Friday, March 20, 2015

Arkansas Man, Florida Vet, Improbably Claim They’re Building Militias to Fight ISIS Overseas

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

While most militia organizers in the United States focus their energies on combating what they see as domestic enemies — particularly the federal government and other alleged participants in a nefarious “New World Order” scheme to enslave Americans — in recent weeks there have been a handful of so-called “Patriots” who have decided it’s more worthwhile to focus their attention overseas. They say they are organizing to fight Islamic State (ISIS) radicals in the Middle East.

The men behind of these efforts — one based in Arkansas, one in Florida — claim to be forming armed squads of militiamen to fly into ISIS hotspots in Iraq and Syria and combat the enemy on the ground. Neither, however, appear to be anything more than a fundraising operation built around pure fantasies.

Their grandiose claims verge on the utterly ridiculous. One promoter, a man who will only identify himself by the alias Swandog, says he’s building a multi-billion dollar operation, will soon have a force of 7,000 specialized military and intelligence operators, and will pay each of them more than $100,000. There is not a shred of known evidence to suggest there’s anything real behind the swaggering talk.

Swandog, a “commander” so brave he refuses to identify himself by name, described for a credulous local Arkansas TV news report his plans for assembling a multi-billion-dollar effort to combat ISIS with volunteers to his “private militia.” With a straight face, the TV station asserted that Swandog “reportedly already has men on the ground in the Middle East” and has raised “tens of millions of dollars.” It even presented a local “expert” who said the effort “seems to be genuine” and could work. In the report, the designated expert, a local criminology professor and former Green Beret, offers no evidence at all for his belief.

“Team Swandog currently numbers just under 500. We are recruiting actively,” Swandog told KTHV-TV reporters from nearby Little Rock. “Right now we do have six advance teams in the theater of operation; they’re in non-combat roles just doing prep work for our arrival.”
He told the reporter that he is recruiting former Special Operations and intelligence personnel, as well as snipers, medics and support staff. He also claimed that he was offering them a base annual salary of $120,000.
Swandog, aka David Paul Brennan of Searcy, Ark.
Swandog, aka David Paul Brennan of Searcy, Ark.

Swandog makes some big claims about money: “Most of our funding comes from businesses and churches, we don’t do very much individual fundraising at all. Depending on how fast we want to do this operation, we can do it in the course of two years on about $10 billion, now that’s going to be a fraction of the cost of a full-fledged military operation.”

Without a hint of irony, he also claimed that the team was being selective about just who could sign up. “The challenge is: we deal with a lot of posers, we deal with a lot of people who claim to be a former Navy SEAL or former CIA and we can weed them out just through the interview process,” he said.

Swandog could be describing himself. After a little sleuthing, Hatewatch learned that Swandog’s real name is David Paul Brennan, and he is a Searcy, Ark., man who has at various times in his career has described himself as a “professional badass” and boasted about his supposedly high intelligence-test scores, but who has in fact never served in the military, and has never worked for any intelligence-gathering service.

Brennan acknowledged all this in an interview with Hatewatch. “I do not have a military background,” he said. “About all I’m willing to put out there is having ties to the intelligence community.”

He claimed that he actually represents a team of more than two dozen people who have worked together to formulate a citizens’ strategy for defeating ISIS overseas. “We kind of all met a few years back. We didn’t even know each other until a few years ago; we met at a tattoo shop — the core group — and then kind of added to our little group since then. And when we noticed what was going on with the Islamic State, and we started to research it and realize that everything America does plays into exactly what it is that radicalizes these people and makes more of them, we felt like we needed to try to do something about it.”

Brennan claimed that the group has so far assembled more than $40 million in support from his network, and has already deployed some of its team into the “theater of operations” in the Middle East.

“We are putting together an actual combatant force, which is going to be 3,000 strong, and we’ll have 2,000 in reserve here plus a support element, for a total of 7,000 paid positions for us. And when you get an operation that large, it does take a lot of funding.

“We have raised a considerable amount of money that is funding our advance teams that are in the theater now. And they’re pretty well getting the lay of the land for us. … It’s a pretty robust human-intelligence operation. And that is ongoing. That has funding through the end of April.”

Brennan said these advance-team members are all American citizens. “Most of them come from either the intelligence community, whether it’s defense intelligence agencies, Central Intelligence Agency, or one of the other agencies, or they come from a private security background,” he told Hatewatch.Brennan has created a “Team Swandog” website that lays out their strategy. In a video posted to the site, he described the grand strategy in greater detail.

“We are rising up to destroy the Islamic State and eradicate radical fundamentalist Islam from the face of the planet and we have a strategy to do it with a relative handful of guys compared to a full-scale military invasion. We’re going to do it with a strategy of unconventional warfare, guerrilla tactics,” he boasts.

“Now how do we destroy the Islamic State? We do it by using guerrilla tactics—by unconventional warfare. That’s how we do it. We go in with very inferior numbers as to what is on the ground there to the number of Islamic State fighters there are. But we use superior tactics and superior training. Now our strategy will result in the destruction of the Islamic State by three avenues. One, by tactical victories on the ground; two, by eroding the morale of the Islamic State; and three, by undermining the legitimacy of the Islamic State.”

Calling the fight against ISIS a “religious war,” he continued: “I’m asking you to help Team Swandog on behalf of the United States of America, on behalf of a people who have lost faith in their government to protect them. I’m asking you to help us destroy the Islamic State now. Sooner rather than later, and eradicate this evil ideology of radical fundamentalist Islam from the face of the earth.”

He made a plea for volunteers, too: “Even if you’re just a good old boy who happens to be really good with a high-power rifle, I need you. I can put you to work as a sniper, killing these Islamic State douchebags.”

Brennan, who harshly criticizes the Obama administration on his Twitter feed, says this strategy is the only way to defeat ISIS. “This is how it’s going to get done,” he claims in the video. “This is how the Islamic State is going to be destroyed and the evil ideology of radical fundamentalist Islam is going to be eradicated from the planet. It’s going to take all of us. It’s going to take every patriot getting involved and doing what they can do.”

Swandog2Brennan explains that he calls his group a “militia” in order to avoid being designated as mercenaries, who he says have no protections under the Geneva Conventions. “We’re not a militia like the militia groups you guys have experience with. We’re not antigovernment,” he says. “I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I’m just a guy that has been around the block and has a lot of connections. We just couldn’t see doing nothing about the Islamic State.”

The second effort to organize a team of American veterans to fight ISIS overseas originates with a Jacksonville, Fla., man named Sean Rowe. His organization, called Veterans Against ISIS, was featured in similar news stories from WTLV-TV and WPXI-TV, in which Rowe described his strategy to form a team of veterans to combat the spread of Islamic radicalism.

“We’re tired of seeing what’s going on, and it doesn’t look like anything is being done,” he said. “These guys are slaughtering and beheading people. We’re going over there to stop that; it’s not about the money.”

Unlike Brennan, Rowe is an actual Army veteran of eight years. He started up a website and a Facebook page for his group, asking veterans with combat experience to step up and join his group.

Yet another group that ostensibly seeks to defend America from ISIS attacks also calls itself Veterans Against ISIS; it had organized before Rowe, and is now considering legal action to trademark the name. “We are here in case of a domestic threat; we’re not a recruiting agency sending able bodies to Iraq,” said the group’s co-founder Andrew Brian, another Army vet.

Rowe said he sees no issue in using the same name: “We’re all Veterans Against ISIS, so it shouldn’t be a problem,” he told the Army Times.

Rowe is also more openly bigoted in his recruitment efforts. His Facebook posts have featured memes attacking the Koran as fakery, suggesting that Muslims have sex with goats, and calling President Obama the “worst president in the history of this great country.”

Rowe also tried putting together a GoFundMe site to raise money for his team. However, GoFundMe recently took down the page after it collected only $265 from various donors.

Since then, Rowe has apparently retreated in his strategy. A recent Facebook post explained that he was downshifting his grand plans: “The role of this organization has shifted to focus primarily on the uniting and coordination of veterans for a defensive deployment in support of the Christians in Syria against ISIS, and, secondarily, on the raising of funds for necessities. Therefore, at this time we must decline any interest from veterans wishing to deploy, unless they are able to fund their own travel over there.”

On the team website, he now lists eight would-be participants by their aliases.

In contrast, Brennan claims to be having real success recruiting participants. “Right now, we’ve got an even 90 people signed up for this,” he told Hatewatch. “It’s not a huge number, by any stretch of the imagination. But these are people who have military experience, a lot of them are special operations, and they talk to me and they understand that this is not a situation where everything is just decided by me and that’s it. That everybody really has input, we’ve got an open-door policy.”

Brennan said he understands that people will be skeptical: “If people say it’s just a guy from Arkansas doing this, well, it’s not just a guy from Arkansas,” he said. “In fact, if I was gone tomorrow, this would still go on without me. Certainly, it doesn’t really depend on me.

“You know, nothing ever happened without people starting something. Nothing great ever started out great. Everything great starts out small. And that’s where we’re are, in that fairly small stage.”

And how.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Seattle Forum Focuses Concern on Anti-LGBT Hate Crimes in Key Neighborhood

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, right, and his husband, Mike Shiosaki, left
[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Shaken by a year-long spike in LGBT-bashing crimes in their predominantly gay neighborhood, community leaders from Seattle’s Capitol Hill area organized a public forum this week that drew several hundred participants, as well as the city’s mayor.

Ranging from an attempt to kill hundreds of people packed into a bar on New Year’s Eve to a steady stream of assaults and robberies motivated by anti-LGBT animus, the spike in hate crimes on Capitol Hill appears to be a violent backlash against recent gains in LGBT rights in Washington state, including the approval given to same-sex marriage by the state’s voters in 2012.

“I used to live on Capitol Hill, but I don’t anymore,” said Debbie Carlsen of LGBTQ Allyship, a local rights organization, to the crowd on Tuesday, echoing a number of other speakers. “And when I go to the Hill, I don’t feel culturally safe. It’s not a place that I feel safe anymore.”

A number of residents described to the crowd the kinds of assaults that they have endured in the past year, including verbal harassment escalating to physical assaults as they walked through the neighborhood, as well as one alleged assault by a police officer. One man stood up and removed his hat, revealing a large healing wound on his forehead, saying he had been attacked only a week before and had been unable to identify his assailants, “but they were all calling me names.”

Most of those who testified agreed that the worst, most violent attacks seemed to be directed at transsexual people of color.

The meeting, organized by Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant, featured a number of speakers offering a range of solutions. Some proposed more citizen patrols, while others opposed that step as potentially dangerous. Some argued for greater police involvement, while others blamed the police as part of the problem. Sawant spoke at length about how economic disparities often fuel the conditions that make the crimes possible.

Seattle’s openly gay Mayor Ed Murray, who attended the gathering with his husband, said he will help take the lead on this issue. “I think if people don’t feel safe, if they perceive they’re not safe, then we have a problem,” he said. “And we as a city and we as a community have to respond.”

Murray told KING 5 News that he believes the problem is real and substantial. “I think there is an increase,” he said. “I mean, we’ve been here before, we’ve seen this right on this very street before, back in the late ’80s and early ‘90s, when I was a young person. And we’re seeing it again.”

Shaun Knittel, the founder of Social Outreach Seattle, and one of the people who helped douse the attempted arson at Neighbours Bar on New Year’s Eve 2014, an act that eventually brought a heavy 10-year sentence for the perpetrator, told the crowd that it needed to resolve some of its internal differences if the community is going to form an effective response to the challenge.

“We have a perfect storm here on the Hill,” said Knittel, noting the split between people who support the police and those who blame the police. “What kind of message does that send to people who want to do harm to us?”

“We also have a nightlife culture here where everyone that’s opening a business here seems to think they need to be either a bar or a nightclub. How many do you need in one neighborhood?”

Knittel urged victims of bias crimes to resist the temptation to not report the matter to police at all, noting that doing so just encourages repeat offenses and escalation.

“We need to understand better about reporting, and we need to talk about what that looks like,” he said. “If you fear going to the police to report, we understand that. But please, reach out and find and advocate and let people help you report what’s happened. Because I can guarantee you that you’re not their first victim.”

Most of all, he noted, the community needs to make it clear that “bashing queers” is not a free sport for haters anymore.

“We need to lean into this notion that you can come up here and mess with us and we won’t do anything back,” he said. “Those days are over.”

Monday, March 02, 2015

Tales of the Montana Freemen: The Girl and Her Dog

The Freemen's cabin near the town of Roundup
Here's a story a collected while reporting on the saga of the Montana Freemen in the 1990s. I have always thought it was a revealing (not to mention disturbing) instance of the far-right "Patriot" mindset, particularly in how they viewed the world and the way children should be raised.

This is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of my first book, In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest, published by WSU Press in 1999. The chapter is primarily about the activities of the Freemen prior to their infamous armed standoff with the FBI of 1996, especially Ur-Freemen Rodney Skurdal and Leroy Schweitzer, in the little town of Roundup.


A sign on the Freemen property.
While their legal defeats were coming in rapid succession, the Freemen’s recruiting was going well. Another key follower showed up at the Freemen ranch that fall: Dale Jacobi. A Canadian businessman who had moved from Calgary in the 1980s south to Thompson Falls, Montana, Jacobi became involved in the radical right while operating a propane-gas business in the little Clark Fork River logging town just a few miles east of Noxon. He fell in with John and Dave Trochmann, and also became acquainted with another local Constitutionalist, John Brush.

Brush decided to move to Musselshell County in 1994, partly to be closer to the Freemen, so he bought a parcel of land out in the distant woods and set about raising and training horses with his wife and daughter. Jacobi, who became a Freemen follower after Trochmann recommended their four-day courses in the Militia of Montana newsletter that spring, sold his business and moved onto Brush’s land, living in a trailer on the property.

In one afternoon that fall, though, Brush not only disavowed Dale Jacobi but the Freemen as well. He later explained why to John Bohlman, the Musselshell County prosecutor: One morning, Brush told Bohlman, when he drove into town for supplies, Jacobi took Brush’s 8-year-old daughter, with her dog in tow, out to a remote part of their land. He carried with him a stool and a piece of rope. Under a tree, Jacobi set up the stool and placed the little dog on it. Then he made a noose with the rope, placed it over the dog’s neck, and slung it over the tree. He pulled the open end of the rope tight and held it at a distance from the dog, then told the girl to come stand in front of him. Call the dog, he told the girl. She did. It jumped off the stool and hung itself as Jacobi held the line taut.

The girl was in hysterics when her father returned home. Enraged, he asked Jacobi why he did it. Jacobi told him he felt the girl needed some toughening up, and that this would help her. Brush screamed at Jacobi to leave and never come back. Jacobi packed his things into his car and left.

He found an open room at [Rodney] Skurdal’s ranch, and soon was named one of the group’s constables. Brush announced he wanted nothing more to do with that bunch -- and asked Bohlman to remove the arms cache Jacobi had left behind. Bohlman and a deputy went out to Brush’s place and found PVC pipes hidden under some brush, stuffed with a few guns and a massive load of ammunition, reloading tools, powder and bullets, enough to make thousands of rounds with. Brush also told Bohlman he knew of similar caches like this in strategic spots throughout the Northwest.


Of course, none of this ended particularly well for any of the participants, most of whom wound up doing federal prison time after engaging the FBI in a record-setting 81-day standoff at another ranch outside the town of Jordan, a couple of hours north of Roundup. One hopes that John Brush's daughter eventually recovered. And that her daddy got a clue.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

AFA Now Has Its Own 'Hate Map': Targeting is OK When They Do It

"How it infuriates a bigot, when he is forced to drag out his dark convictions!"

Logan Pearsall Smith, 1931
It was a brave step, back in 2010, that the Southern Poverty Law Center took when it decided to designate a number of viciously anti-LGBT organizations who liked to pose as mainstream "pro-family" groups as "hate groups" -- most notably the Family Research Council and the American Family Association -- because they knew full well that there would be a backlash from conservatives and Beltway types who see these suit-and-tied operators as just ordinary-seeming folks, even if they are a little bigoted.

The designation was fully deserved, though, because as the SPLC then went on to demonstrate fully, these organizations indulge in hate-mongering that is not significantly different than the kind of vicious garbage that is regularly spread by outfits like the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations. The only difference is in that the target is based on sexual orientation and not race (and to be frank, the Klan and the AN target the LGBT community just as viciously too).

It's true that, unlike those latter groups, the suit-and-tied FRC and AFA and their anti-LGBT cohorts (all of them from the religious right) do not engage in systematic acts of violence against their targets. But then again, the SPLC monitors the Klan not just because of the violence that it actively commits, but also because of the violence that it engenders independent of its own activities through its hate speech.

Employing hate speech that encourages acts of discrimination and ultimately violence is the leading reason any organization winds up being designated by the SPLC as a "hate group." That's spelled out very clearly in their criteria:
All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics. ... Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing. ... Listing here does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.
And there's no other way to describe what the FRC and AFA do, on a regular basis, than engaging in anti-LGBT hate speech: claiming that pedophiles are more likely to be gay, or promoting quarantines of AIDS victims, or the criminalization of homosexuality. And that's really just a sampling of the fetid spew of bile that these outfits flood our discourse with on an ongoing basis.

So now, if there's anything these outfits hate as much as gays and lesbians these days, it's the SPLC and their hate designation. They constantly rail against the organization as "ultra liberal" (um, only if opposing bigotry is no longer the purview of conservatives, ya know what I'm sayin?) and essentially Satanic itself. My favorite recent example of this was when far-right pastor E.W. Jackson attacked the SPLC as being no different than slave-holding plantation owners. No really.

And the SPLC had to have known, back in 2010 when it made this choice, that these hate groups would claim that the only reason they had been given that designation was that they "favored traditional Christian values/marriage" -- rather than the truth, which was that they earned the title by viciously demonizing the LGBT community with false and dehumanizing smears. And yep, sure enough, that has been the entirety of their response.

Well, not the entirety. They have also seized upon the unfortunate and saddening attack on the FRC's Washington offices in August 2012 by a crazed man named Floyd Corkins who had read the SPLC's "hate map" and decided to retaliate violently against the people who had been stirring up hatred against gays. As we noted at the time, it was a betrayal of everything groups like the SPLC are about -- that is, defusing the kind of hate talk that encourages acts of violence and terrorism -- but that of course did not stop the FRC and AFA and all their conservative cohorts at places like Fox News from laying all the blame at the doorsteps of the SPLC. (The incident also was truly an outlier, one that has not been repeated to form any kind of trend.)

So now, whenever anyone brings up their hate-group designation, these outfits just yell "Floyd Corkins!!!" sort of the same way Tea Partiers yell "Benghazi!!!" whenever they want to slag President Obama.

And as if to emphasize just HOW much they hate the SPLC, and HOW much they hate hate hate hate their designation as a "hate group," the AFA recently decided to publish its own "hate map," a kind of cheesy ripoff of the SPLC's own long-recognized and respected hate-group map.

There are four categories of "anti-Christian bigotry groups", according to the AFA: "Homosexual Agenda" groups, "Atheists", "Anti-Christians," and "Humanists." (The SPLC, in case you're wondering, is designated "Anti-Christian." The site explains:
These groups are deeply intolerant towards the Christian religion. Their objectives are to silence Christians and to remove all public displays of Christian heritage and faith in America.

A common practice of these groups is threatening our nation’s schools, cities and states. By threat of lawsuit, they demand prayer removed from schools and city council meetings, Ten Commandments monuments stricken from courthouses and memorial crosses purged from cemeteries and parks.
Because of anti-Christian bigotry, private business owners have been sued and forced to close their business. Families and businesses that express a Christian worldview on social issues often face vicious retaliation from bigoted anti-Christian zealots.

Some members or supporters of these groups have committed violent crimes against Christians and faith-based groups. Physical and profane verbal assaults against Christians are methods frequently exercised in their angry methods of intimidation.
As Right Wing Watch observes:
At first glance, the map appears to be pretty heavily populated, but a quick search of the actual groups listed reveals that the AFA basically just listed every atheist, humanist, or freethinker organization it could find, as well as the state chapters of national organizations such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, SPLC, the Human Rights Campaign, and GLSEN ... 
A closer examination reveals a stunning bit of hypocrisy as well. If you go to the AFA's map, you will find that you can actually locate the street addresses of the organizations listed -- including the SPLC and People for the American Way -- not just in the towns but can drill down to see where they are located and obtain their actual street addresses. Here's what happens, for example, if you take a close look at their entry for the SPLC:

You'll get a similar map if you look at every other organization listed. Each of these organizations -- many of which are just run out of people's homes -- can now be targeted by kooks who might want to harm them in the same manner as Floyd Corkins, but that's apparently OK with the AFA, as long as it only affects the people they perceive as their enemies.

Ironically, this is exactly what the AFA and the FRC accused the SPLC of having done in the Floyd Corkins case. The FRC's Tony Perkins, on the day after the attack, claimed the SPLC had given Corkins a "license to shoot" by identifying their D.C. offices on their hate map. And indeed, Perkins continues to claim to this day that "the source of Corkins' hit list was, in fact, the SPLC's "hate map," that listed FRC's address."

But if you look at the SPLC's map for D.C., and its listing for the FRC, this is all you will actually see:

If you try to zoom in closer, you can't. There are in fact no addresses listed.

Most likely, this is because the SPLC has always recognized that giving specific addresses for groups it is criticizing is a bad idea, for a large number of reasons. One of those is that it might in fact become the grounds for someone's act -- or it might even be construed as a deliberate attempt to target the organization.

Obviously, that's not what the SPLC wants, as it has made clear in the wake of the Corkins affair. It is identifying these groups as hate groups as a matter of accountability for the violence-engendering rhetoric and ideas that they peddle.

It's not so clear, however, that the AFA's intent is so innocent.

Judge Clears Way for Simcox To Represent Self in Child-Molestation Case

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

A judge this week granted Chris Simcox, the former nativist extremist known sarcastically among those on the border as the “Little Prince” because of his arrogant bearing, the right to represent himself in his forthcoming trial in Phoenix for child molestation — charges that could put him away for life.

Simcox’s trial was rescheduled on Monday for March 16 by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jose Padilla, who stipulated several rules for Simcox’s plans to conduct a self-represented (pro se) defense on three counts of child molestation and two counts of sexual conduct with a minor.
Simcox's booking shot

All this means that Simcox likely will be personally cross-examining his two young victims, who were ages 6 and 5 in 2013 at the time of their alleged abuse. According to the papers filed by prosecutors, Simcox “is alleged to have digitally penetrated his biological daughter’s [vagina] on two occasions, penetrated her vagina with an object on [one] occasion and to have fondled the genitals of his daughter’s friend on two occasions.

Jerry Cobb, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, told Hatewatch that victim advocates with backgrounds in dealing with sexual abuse cases involving children had been assigned to the two young girls.

But cases in which the victims of a sexual assault are required to face their accused attackers on the witness stand are relatively rare. Even rarer, according to legal experts consulted by Hatewatch, are pro-se cases involving child sex assault victims. In fact, allowing accused perpetrators of a sexual assault to directly cross-examine their alleged victims remains a controversial component of American jurisprudence. The practice recently came under intense scrutiny when a rape victim in Seattle, distraught with the prospect of having to face the man she said attacked her when she was a child, threatened suicide at the courthouse, after he won the right to represent himself.

“Judges can be very creative about this, but the fundamental constitutional right of somebody to represent themselves in trial is pretty strong,” said Patty Eakes, a former prosecutor now with the Seattle firm Calfo Harrigan Leyh & Eakes. “So it’s always a tricky position for a judge when someone decides they want to go pro se, and when they go pro se, then technically he has the right to examine the person.”

This often throws the courts into a balancing act between the rights of the victims and the rights of the accused. In any event, Eakes observed, Simcox was dooming his chances in court, as well as closing off at least one avenue of appeal (inadequate representation), by asking the court to represent himself.
“He may have delusions of grandeur about what a great job he’s going to do, but he’s going to have two strikes against him with that jury before he stands up, just because he chose to do this, right?” Eakes said.

Simcox had initially been offered a plea bargain that would have required him to serve 10 years in prison, but he refused and insisted on taking the case to trial. According to a report by Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times, Simcox engaged in a tense back-and-forth with Judge Padilla during the hearing to determine if Simcox would represent himself.

“In a sense, I kind of welcome the trial,” Simcox said at the time. “I would relish the opportunity for the truth to come out.”

The developments are the latest in a long and twisted road to trail for Simcox, who previously had suggested he would present a “grand conspiracy” defense that he had been targeted for prosecution, and the evidence against him invented, because of his prominent role as a leader and co-founder of the nativist extremism group called the Minutemen.

At the height of the border movement, Simcox was president of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a nationwide, anti-immigration vigilante organization with armed “citizen border patrols” in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas, along with a smattering of states on the Canadian border where Minutemen had deployed to protect America from northern invaders. Never modest, the cigar-chomping Simcox was a hyper and relentless self-aggrandizer who came across with the smug egotism that quickly earned him the nickname “The Little Prince.”

But even then, there were allegations of sexual abuse.

As the SPLC reported in 2005, Simcox was accused by his first wife of molesting another daughter when she was a teenager, though no complaint was ever made to police. His second wife also sought custody of their teenage son because, she said, Simcox had become violent and unpredictable. His third wife — the mother of his current accuser — took out a restraining order against Simcox in 2010 when she divorced him.

When Hatewatch contacted Simcox then, he refused to answer four direct questions about the allegations.

“I would never answer those questions to you. You can’t ask those questions,” he said. “You’re on a witch hunt and you’re trying to discredit our movement, which is to secure the borders. … My personal life has nothing to do with anything that goes on here.”

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Kinds of Things You Might Learn in an Oklahoma AP History Course

The results of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921

So the Oklahoma Legislature has voted overwhelmingly to ban an Advanced Placement course on American history because it contains too many of the "negative" aspects of history and is not overwhelmingly "positive." In its place, the lawmakers propose replacing the course with a farrago of blather, half-truths, and right-wing religious propaganda.

One could say, "Only in Oklahoma." But not. Already it's spread to Texas. And look for other state legislatures to take up the torch, so to speak.

But one can easily imagine WHY this began in Oklahoma. After all, there's more than a little "negative" history that the white right-wingers of the state have long ago swept under the carpet there, and they bygawd intend to keep it that way.

Here are some important moments in Oklahoma history that future students in the state will almost certainly not learn about, because they decidedly fall into the "negative" category.

The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921

Like so many of the "deadly ethnic riots" that erupted in America between 1890 and 1930, this one had its beginnings with a young black man offending virtuous white womanhood, bringing a mob of angry white men in vengeful pursuit. In this case, it was 19-year-old black shoeshiner named Dick Rowland who got onto an elevator at the building where he worked that was operated by a young white woman. Upon his arrival at the ninth floor, a nearby clerk heard her shriek and saw Rowland fleeing; upon arriving at the elevator, he found the young woman in a "distraught" state, and assumed she had been assaulted. (In fact, he likely had only stumbled upon leaving the elevator and the woman had shrieked out of concern for him.)

Nonetheless, authorities were summoned and briefly investigated the matter. Rowland was held in jail a few hours and questioned and then released.

But the Tulsa Tribune was on the case. "Nab Negro for Attacking Girl In an Elevator" shouted the front-page headline. Though no copies of this have survived, an editorial warning that Rowland might be lynched, headlined "To Lynch Negro Tonight", reportedly ran on the paper's interior pages.

Soon gangs of angry white men were seen roaming the area around Greenwood, the black commercial area known as the "Negro Wall Street" for its stunning financial success. Dick Rowland lived in a neighborhood there. And soon armed bands of black men had begun gathering too, determined not to permit another young black man to be lynched at the hands of whites for an imagined crime.

One of these groups of black men approached the white sheriff and offered their assistance in maintaining order. Not only did the sheriff refuse the offer, but a white man at the scene demanded one of the black men hand over his gun. When the man refused, shots were exchanged. Soon a full-scale riot erupted.

Rampaging whites brought guns and torches and began destroying everything and everyone in Greenwood. For the remainder of the day, groups of armed blacks and whites were squaring off and firing at each other. The next morning, a siren sounded at daybreak, which seemed to signal a fresh assault by whites on the black neighborhood. Soon they were setting fires and the black residents began fleeing in panic. Mob members entered people's homes and forced them to flee in the streets. A couple of biplanes flew overhead, dropping incendiary bombs on the black neighborhood and shooting at people below.

At the end of the violence, hundreds of people were dead, though the numbers remain in dispute. News reports at the time counted 173 dead, most of them black. The NAACP estimated that between 150 and 200 black people were killed. Some estimates run as high as 300.

The entire commercial section of Greenwood was destroyed, including 191 businesses, a junior high school, several churches and the only black hospital in the district. Some 1,256 houses were burned to the ground.

The surviving black populace, about 6,000 in all, were arrested and herded into several detention centers. These included injured blacks, who were unable to seek medical help because the black hospital had been destroyed, and the local white hospitals would not admit them.

A subsequent grand jury blamed the riots on the negligence of the police chief, and he was fired. That was the extent of any white accountability for the riot.

The Osage Reign of Terror

Rita Smith, left, and her housekeeper,
Nellie Brookshire, both killed by an assassin
The Osage Indian tribe, whose reservation is located in the northeastern part of Oklahoma, are perhaps best known to Americans as the ragtag band of remainders who populated some of the pages of Laura Ingalls Wilder's 'Little Home on the Prairie' books. Wilder wrote disparagingly of the Osages, upon whose lands, in fact, the Ingalls family were actually squatters, and were eventually thrown off their first 'little home on the prairie' for doing so.

What most Americans don't know is that by the 1920s, the Osage Indians were fabulously wealthy, the beneficiaries of having oil under the lands that had been designated their official reservation. The oil was discovered in 1894, and by 1920 it had become a major source of income for the tribal members who retained the mineral rights to the parcels of land each had been given in their original treaties. Some tribal members built mansions, bought fancy cars, hired servants, and sent their children to Harvard.

But by the mid-1920s this great gusher of wealth attracted the usual vultures who come to feast on the greed that permeates when large sums of money are involved. These included a large number of white men who realized that a number of these oil "headrights," as they were called, belonged to women, and would pass to their descendants upon their deaths.

William K. Hale
So these white men would move to Osage County, marry these Osage women (sometimes by plying them with liquor) and then, when the time was right, simply disposed of them. At least, that was the most common scam run by white men circling around these oil rights, but some of them -- notably a character named William King Hale, who called himself "King of the Osage" because he had managed to collect so many of these headrights -- came up with a variety of schemes to obtain them, including murder.

Eventually this faction had complete control of Osage County, including law enforcement, leaving the majority of the tribal population in abject terror that they too might be targeted for death because some white man lusted after his headrights and could get away with killing him. By the time that federal authorities finally moved in and got control of the situation, it's estimated that over 60 Osage tribal members had perished.

One of the most notorious of these involved Hale's assassination of his most vocal critic, a local man named Bill Smith who had been a close friend of a previous Hale victim, and whose wife owned a headright that Hale was scheming after. Hale sent a man to bomb the Smiths' home as they slept, which he did.

These crimes, in fact, constituted the newly-formed Federal Bureau of Investigation with its first big case, and the FBI maintains a fascinating archive of documents related to that investigation. 

What Learning About These Incidents Means

An understanding of Oklahoma history would not be complete without at least some knowledge of these incidents, particularly because they loom so large in the history of race relations in America as a nation.

It also would give young people a clearer and fuller picture of the scope and nature of how history has shaped modern race relations in America. At a bare minimum, it will prevent privileged and sheltered whites from asking ignorantly: "Why haven't blacks done any better since we ended slavery?" or asking: "Why do Native Americans insist on clinging to their reservations?"

This and similar kinds of examinations of the darker chapters of American history actually do a great deal to shed light on our current dilemmas, particularly when it comes to issues of race, ethnicity, and religion, and particularly by white folks. By understanding our own culpability in creating current conditions, and confronting them honestly -- which includes embracing the moral responsibility that comes from being the long-term beneficiaries of this history -- there's at least a glimmer of hope of finding real solutions and creating a future that works for all our children.

Or ... we can just embrace the ignorance and doom ourselves to repeat history.

And believe me, there are a lot of ugly chapters in it.

Simcox Seeks to Act As His Own Attorney in Child-Molestation Trial

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Onetime Minuteman leader Chris Simcox has filed papers seeking to act as his own attorney in his upcoming trial in Phoenix on child-molestation charges, raising the prospect that he could wind up cross-examining his own alleged young victims on the stand.

Simcox was arrested in July 2013 and accused of molesting his daughter and her friend at his home on two occasions when the girls were ages 6 and 5, respectively. Both are now in their preteens. The charges are all felonies, and if convicted, Simcox could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Simcox's booking photo
Invoking the 1975 Supreme Court ruling in Faretta v. California, Simcox on Feb. 12 filed a request with Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jose Padilla saying that, “after conferring with his assigned attorneys in this matter,” he “invokes his right to represent himself for all further proceedings, including the jury trial set in this matter for March 2, 2015.”

Simcox has been in prison since his arrest, and the t
rial has been delayed multiple times, largely at Simcox’s request, as he has gone through multiple defense attorneys in the case.

Simcox is known nationally for his role as one of the two founders of the Minuteman movement, an array of armed groups that patrolled the southern border looking to apprehend migrants illegally crossing into the United States. Among other things, he became known for ridiculous statements like his claim to have seen Chinese Army soldiers massing at the American border.

Prosecutors had requested another delay in the trial earlier this month, explaining that the lead prosecutor in the case was currently in court with another case. However, Judge Padilla denied that request, so the trial is currently scheduled to begin as scheduled on March 2. However, a pretrial conference on Monday, at which Simcox and Judge Padilla are expected to establish ground rules in his attempt to represent himself, could change that schedule yet again.

According to the documents filed by prosecutors in the case, Simcox “is alleged to have digitally penetrated his biological daughter’s [vagina] on two occasions, penetrated her vagina with an object on [one] occasion and to have fondled the genitals of his daughter’s friend on two occasions.” He has also been charged with providing harmful materials to a minor.

Prosecutors at one time had offered Simcox a generous plea deal that would have given him a 10-year sentence. However, according to Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times, the spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said the offer had been taken off the table.

Earlier filings made by Simcox’s attorneys suggested that he might attempt a defense based on claims that he was targeted for prosecution because of his high political and media profile. He also appeared to be claiming that the charges against him were based on evidence from a daughter who was subject to “parental alienation” because of a “contentious divorce.” The judge hearing the case at the time warned Simcox that he could not plan an attempting a “grand conspiracy” defense.

As the SPLC reported in 2005, Simcox was accused by his first wife of molesting another daughter when she was a teenager, though no complaint was ever made to police. His second wife also sought custody of their teenage son because, she said, Simcox had become violent and unpredictable. His third wife — the mother of his current accuser — took out a restraining order against Simcox in 2010 when she divorced him.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Illinois Woman With Neo-Nazi Leanings Charged In Canadian Mass Murder Plot

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

A young woman from Illinois with an apparent taste for neo-Nazi symbolism and white-supremacist beliefs was one of two people arrested last week in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for plotting to commit a mass murder at a Halifax mall on Valentine’s Day.

Lindsay Souvannarath
Lindsay Kanittha Souvannarath, a 23-year-old from Geneva, Ill., was arrested along with Randall Steven Shepherd, 20, of Halifax, at the local airport after she had flown in to meet him there. According to authorities, she confessed to the plot shortly after her arrest.

A young man associated with the plot, James Gamble, 19, of nearby Timberlea, Nova Scotia, shot himself in the head as police surrounded his home on Friday morning. A fourth young man was arrested with Shepherd at the Halifax airport and then released after police determined he had nothing to do with the plot.

Canadian authorities said the trio planned to invade a local mall on Valentine’s Day, armed to the teeth, and begin killing as many people there as they could. However, all of the officials involved insisted that it was not a terrorist act, since there was no “cultural” component to the plotters’ motives.

“The attack does not appear to have been culturally motivated, therefore not linked to terrorism,” Justice Minister Peter Mackay told assembled reporters at a press conference devoted to the case on Saturday.

However, several Canadian media outlets have questioned this, including Halifax blogger Robert Cevet and Derrick O’Keefe at Ricochet Media, noting that several of the would-be perpetrators, notably Souvannarath, had clear ideological affinities that seemed to motivate them — far-right affinities.

The website Political Gates collected a number of Souvannarath’s online postings from over the years, dating back to when she was a teenager, and found a long list of images and posts that made clear that she advocated fascist and neo-Nazi ideologies, and similarly was a fan of mass violence and fantasized about it.

These images included one that she dubbed “me taking notes in class” that was a classic “White Power” logo complete with a swastika and SS symbol. Another photo shows an arm with the bloody words “White Power” carved into it with a razor. Other images include fascist flags over America and young men posing in a swastika shape with their arms. One features Adolf Hitler surrounded by prancing cartoon ponies.

The Internet sleuths at the site Kiwi Farms, where she had at one time been an active member, further tracked Souvanarrath’s activities and ascertained that she had also been an active member at a forum devoted to fascist ideology called Iron March, which is apparently operated by a man named Alexander Slavros.

Nor was Souvannarath the only member of the trio with such leanings. James Gamble’s online postings also included a fascination with mass killings, and some of his Tumblr blog posts contained admiring references to Hitler and Nazis.

Both Souvannarth and Shepherd were initially charged with conspiracy to commit murder. On Tuesday, additional charges came down against the pair, including conspiracy to commit arson, illegal possession of weapons for a purpose dangerous to the public and making a threat through social media.

Souvannarath graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 2014. Her family in Geneva is reportedly cooperating with the investigation.

A former neighbor, Eva Schooley, recalled the woman as a young girl. “My granddaughters ran around with Lindsay,” she said. “Lindsay was a little strange. I think at one point she went kind of gothic on us for a while. She liked to dress in black, the whole gothic style.”

In his denials that the planned mass murder was a terrorist event, Justice Minister Mackay remarked: “An individual that would so recklessly and with bloody intent plot to do something like this I would suggest would also be susceptible to being motivated by groups like ISIS and others. This is the main concern — that any individual in Canada, whatever their motivation or proclivities might be, would also be susceptible to being recruited or radicalized.”

Clearly, these young people had indeed been radicalized, but not by ISIS.

Monday, February 09, 2015

No Arrests As Planned Washington State Capitol Protest Fizzles

Some protesters brought their children along with their guns.
[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

The plan was for everyone carrying a gun into the chambers of the Washington House gallery on Saturday to get arrested — an antigovernment act of civil disobedience to call attention to the state’s new gun control law. But as the crowd of about 50 antigovernment gun owners gathered in the drizzle, waiting for the right moment to go it, the plan hit a snag.

The legislature was not in session. The governor was gone. The House gallery was closed and the doors to it locked. In other words, there was nothing there that the gun owners — who toted a variety of weapons to the protest — could do as an act of civil disobedience to protest a ban on citizens bringing weapons in the state House and Senate chambers.

“What’s the world coming to when there are people who want to break the law and they won’t let you do it?” Dave Grenier, 58, of Tumwater, a protest participant, told the Associated Press.

Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe, addresses the crowd.
Organizers had advertised the protest as an act defying the legislature’s attempts to keep people from brandishing weapons in the chambers of the House and Senate. It was the latest in a series of protests that began in December after Washington voters approved Initiative 594, which required background checks on most gun sales. After protests erupted over that issue, legislators approved measures prohibiting guns from being displayed in both the House and Senate galleries, and banned them from all legislative hearings in the Capitol, as well. The law does not, however, affect people with concealed carry permits.

Rep. Elizabeth Scott
The gun owners organized Saturday’s rally to protest those new rules, and promotional posts about the gathering warned that gun owners planned on being arrested. But, it seems, the protest might have been a failure in the making.

“We informed them beforehand that the doors are normally locked on Saturdays,” said Robert Calkins, spokesman for the Washington State Patrol, which had a number of officers on hand on Saturday. “That did not seem to affect their plans, though.”

Despite knowing the outcome in advance, organizers did little to hide their dismay. How could they possibly perform an act of civil disobedience if the doors were locked?

“It is unacceptable that the WA state gov locked the people out of our own house gallery,” organizer Sam Wilson tweeted.

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley
The protest went on, however. The day was drizzly and breezy, but by the official start time — an hour before Capitol doors opened — about 50 would-be participants had gathered. Most of them had some kind of long arm strapped to their back. Some had children in tow.

They spent the hour listening to speeches from various antigovernment luminaries, including “III Percent” movement co-founder Mike Vanderboegh, and a couple of far-right state legislators. Washington Reps. Elizabeth Scott of Monroe and Matt Shea of Spokane Valley touted the need for individual gun ownership and their evident belief that the Second Amendment gives people an absolute right to own weapons. They both referred repeatedly to the “tyranny” of I-594.

In his main speech, the text of which he posted at his blog, he painted the gathering as a historic instance of patriotism. He also described a protester at a previous rally a "moron."

“We see here today on this miserable winter day in Olympia Washington — so seemingly distant from the struggles of the Founders in 1775 yet so very, eerily, close — that the Founders were right,” Vanderboegh said. “Tyranny can be voted in by a majority as it was with I5-94. Tyranny can also come from a duly-elected parliament or state legislature. The test for us is – do we submit? Or will we resist?”

Protesters enter the Capitol

Shortly after the Capitol doors opened, the protesters began making their way up the marble stairs to the gallery. However, the crowd stopped moving when the first protesters hit the locked doors, and much of the gathering waited in the stairway. Among them was Vanderboegh, who told the people gathered on the stairs: “They count this as a victory. But they have lost. They just don’t know it yet.”

Rally organizer Anthony Bosworth, left, and Mike Vanderboegh read the demands
posted on the door of the House gallery.

A list of demands from the protesters was taped to the door of the gallery. The protesters then made their way downstairs to the governor’s offices and posted an identical list of demands there. Then they made their way back out into the rain, held a brief prayer, and departed quietly.