites Back, Sues InfoWars For Smearing Idaho Operation, Refugees

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

To hear the conspiracy-spawning hosts at Alex Jones’ InfoWars operation describe it, Chobani Yogurt and its Turkish-born owner are part of a vast plot to populate rural areas with disease-bearing and rape-prone criminal refugees from war-torn nations, driven out by the machinations of “globalists” who want to destroy America. Or something like that.

This, more or less, is the conspiracy theory that InfoWars contributors have been spinning for the past year or more, reaching hyperbolic stages in the past month as the site has produced segments with videos titled “MSM Covers For Globalist's Refugee Import Program After Child Rape Case” and “Idaho Yogurt Maker Caught Importing Migrant Rapists.”

This week, Chobani chose to fight back—in the courts.

Pointedly observing that Jones “is no stranger to spurious statements,” Chobani filed a lawsuit in Idaho District Court this week demanding $10,000 in attorney fees, full corrections on its false reportage and an apology from Jones and his InfoWars operation.

“The defendants’ conduct in this matter was extreme, outrageous and warrants punitive damages,” the lawsuit said.

The focus of the conspiracists’ fearmongering was Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, a native of Turkey who has donated heavily to liberal causes and is well known as an advocate for refugee resettlement in the United States and elsewhere. It opened its Idaho plant near Twin Falls, the nation’s second-largest such operation, in 2012. InfoWars and its army of true believers—who descended upon Ulukaya and other Chobani officials with a deluge of threats and hate mail through social media—claim that this is part of a nefarious scheme to drive “ordinary Americans” out of rural districts and replace them with brown-skinned foreign refugees dependent on their benefactors.

According to InfoWars, Ulukaya not only is bringing in crime in the form of child rapists to Twin Falls, he’s bringing disease in the form of tuberculosis.

The anti-refugee contingent had already been whipped into high dudgeon in the Magic Valley in preceding years over its longtime refugee program by a steady drumbeat of Islamophobia engendered with the help of various extremist anti-Muslim organizations, culminating in the open involvement of armed “III Percent” militiamen in anti-refugee protests.

However, the hysteria whipped into high gear in the summer of 2016 when three refugee boys sexually assaulted a five-year-old in an apartment-complex laundry room, and the story hit local news media, and then went viral. The ensuing sensational news reports—amplified by screeching headlines at right-wing outlets such as Drudge Report and Breitbart News—described the assault as a “rape” and the boys as rapists. Some of the accounts claimed that the boys pulled a knife on the girl; others claimed they were from Syria.

However, as Michelle Goldberg explored in a definitive report on the case for Slate, the facts are much more complicated. There was no rape involved; one boy inappropriately touched the girl’s genitals. There were reportedly other acts involved in the assault that were similarly appalling but did not constitute rape. The boys were from Eritrea and Iraq, not Syria. And there was no knife.

Nonetheless, InfoWars’ reports on the case consistently described it as “the Idaho rape case” and described the boys as rapists. Contributor LeeAnn McAdoo also described Chobani as “the target of a lot of anti-refugee anger. People say that the factory there and other local businesses are linked to the refugee program, because the existence of the refugees as labor is needed to fuel Chobani.”

The three boys, ages 14, 10 and 7, pleaded guilty to committing felonies in the assault earlier this month.

Host David Knight kicked off the reportage on the case in 2016 by describing it as “a story of an unbelievable takeover of our country. It’s not just refugees coming in and taking blue-class factory jobs, or middle-class jobs with H1-B visas. No, they’re coming in and they’re taking over our entrepreneurship. They’re taking over American businesses. They’re taking that role and shutting us down, using their connections in Washington.”

The attacks on Chobani led to a deluge of threats against the company and its founder. Social-media sites were flooded with calls for a Chobani boycott, as well as memes attacking Ulukaya, claiming he was “going to drown the United States in Muslims and is importing them to Idaho 300 at a time to work in his factory.” Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar was subjected to death threats when InfoWars and other sites began suggesting he was part of a “government coverup.”

Knight later repeatedly claimed the refugees were responsible for a rise in disease in the area: “They have a five hundred percent increase in tuberculosis,” he told the InfoWars audience. “That is another one of the costs, along with $54 million dollars from the local and state community. That’s the cost to the taxpayers.”

Knight’s claim was based on a wildly distorted report from Breitbart News that “TB Spiked 500 Percent In Twin Falls in 2012, As Chobani Yogurt Opened Plant.” The Idaho Department of Health shortly thereafter explained that, while seven refugees with tuberculosis had indeed been admitted to the program, none of them had a contagious form of the disease.

Nonetheless, Knight repeated the charge last week, after CBS’s 60 Minutes had featured an interview with Ulukaya: “So the report from the hill said that Breitbart at the time had said that the plant had brought not only refugees but crime and tuberculosis—but of course, [sardonically] that was just fake news. Remember when we heard the reports of that five-year-old special-needs girl who was raped? Everybody said, ‘Aw, that was just fake news. That’s false.’ But now of course we have seen them admit to sexually assaulting five-year-old girl, getting their plea deal done last week.

“And so now it’s time for CBS’ 60 Minutes to let’s sweep all that under the carpet and let’s revitalize the image of Chobani Yogurt.”

As Jennifer Patterson, project director for the federal Partnership for Refugees, explained to the Idaho Statesman, Chobani and similar companies working with refugees are not exploiting them.

“It’s the exact opposite,” Patterson said. “These companies are looking to provide resettled refuges with the ability to live happy and productive lives. There’s never any malicious talk about getting them on the cheap.”