What now, NRA?
Muslim civil rights groups call on the gun lobby to get rid of board member Anthony Colandro
Hello, and welcome to The Informant, a new publication about hate and extremism in America, written and edited by me, Nick R. Martin.
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What a week this has been so far. On Monday, I launched The Informant with part one of a special investigation into a situation in Michigan that involves neo-Nazis and a case of mistaken identity. The response was overwhelming, and I’m looking forward to sharing part two with you next week. Then on Tuesday, I broke the news that a National Rifle Association board member had posted dozens of anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT tweets in recent years.
Today, I’m bringing you The Informant’s second intelligence briefing on the world of hate and extremism. These briefings, which come out on Tuesdays and Thursdays, mix original journalism with links to articles and analysis to ensure you remain up to date on all major developments on the beat. Read The Informant and you will never be behind on this critical topic. That is The Informant promise.
Here’s a quick rundown of what’s in today’s issue:
Two Muslim civil rights groups are calling on the National Rifle Association to get rid of board member Anthony Colandro following my report on his bigoted tweets.
News reports suggest a member of the so-called “groyper” movement is suspected in firebombing a Planned Parenthood clinic in Delaware.
Search warrants were unsealed showing the FBI investigated Jason Kessler, the main organizer of 2017’s deadly “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally.
White nationalist Augustus Sol Invictus was extradited to South Carolina to face kidnapping and other charges. He’s scheduled for a bond hearing today.
Police in Oregon and Washington have made arrests in recent days in two separate attacks on immigrants from India. Both attacks are being described as hate crimes.
What now, NRA?
Two major Muslim civil rights groups are calling on the National Rifle Association to get rid of board member Anthony Colandro following my report on his history of posting hateful anti-Muslim tweets.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations as well as Muslim Advocates both put out strong statements condemning Colandro’s rhetoric and calling for his immediate removal from the board.
On Tuesday, I revealed here in The Informant that Colandro, who owns a gun range in New Jersey and was elected to the board in April, had spent years raging against Muslims on Twitter by calling Islam a “parasitic cult” and describing its members as “cockroaches” and “savages.”
Following my report, Colandro locked down his Twitter account, @gun4hyr, and blocked me. I’ve emailed and called him seeking his reaction to the statements from the Muslim civil rights groups, but he hasn’t responded. I’ve also reached out to the NRA multiple times for comment, both by email and phone, but have yet to hear back from the organization.
The NRA board is set to meet this week in Virginia for its winter meeting, which Colandro previously told me he planned to attend.
On Tuesday, soon after my report was published, Muslim Advocates called on the gun lobby to use the winter meeting as a chance to rid itself of Colandro:
It’s a disgrace that Anthony Colandro is allowed to sit on the NRA’s board of directors after referring to Muslims as ‘cockroaches,’ calling Islam ‘a parasitic cult’ and deploying other false smears to dehumanize us. He must resign today — and if he doesn’t, the NRA must take steps to remove him from his position during this week’s annual winter board meeting. Colandro’s comments are exactly the type of rhetoric that leads to violence against Muslims.
In a statement to me on Wednesday, CAIR echoed the desire to see Colandro removed:
It is extremely disturbing to know that an NRA board member who also owns and operates a major gun range … unabashedly demonizes and denigrates Islam and Muslims. Such individuals have no place in American public life and definitely not in one of the most powerful organizations in the country. The NRA should immediately do the right thing and speedily dismiss Colandro from the board and affirm the principles of diversity, inclusion, and tolerance that the great majority of Americans hold dear.
Without a response from the NRA, it’s impossible to know what the organization might do this week. But I’ll be keeping an eye out for any decisions it might make on the matter.
Planned Parenthood attacker may have been a ‘groyper’
Two news reports have come out in recent days suggesting a man suspected of firebombing a Planned Parenthood clinic on Friday in Delaware may have been part of a white nationalist offshoot known as the “groyper” movement.
Samuel Gulick, 18, was arrested Saturday and charged in federal court with the attack. Court papers (PDF) mentioned he had an Instagram account that showed strong anti-abortion views and that the bio on the account included the phrase: “Remember Waco and Ruby Ridge.” The court records also included a photo (seen above) showing the clinic was vandalized with the phrase “Deus Vult.”
Gulick’s apparent Instagram account has since been deleted. But on Tuesday, BuzzFeed News published a report that looked at some posts cached by Google before the account came down. The report said the account showed signs that Gulick was into the “groyper” movement, which BuzzFeed also explained in some detail:
Investigators found Gulick because he used his father's car to flee the scene, the complaint states. However, they also identified him hrough his Instagram profile, which was filled with far-right rhetoric and memes that reflect beliefs and attitudes in line with an evolving young white nationalist space, sometimes referred to as the America First movement, “groypers,” or the “groyper army,” so named for a distorted picture of an overweight version of Pepe the frog named Groyper.
These young white nationalists have grown into a more distinct branch of the American far-right movement over the last year. Members of the movement are largely pro-Trump, but also think the American right-wing should adopt more brazen white nationalist policies. Self-identified groypers heckled Donald Trump Jr. off the stage during his book tour in November, egged on by the movement’s favorite far-right YouTuber, Nicholas Fuentes.
On Wednesday, The Washington Post followed up with its own report on Gulick’s case and also made mention of the “groyper” movement:
Gulick’s Instagram bio also included the “Deus Vult” phrase he allegedly painted on the Planned Parenthood clinic. The Latin slogan was a battle cry used during the Crusades that has been linked to far-right activists and white supremacists who co-opted the phrase to hint at their fantasies about a religious war between Christians and Muslims.
That phrase and Crusades-linked imagery appeared at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017. Those symbols have also been used by supporters of a newer far-right movement growing online and on college campuses known as “America First” or “Groyper Army,” a reference to a meme called “Groyper,” which is associated with the alt-right symbol Pepe the Frog.
It’ll be worth watching this case to see if more evidence emerges tying Gulick to the white nationalist movement in some way.
FBI investigated ‘Unite the Right’ organizer Jason Kessler
Seamus Hughes and Will Sommer at The Daily Beast broke the news on Wednesday that the FBI had at one time obtained search warrants related to Jason Kessler, who planned and organized the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The investigation began, according to The Daily Beast, after the news website Unicorn Riot posted leaked chat logs showing organizers planning for violence.
From The Daily Beast:
According to the logs, Kessler allegedly encouraged Unite the Right participants to not bring guns because he thought being armed would deter physical confrontation. “We ultimately don’t want to scare them from laying hands on us if they can’t stand our peaceful demonstrations,” Kessler wrote, according to the FBI affidavit.
After reviewing the leaked records, the FBI’s search warrant requested original copies from Discord to build a potential criminal case against Kessler on rioting charges, which can carry a prison sentence of five years.
It’s unclear whether the FBI investigation is still ongoing. Kessler has not been charged with a crime.
Augustus Invictus set for bond hearing today on kidnapping and other charges
The above photo was sent out Wednesday night by police in Rock Hill, South Carolina. It’s the newest mugshot for white nationalist Augustus Sol Invictus, a lawyer who has described himself at different times as an emperor, a prophet and a god.
Invictus, who legally changed his name in 2006 from Austin Gillespie, was arrested last week in Florida on a warrant out of Rock Hill on charges of kidnapping, domestic violence and possession of a weapon during a crime of violence. He was extradited Wednesday from Florida to face those charges. He’s scheduled for a bond hearing at 2 p.m. ET today in Rock Hill Municipal Court.
Invictus announced in August that he was running for president as a Republican. His campaign platform includes proposals such as allowing only white men to vote and own property and creating a separate territory for “all living descendants of slavery that took place on U.S. soil.” In other words, he wants to create a white ethnostate and expel black Americans to another, newly created country.
Back in 2017, Invictus was a featured speaker at the deadly “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and he is currently being sued for his role in organizing it.
Rachel Janik of the Southern Poverty Law Center dug up a lot of disturbing details about Invictus in 2017, and two of her articles are must-reads as his latest legal trouble unfolds:
Two separate hate crimes attacks on immigrants from India
Police in Oregon and Washington have made arrests in two separate attacks on immigrants from India in recent days, both of which are being described as hate crimes.
The first attack took place on New Year’s Eve at a motel in Redmond, Oregon:
James David Lamb Jr., 53, was a guest at the HUB motel in Redmond when he broke into the manager’s office, using a trash can to break a glass door, according to Redmond police.
Lamb then allegedly attacked the victim, while making statements about the victim’s country of origin being India and expressed desire to “rid America of people like her.”
The second attack took place Tuesday in Bellevue, Washington:
Police said a 35-year-old woman was walking on 148th Avenue Northeast when the suspects allegedly called her a terrorist and told her to go back home. The woman is a recent immigrant from India.
According to investigators, the suspects assaulted her, demanded her wallet and called her a terrorist again.
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