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White supremacy poses increasing threats in the U.S.: ‘We are dealing with a massive movement.’

The white nationalist group Patriot Front attends the March For Life on January 8, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images)
The white nationalist group Patriot Front attends the March For Life on January 8, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images)

The presence and visibility of white nationalism are rising in the U.S., and the Patriot Front is one of the groups responsible.

Around 100 members of the group — a rebrand of neo-Nazi group Vanguard America known for its role in the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 — descended on Boston on July 2. They marched along Boston’s Freedom Trail holding a banner that read “Reclaim America” and have been accused of attacking Black artist and activist Charles Murrell.

In June, 31 members of the Patriot Front were arrested in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on conspiracy to riot charges. Members arrived packed into a U-Haul truck with plans to disrupt a Pride event at a local park.

The group has chapters in 40 states. Patriot Front and other neo-Nazi groups have been tied to ideas of accelerationism, a theory that calls for violence to spur societal unrest.

“The threat is large,” says Pete Simi, a professor at Chapman University who testified in a trial that led to a $26 million verdict against organizers of the rally in Charlottesville. “It’s been large for a long time. And the near future poses a lot of risk.”

Interview Highlights

On what’s concerning about the group’s beliefs

“Their basic underlying beliefs — while they may claim publicly that this is not the case — support violence and support the necessity to use violence to, as they say, reclaim the country, to reclaim America, and to defend the white race. Patriot Front is active nationwide. These folks are leafleting. They’re holding these kinds of marches across the country. They’re on social media. So I think we can do a lot more to be prepared for when these folks come to town.”

On Patriot Front’s recruiting measures and attempts to grow

“The estimates back in 2019 put [Patriot Front at] around 300 members. It seems to be growing since then over the last few years. In terms of the recruitment on college campuses, we’ve seen their propaganda where I work at Chapman University on several occasions. That’s happening across the country as well. We’re seeing the recruitment of folks in the military. And I think it’s important to understand the Patriot Front is part of a larger threat landscape. It’s not just the Patriot Front in the singular. It’s the plural that they represent in terms of this threat to democracy.

“We are dealing with a massive movement. It’s a global movement. There’s certainly a national context to it. We saw it manifest itself in terms of the Jan. 6 insurrection. We saw it in Charlottesville, at the deadly rally there. We’re seeing it with these single-actor attacks all over the country: Buffalo, El Paso and Pittsburgh. Time and time again, we’re seeing those incidents of violence kind of written off as a single, lone, deranged actor instead of an actual movement that’s promoting this kind of violence.”

On the goals of the white supremacist movement at large

“Accelerate the violence. Accelerate the destruction of society. Deconstruct the society, as Steve Bannon has advocated as former White House adviser to President Trump. The accelerationist ideas run deep across a wide web. This is a very broad web and we need to see the connections. This is not isolated to a singular group or set of individuals, but the accelerationist ideas have been prominent for quite some time among white supremacists and are taking hold more broadly.”

Lynn Menegon produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Gabe BullardGrace Griffin adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.