1 Neo-Nazi Group. 5 Murders In 8 Months. | HuffPost

The Atomwaffen Division has emerged as one of the most disturbing and volatile hate groups in America.

An 18-year-old in Florida allegedly shoots and kills two of his roommates. A 21-year-old, also in Florida, plots to bomb synagogues and a nuclear power plant. A 17-year-old in Virginia allegedly shoots and kills his girlfriend’s parents. And a 20-year-old in California allegedly stabs a gay Jewish college student 20 times, burying him in a shallow grave.

All of these young white men had connections to the Atomwaffen Division, a well-armed neo-Nazi group enamored with Charles Manson and Adolf Hitler whose members harbor grand and demented delusions of fighting a “race war” and overthrowing the U.S. government.

Their alleged crimes all occurred in just the last eight months, most recently in January, adding to fears that an emboldened American white supremacist movement is growing more violent by the day. White supremacists, after all, murdered twice as many people in 2017 as they did the year before, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

But while the Atomwaffen Division — which translates from the German as the “Atomic Weapons Division” — represents perhaps the most extreme faction of organized fascism in the U.S., these five recent murders thus far don’t appear to have been coordinated. Nor does it appear that they were all completely motivated by ideology.

Most, it seems, arose partly from domestic disputes, highlighting the volatility and desperation of young men who become enthralled by white supremacy.

Still, America is waking up to the threat of a group like Atomwaffen, which operates largely anonymously and in the shadows, radicalizing young men, holding military-style training camps and making explicit calls for violence against minorities.

This is what we know about them.

Going Full Nazi

Whereas much of the optics-obsessed “alt-right” is shy about deploying Third Reich imagery, Atomwaffen is not. Its photos, videos and artwork are flush with swastikas and SS lightning bolts. Its members love to throw up a Nazi salute.

The group published its latest propaganda video earlier this month. It features members dressed in camouflage and skull masks shouting “gas the Kikes” and “race war now” as they LARP about the countryside, firing guns and practicing military maneuvers. A previous video included footage of members setting both an American flag and a copy of the U.S. Constitution on fire during a “Doomsday Hatecamp.”

When Charles Manson died in November, Atomwaffen members mourned the murderous cult leader. “A great revolutionary,” one person wrote on a now defunct Atomwaffen message board. “The world really does feel a little emptier,” wrote another.

On its website, Atomwaffen describes itself as “a revolutionary national socialist organization centered around political activism and the practice of an autonomous fascist lifestyle.”

In practice, this has meant distributing racist recruitment flyers on college campuses, hanging banners with racist messages from bridges, graffiti, and showing up at white nationalist rallies to wave the Atomwaffen flag.

It’s estimated there are only about 80 Atomwaffen members, though according to the Anti-Defamation League, Atomwaffen activity has been reported in multiple states, including Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, Massachusetts, Washington and Wisconsin.

“The group’s vile propaganda often promotes violence against minority communities, including LGBT people, Jews, Muslims, and African Americans,” the ADL wrote.

Five Murders And A Bomb Plot

In May, Devon Arthurs, an 18-year-old Atomwaffen member who had converted to a violent, fundamentalist version of Islam — a conversion that isn’t as unlikely as it seems — allegedly shot and killed two of his roommates, both of whom were allegedly also Atomwaffen members. Arthurs later confessed that his roommates had disrespected his new faith, so he decided to kill them.

Brandon Russell, a fourth roommate who was not killed, was also connected to Atomwaffen. During a search of the house after the murders, authorities discovered bomb-making equipment and radioactive material they determined belonged to Russell. In Russell’s bedroom, police found a framed photo of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. In his car were rifles, ammunition, binoculars and a skull mask. Prosecutors later alleged that Russell had planned to bomb civilian targets, including synagogues and a nuclear power plant in Miami. He was recently sentenced to five years in prison.

Seven months later, in Reston, Virginia, 17-year-old Nicholas Giampa reportedly grew angry after his girlfriend broke up with him. Giampa held neo-Nazi beliefs, and her parents had convinced her to end the relationship. In December, Giampa allegedly shot and killed the parents inside their home. He then turned the gun on himself, surviving a gunshot wound to the head.

HuffPost found Giampa’s Twitter account, which he used to tweet about his hatred of transgender people, his admiration for Hitler, and how he would use Jewish people for target practice. He often retweeted posts from Atomwaffen-affiliated accounts, including a photo of armed Atomwaffen members posing with the group’s flag.

Giampa also praised a 1992 book called Siege — a racist tome penned by career neo-Nazi and Charles Manson devotee James Mason. The book, which argues for waging a violent “Helter Skelter” race war and condones murder and terror attacks, was plucked from obscurity by Atomwaffen members and republished on the group’s website last year.

Before Giampa allegedly killed his girlfriend’s parents, he retweeted a photo of Mason reading a copy of Siege. He also praised a Twitter user named @RyanAtomwaffen for owning a copy of the book.

Earlier this month, a site called SIEGE Culture, which appears to be affiliated  Atomwaffen, started crafting original pieces of Atomwaffen propaganda featuring photos of Giampa’s face.

Earlier this month, police in Orange County, California, found the body of Blaze Bernstein, a 20-year-old college student. Rainfall had uncovered his final resting place: a pit dug in Lake Forest’s Borrego Park. Bernstein — who was gay and Jewish — had been stabbed at least 20 times.

His former high school classmate, Samuel Lincoln Woodward, was arrested for the murder a few days later. Last week, ProPublica reported that Woodward is a member of the Atomwaffen Division.

Three people who knew Woodward, one of whom is a former Atomwaffen member, identified Woodward as belonging to the group. The former member told ProPublica that Woodward attended an Atomwaffen training camp in Texas in 2016, where he learned about firearms, hand-to-hand combat and how to survive in the wild.

It’s unclear if Woodward will face hate crime charges.

Bernstein’s mother, Jeanne Pepper Bernstein, told the Los Angeles Times she had always worried her son could be the victim of hate. She said it always concerned her that he was gay, Jewish and small.

“I was concerned for his safety always,” she added. “I was concerned sending him out into the big world. But at some point you have to let go and they leave the nest and fly. I couldn’t protect him from everything.”

America does not do a good job of tracking incidents of hate and bias. We need your help to create a database of such incidents across the country, so we all know what’s going on. Tell us your story.

 

Source: 1 Neo-Nazi Group. 5 Murders In 8 Months. | HuffPost

Sessions Says ‘Evil Attack’ in Virginia Is Domestic Terrorism – The New York Times

“You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation toward the most serious charges that can be brought because this is unequivocally an unacceptable evil attack,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions, shown in April, said on “Good Morning America.”

Credit
Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Monday that the “evil attack” in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend meets the legal definition of an act of domestic terrorism, an early declaration in an investigation after a car plowed into a crowd of protesters.

“It does meet the definition of domestic terrorism in our statute,” Mr. Sessions said on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” referring to a fatal attack on Saturday when a vehicle drove into a crowd protesting white nationalists, killing one woman and injuring others. A 20-year-old man has been arrested and charged by Virginia authorities with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failing to stop at the scene of a crash that resulted in a death.

“You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation toward the most serious charges that can be brought because this is unequivocally an unacceptable evil attack,” Mr. Sessions said, adding that terrorism and civil rights investigators were working on the case.

Mr. Sessions appeared on several morning news shows on Monday, condemning the violent demonstrations over the removal of a Confederate monument and defending President Trump’s response.

Mr. Trump has been reluctant to criticize white supremacists for the weekend’s bloody protests in Charlottesville. The attorney general’s remarks were notable for being more specific and direct than the president’s in condemning the alt-right, a loose collective of far-right activists, some of whom espouse racist and anti-Semitic views.


Mr. Sessions, who is coming off weeks of pointed criticism from Mr. Trump over his performance as attorney general, was pressed to explain why the president had not forcefully condemned white nationalism.

Mr. Sessions said the president had done so, but he was referring to an unattributed White House statement on Sunday that condemned “white supremacists,” not to comments Mr. Trump made publicly.

“He said that yesterday, his spokesman did,” Mr. Sessions said on ABC.

“It came from the White House,” Mr. Sessions said on NBC’s “Today” show. “It was authorized.”

“I think we’re making too much of this,” Mr. Sessions added on “CBS This Morning.”

As United States attorney in Alabama, Mr. Sessions was accused decades ago of making racist comments, something he has denied. But critics again assailed him as racist during his Senate confirmation.

But Mr. Sessions’s record on law and order suggests a more nuanced view.

“I’ve always said he’s good on criminal civil rights enforcement, on hate crimes. I think he really cares about it,” said Vanita Gupta, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Ms. Gupta was head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division during the Obama administration. “The problem is, he’s completely unwilling to address systemic problems.”

Mr. Trump was scheduled to meet in Washington later Monday with Mr. Sessions and the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, about the Charlottesville incident, the White House said. Mr. Trump has been on vacation in New Jersey. Mr. Sessions said that Mr. Trump would speak “to the people” later on Monday.

The “domestic terrorism” language is largely symbolic — many of the law’s stiffest penalties are for international terrorism that do not apply domestically. But the debate over language has raged for more than a decade, as Muslim groups in particular argue that the word terrorism is used only when the attackers are Muslim.

By declaring the attack to be domestic terrorism, Mr. Sessions is moving quickly to quell a debate that swirled after the 2015 shooting of a historically black church in South Carolina. Dylann S. Roof, a South Carolina man who had once worn white supremacist patches, killed nine people in that attack. Loretta E. Lynch, the attorney general at the time, declared hate crimes “the original domestic terrorism.” But some civil rights groups wanted her to go farther.

Under federal law that was expanded after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a violation of federal or state criminal law qualifies as domestic terrorism if it appears to be intended to coerce or intimidate a civilian population or to coerce the policy of the government. But domestic terrorism carries no additional penalties. Investigators rely on charges like murder and assault in prosecuting these crimes.

The Justice Department announced over the weekend that it was opening a civil rights investigation into the Charlottesville incident.


 

Source: Sessions Says ‘Evil Attack’ in Virginia Is Domestic Terrorism – The New York Times

For Helping Immigrants, Chobani’s Founder Draws Threats – The New York Times

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Hamdi Ulukaya employs about 300 refugees from Africa and the Middle East at Chobani. Mr. Ulukaya started a foundation to help refugees. His advocacy has made him a focus of racist attacks.

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Drew Nash/Times News

By many measures, Chobani embodies the classic American immigrant success story.

Its founder, Hamdi Ulukaya, is a Turkish immigrant of Kurdish descent. He bought a defunct yogurt factory in upstate New York, added a facility in Twin Falls, Idaho, and now employs about 2,000 people making Greek yogurt.

But in this contentious election season, the extreme right has a problem with Chobani: In its view, too many of those employees are refugees.

As Mr. Ulukaya has stepped up his advocacy — employing more than 300 refugees in his factories, starting a foundation to help migrants, and traveling to the Greek island of Lesbos to witness the crisis firsthand — he and his company have been targeted with racist attacks on social media and conspiratorial articles on websites including Breitbart News.

Now there are calls to boycott Chobani. Mr. Ulukaya and the company have been taunted with racist epithets on Twitter and Facebook. Fringe websites have published false stories claiming Mr. Ulukaya wants “to drown the United States in Muslims.” And the mayor of Twin Falls has received death threats, partly as a result of his support for Chobani.


Online hate speech is on the rise, reflecting the rising nationalism displayed by some supporters of Donald J. Trump, who has opposed resettling refugees in the United States.

“What’s happening with Chobani is one more flash point in this battle between the voices of xenophobia and the voices advocating a rational immigration policy,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Chobani and Mr. Ulukaya declined to comment for this article. The Trump campaign did not reply to a request for comment.

Mr. Ulukaya arrived in upstate New York in the 1990s to attend school. By 2002, he was making and selling feta cheese inspired by a family recipe. A few years later, he learned that a local yogurt and cheese factory that had closed was for sale. He received a loan of $800,000 from the Small Business Administration to purchase the factory, and started selling Chobani yogurt in 2007.

As the business grew, Mr. Ulukaya needed more help. When he learned there was a refugee resettlement center in a nearby town, he asked if any of the newcomers wanted jobs at Chobani. Mr. Ulukaya provided transportation for the new hires, and he brought in translators to assist them. He paid the refugee workers salaries above the minimum wage, as he did other workers at the factory.

When Chobani opened its factory in Twin Falls, Mr. Ulukaya once again turned to a local resettlement center. The company now employs resettled refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and Turkey, among other countries.

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Hamdi Ulukaya, left, founder of Chobani, visiting a refugee center in Hamburg, Germany, in May.

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Johannes Arlt

“The minute a refugee has a job, that’s the minute they stop being a refugee,” Mr. Ulukaya said in a talk he gave this year.

Today, Chobani has annual yogurt sales of around $1.5 billion. Last year, Mr. Ulukaya signed the Giving Pledge, promising to give away a majority of his fortune to assist refugees.

Chobani and the other companies working with refugees are not exploiting them, said Jennifer Patterson, project director for the Partnership for Refugees, a federal program.

“It’s the exact opposite,” Ms. Patterson said. “These companies are looking to provide resettled refuges with the ability to live happy and productive lives.”

Chobani’s work with refugees went largely unnoticed until this January, when Mr. Ulukaya spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. His message — that corporations needed to do more to assist refugees — broke through the high-minded rhetoric.

“He was quite a sensation there,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, who attended the event. “Here was someone who went beyond the well-meaning chatter of Davos and was walking the walk.”

Cisco, IBM, Salesforce and more joined others in pledging assistance to refugees. Those companies and others began working with the Tent Foundation, which Mr. Ulukaya founded last year. Chobani has pledged to help other companies learn how to effectively integrate refugees into a work force.

But while an alliance of well-known companies was now working together on the issue, the online critics zeroed in on Chobani. Shortly after Mr. Ulukaya spoke in Davos, the far-right website WND published a story originally titled “American Yogurt Tycoon Vows to Choke U.S. With Muslims.”

Then this summer, Breitbart, the conservative news website whose former executive chairman, Stephen K. Bannon, is now running the Trump campaign, began publishing a series of misleading articles about Chobani.

One drew a connection between Chobani’s hiring of refugees and a spike in tuberculosis cases in Idaho. Another linked Chobani to a “Twin Falls Crisis Imposed by Clinton-Era Pro-Refugee Advocates.” A third conflated Chobani’s hiring practices with a sexual assault case in Twin Falls involving minors.

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As founder of the Tent Foundation, Hamdi Ulukaya, center, spoke last month at the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants in New York.

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Luiz C. Ribeiro/Associated Press, via Associated Press for Tent

As Breitbart began publishing its articles, the online attacks grew more intense. On Twitter and Facebook, users called for a boycott of Chobani. An image was widely shared on social media that claimed Mr. Ulukaya was “going to drown the United States in Muslims and is importing them to Idaho 300 at a time to work in his factory.” And bloggers fabricated stories claiming that Chobani was pressuring local officials “to facilitate their multitude of Muslim friendly/Islamification requests.”

Soon the mayor of Twin Falls, Shawn Barigar, found himself at the center of a conspiracy theory.

“It got woven into a narrative that it’s all a cover-up, that we’re all trying to keep the refugees safe so that Chobani has its work force, that I personally am getting money from the Obama administration to help Chobani hire whoever they want, that it’s part of this Islamification of the United States,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

As the online comments escalated this summer, Mr. Barigar and his wife received death threats.

Breitbart said it was simply covering the news.

“Breitbart has been a leader in delivering important and breaking news on refugee crises throughout the Western world, which pose both national security and financial risks,” Alex Marlow, editor in chief, said in a statement. “Mr. Ulukaya hasn’t merely involved himself in this issue, he’s been one of the leaders in expanding refugee resettlement in the United States. Breitbart’s explosive growth is due in large measure to the mainstream media’s refusal to cover vital topics like this one.”

But civil rights advocates said they believed it was no mystery why Mr. Ulukaya was targeted while other chief executives had been spared. “It’s because he’s an immigrant himself,” Ms. Wang of the A.C.L.U. said.

Mr. Roth of Human Rights Watch attributed some of the xenophobia directed at Chobani to the election season.

“Some people are feeling left behind, and some people are concerned about terrorists,” he said. “But Trump has given a voice to these sentiments.”

Mr. Barigar, a Democrat, concurred. “Donald Trump really fueled a sentiment about immigration that is shared by a very small part of our community,” he said. “We are an agricultural center. We’ve depended on immigrants for a half-century or more.”

Mr. Ulukaya appears undeterred. In September, he participated in a round-table discussion with President Obama and business leaders on how corporations could do more to help refugees.

And his work with refugees is part of a broader suite of initiatives. He recently gave 10 percent of Chobani shares to his employees, and he is offering paid parental leave to all employees.

“He’s the xenophobe’s nightmare,” Mr. Roth said. “Here’s an immigrant who isn’t competing for jobs, but is creating jobs big time. It runs completely counter to the far-right narrative.”

Correction: November 4, 2016 An article on Tuesday about criticism of Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of the yogurt maker Chobani, because of his hiring of refugees misstated the timing of a round-table discussion Mr. Ulukaya participated in with President Obama and business leaders. It was in September, not “last month.”


For Helping Immigrants, Chobani’s Founder Draws Threats – The New York Times.

Source: For Helping Immigrants, Chobani’s Founder Draws Threats – The New York Times