President Trump claims without evidence that anti-fascists are inciting riots at protests against police brutality, but has downplayed groups like the “boogaloo” movement, which are using the protests as cover to carry out violence, even murder. “We know that in this country the far right holds a monopoly on political violence and that since September 11th, far-right extremists have killed far more people than members of any other ideology,” says Cassie Miller, senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center. We also speak with journalist Ali Winston about a new BBC investigation into how the neo-Nazi militant group The Base is grooming and recruiting teenagers online.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re beginning today with federal prosecutors charging a 22-year-old Army private with plotting to attack his own military unit by sending sensitive details to a neo-Nazi group. Ethan Melzer allegedly collaborated with the Order of the Nine Angles, or O9A, a satanic far-right group linked to white nationalist neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, as well as the Islamic State. The Justice Department says Melzer sent details about his unit’s location, planned movements and security to the group. The FBI arrested him on June 10th. Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss for the Southern District of New York announced the charges Monday and described Melzer as “the enemy within.”
This comes after another active member of the military was arrested last week for killing two law enforcement officials in California, this one with ties to the far-right “boogaloo” movement. Staff Sergeant Steven Carrillo is accused of shooting dead a federal security officer in Oakland, California, during the protests over the police killing of George Floyd in May. Later, Carrillo killed a deputy sergeant in the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office. Carrillo’s lawyer says he had served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
Federal prosecutors in Las Vegas have also charged three men, other men with military experience who are connected to the boogaloo movement, with inciting violence during recent anti-police-brutality protests there. Members of the boogaloo have been spotted at many other protests, as well as during “reopen” rallies. And as MSNBC noted, on Saturday, they were outside President Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa.
CAL PERRY: I also want to show you over here, we have some heavily armed white individuals. They’re wearing those Hawaiian shirts, which is usually the boogaloo boys’ kind of trademark. So you have all the elements for trouble out here.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, President Trump has condemned antifa for what he called “acts of domestic terror” at Black Lives Matter protests and has threatened to designate the anti-fascist movement as a terrorist organization.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The violence and vandalism is being led by antifa and other radical left-wing groups, who are terrorizing the innocent, destroying jobs, hurting businesses and burning down buildings.
AMY GOODMAN: But the federal government has offered no evidence linking anti-fascists to violence in these protests. NPR recently reviewed court documents of 51 individuals facing federal charges in connection with the protests. None were alleged to have ties to antifa.
For more, we’re joined by two guests who follow this all very closely. Cassie Miller is a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, who’s also written about how white supremacists see the coronavirus as an opportunity, and is featured in a new BBC documentary about how the neo-Nazi group The Base is grooming and recruiting teenagers around the world. She’s joining us from Atlanta, Georgia. And in New York, Ali Winston is with us, an independent journalist covering criminal justice, surveillance and the extreme right. He also worked on this new story for the BBC.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s start with Ali Winston on this latest arrest, charges that have been brought. Can you talk about who the person is and what this group is that he is a part of, the Order of the Nine Agents [sic]? Who is Melzer?
ALI WINSTON: Sure. So —
AMY GOODMAN: Sorry, the Order of the Nine Angles.
ALI WINSTON: That’s right. So, Ethan Melzer is a private in the 503rd Parachute Regiment, United States Army. He is an adherent to the Order of Nine Angles, which is a obscure, but highly dangerous, left-hand path satanist group that emerged from Britain, actually, started in Britain a few decades back, and has — their entire goal is to sow chaos, under whatever auspices they’re able to. They are interested in working with or in whatever organizations they’re able to use in order to kind of further their goals of sowing mayhem and chaos and bloodlust. And they have this methodology of adopting what they call “insight roles,” where their members embed in certain organizations in order to further their mission. So, for example, this guy Melzer is following the path of an insight role by embedding — by becoming a member of the U.S. Army and then seeking to have members of his own unit killed.
What happened, according to the court papers, is that he passed on — he received information that his unit was deploying to Turkey. And then, through an encrypted application online, through an encrypted messaging app, he communicated with somebody he thought was a member of al-Qaeda, passed on information about his unit’s movements. And then, in other information that the feds received, he indicated that he wanted to basically bring about a terrorist attack against his unit and cause a massive loss of life.
All of this does fit the bill for this organization’s ideology. And they have members — they have adherents who have prominently — played very prominent roles in the Atomwaffen Division, which is an American nihilist, neo-Nazi group responsible for five murders and a few bomb plots — they’re very heavily targeted by the FBI; there are a number of federal cases ongoing right now — as well as the Sonnenkrieg Division in the United Kingdom, National Action and The Base, which is another, I guess, international group that ascribes to this millenarian neo-Nazi ideology.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ali Winston, what is the connection, if any, that you’ve been able to tell, between this O9A and these other white supremacist groups, Atomwaffen and The Base, for example? What are the distinctions between them, if you’ve been able to tell?
ALI WINSTON: So, the organizations we’re talking about, these kind of underground guerrilla organizations — AWD, Atomwaffen Division, The Base, Sonnenkrieg, National Action — National Action is a little bit more above ground — they are militant groups aimed at the overthrow of society. They train for armed conflict. They recruit online. They spread their propaganda.
O9A is another ideology that kind of works underneath the surface there. It’s not overt fascism. All the groups I just mentioned are overtly neo-Nazi and fascist. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about that. They also tend to dabble in what’s called esoteric Hitlerism, which is the worship of Hitler as a deity. It’s kind of this mystic strain that ran through — there was a very serious strain of mysticism that ran through the original National Socialist Movement. Himmler was a particular proponent of this. The Order of Nine Angles kind of feeds off that ideology. It’s developed later and merges some of the more occult elements of the original neo-Nazi practice with some satanic teachings. And it really — it was responsible for a significant clash early in the history of Atomwaffen Division. There were a number of members of that group who were more aligned with traditional National Socialism and didn’t want to get into the more occult stuff. But in the end of the day, the people who ran that group, Kaleb Cole and John Cameron Denton, who are both facing federal charges currently, they ended up seizing control of the group, and they were pretty strict adherents to this ideology.
AMY GOODMAN: Ali Winston, we want to go more into The Base, which also is the focus of a BBC documentary that you worked on. But I first want to bring in Cassie Miller, senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, to talk about this other arrest that recently took place. Again, Trump has not tweeted about any of these. And this is about another active member of the military, arrested last week for killing two law enforcement officials in California, with ties to the far-right boogaloo movement. Can you talk about who you understand Staff Sergeant Steven Carrillo is, what happened in Santa Cruz and Oakland, and what is boogaloo?
CASSIE MILLER: Sure. We know that he is a staff sergeant in the military and that this was one of — sort of just one violent plot that we’ve seen from the boogaloo movement. Carrillo went to a federal courthouse and opened fire on two security officers, killing one of them. And then, when law enforcement tracked a van used in that attack to his residence, he ambushed those law enforcement officers and killed another. What we know is that he is connected to the boogaloo movement from his online footprint and from things that were found on the crime scene, like a boogaloo patch that was found in his van.
The “boogaloo” as a term is used to describe an upcoming civil war. Or in more extreme circles, it’s used to refer explicitly to a race war. So, the boogaloo movement doesn’t have, really, a singular ideology. It kind of runs the gamut of the far right. So the people who associate with it are everything from libertarians to people who are overtly racist. What we know is that all of them are united in this belief that the United States is tyrannical and that it needs to be overthrown in a second civil war. And that’s something that they are actively preparing for and that many believe are inevitable. And we have seen people like Carrillo, who are going out and trying to commit acts of violence alongside these protests to try and increase civil unrest, with the goal of pushing towards the second civil war.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Cassie, could you talk about the fact that President Trump spends — has repeatedly denounced protesters at the anti-police-abuse rallies as terrorists and troublemakers, while at the same time ignoring these boogaloo folks who appear armed in his own rallies and have repeatedly looked like they’re seeking trouble at some of the Black Lives Matter’s protests?
CASSIE MILLER: Right. I mean, we’ve seen President Trump completely ignore the violence on the far right, and that’s something that we’ve seen for a long time, starting with the Charlottesville rally in 2017. You know, what we’re seeing is not terribly surprising. The far right has been attempting to demonize antifa and paint them as inherently violent for years now. And we know that that is simply not true. Antifa is a community-based movement that is fighting for a more just and equitable society, and fighting against fascism. And we know that in this country the far right holds a monopoly on political violence and that since September 11th, far-right extremists have killed far more people than members of any other ideology. So it’s not surprising to see it ignored by the president or to see that these violent attacks have taken place. We have been raising the alarm about the far right and the boogaloo movement for months, as have several of our partner organizations. But we haven’t seen a lot of movement from places like Facebook, where they’re congregating.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about how they organize on Facebook. But first, this is not the first boogaloo arrest in the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests. Earlier this month, federal prosecutors in Las Vegas charged three men connected to the boogaloo movement, and have military experience, with inciting violence during the protests there over the killing of George Floyd, and also with conspiracy to commit terrorism. Andrew Lynam is an Army reservist; Stephen Parshall, formerly enlisted in the Navy; and William Loomis, formerly enlisted in the Air Force. Each currently faces two federal charges: conspiracy to damage and destroy by fire and explosives, and possession of unregistered firearms. In state court, they’ve been accused of felony conspiracy terrorism and explosives possession. So, that was in Nevada. Again, Trump has not tweeted about any of this or talked about the people who have been charged with not only conspiracy, but, in the case of Carrillo, murdering two law enforcement folks.
CASSIE MILLER: Yeah. We haven’t seen any movement from that. Trump has repeatedly ignored the monopoly on violence on the far right and has instead used antifa as a distraction.
AMY GOODMAN: And Facebook organizing, how do they do it?
CASSIE MILLER: Yeah. On Facebook, we have seen the boogaloo movement congregating on Facebook for several months now. And we know that they’ve been organized really since the outbreak of the coronavirus, because this is a moment of kind of uncertainty and unrest, and for the members of this movement, they think this could be kind of the moment to spark civil unrest and this civil war. And we know that there are more than a hundred different Facebook groups that are actually dedicated to the boogaloo, some with thousands of members.
And a lot of the rhetoric on there violates Facebook’s own terms of service, so people actively advocating for killing law enforcement, talking about building weapons, talking about building bombs. But Facebook hasn’t done really anything about it. We have repeatedly warned them. Other researchers and journalists have repeatedly warned them. But there has been no movement, which is, frankly, sort of shocking at this point, now that we know this has been linked to real-world violence and murders.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ali Winston, I wanted to ask you — some of these groups not only espouse beliefs of far-right groups, but also, to a certain degree, emulate or praise groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. Could you talk about this aspect of these groups?
ALI WINSTON: So, I want to make a distinction. What you’re referring to is the siege-related groups: Atomwaffen, The Base, Sonnenkrieg Division. Those are distinct from the boogaloo, very distinct. They are smaller. They tend to — they vet very restrictively. They tend to not organize on platforms like Facebook. They take better care to move themselves onto encrypted messaging apps. The boogaloo is a bigger-tent movement that is more right libertarian. There are neo-Nazi elements in there.
But what you’re referring to is the extreme right, the millenarian neo-Nazi groups. They look at groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda with admiration, in some respects. They don’t necessarily work with them all the time, if at all. Honestly, Melzer’s case is quite extraordinary for the fact pattern laid out, where he establishes contact with a purported member of al-Qaeda. But they admire these groups because they sow chaos. They admire these groups because they have racked up a high body count. That is the biggest thing that draws their attention to these groups. They’ve also expressed admiration for Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, because Ted set off bombs. He killed people. He was able to push an anti-civilizational message. That’s what they admire. They are nihilists, in a certain respect.
AMY GOODMAN: Ali, I wanted to go to this new BBC documentary you looked at, that looks at how these neo-Nazi hate groups, including the one called The Base, are targeting teenagers around the world and in this country. The BBC and Southern Poverty Law Center obtained recordings of senior members of The Base interviewing prospective recruits, sometimes quizzing them about their knowledge of weapons or books, like Hitler’s Mein Kampf. This is a clip that features the voice of Rinaldo Nazzaro, founder of The Base, a 47-year-old American directing the organization from his apartment in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
RINALDO NAZZARO: We all believe that there’s no saving the system now. So the best option for us is to see it fall, to see it collapse, I mean, even if it’s just like on a localized level — whatever degree will offer some sort of power vacuum that we can take advantage of.
AMY GOODMAN: So, we just have less than a minute. Talk about Rinaldo Nazzaro, the founder of The Base, and what you found about how they’re targeting teenagers in the United States and around the world.
ALI WINSTON: Rinaldo Nazzaro is a bit of an interesting man. He’s a former FBI analyst and a contractor for the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon. He emerged in about 2018, late 2017, early 2018, online, linked with another neo-Nazi group, and then, kind of over the next few months, established an online presence and started to — basically kicked off The Base, which is a umbrella organization that sought to bring in groups like Atomwaffen Division under its auspices. They posted a lot of — they were very prolific in terms of how much propaganda they posted online.
The vetting calls, that you heard right there, those are calls that the group would basically host with young men, some of them very young, from around the world, who they would talk to and determine their fitness ideologically. They’d quiz them on what books they had read, how they had radicalized, their ethnicity, their worldview, whether they believe society would collapse or so forth. And then they would determine if that individual was worthwhile of acceptance to the group. Through the totality of the material we reviewed, it became very apparent they were grooming these children — some of them were children; some of them were young adults — for membership in this group and into a very violent, extremist ideology.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ali Winston, we’re going to continue to cover this. We want to thank you for being with us, independent journalist covering criminal justice, surveillance and the extreme right. His recent co-authored piece for the BBC is headlined “Neo-Nazi militant group grooms teenagers.” And thanks so much to Cassie Miller, senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, who has also written about how white supremacists see the coronavirus as an opportunity, and is featured in that new BBC documentary.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’re going to look at the primaries today, specifically in Kentucky. There were 3,700 polling places in Kentucky before. Now there are only 170. We’re going to speak with one of the founders of Black Voters Matter. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty. The family of the late singer Tom Petty just issued a cease-and-desist letter after his hit song “I Won’t Back Down” played at Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa. They wrote, quote, “Tom Petty would never want a song of his used for a campaign of hate. He liked to bring people together.”