Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Firestorm of Vicious Behavior Toward Muslims Rages in the Wake of San Bernardino Rampage

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]
The murderous rampage by two apparently radicalized Muslims in San Bernardino, Calif., on Dec. 2 has become the latest flashpoint in the massive bonfire of Islamophobia being whipped up by anti-Muslim extremists and their mainstream conservative enablers in the United States.

In the week since the massacre of 14 people by Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, Muslims around the country have been confronted with a wildfire of retaliatory threats, vandalism, and attacks – even as politicians and pundits have stoked the flames of bigotry higher.

The ugliness began almost immediately after the shootings with a series of phoned-in and social-media threats, vandalizing attacks on mosques, and arsons of Muslim businesses, in locations all around the United States:
  • In St. Louis, Mo., a man phoned in a threat to the local offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, vowing to kill any Muslims who dared show up on his property. That man is unlikely to be charged with any crime.
  • In Manassas, Va., the local mosque was similarly threatened with a phoned-in threat from a man claiming to be a member of the extremist Jewish Defense League and vowing that his group “will do to your people what you did to them.” “We are checking now to see if one Jew has been shot or killed in California,” he said. “You all will be sorry. You all will be killed.”
  • In Palm Beach, Fla., a lone vandal attacked a local Islamic center, breaking windows and wreaking property damage inside. The man who was later arrested for the crime is the son of a well-known local educator.
  • In Philadelphia, Pa., someone in a red pickup truck rolled up next to a neighborhood mosque and hurled a severed pig’s head onto the steps of the building. Security cameras caught images of the perpetrators, but so far, investigators have had no luck tracking them down. The act was widely denounced, including by Mayor-elect Jim Kenney, who said: "We cannot allow hate to divide us now, in the face of unprecedented difficulties. I ask all Philadelphians to join me in rejecting this despicable act and supporting our Muslim neighbors.”
  • In Grand Forks, N.D., someone scrawled graffiti featuring a Nazi symbol and the words “Go home” on the walls of a Somali restaurant owned by a Muslim family. Two nights later, someone deliberately set an arson fire at the restaurant, causing an estimated $90,000 in damage.
  • In Twin Falls, Idaho, someone spray-painted boards that covered the windows of the local Islamic center with the words “Hunt Camp ?” The graffiti referred to the old Minidoka Relocation Center in nearby Hunt, the site of the massive Japanese American internment erected during World War II, apparently suggesting the same fate for Magic Valley Muslims. Local police were investigating the matter as a potential hate crime.
Graffiti at the Islamic Center in Twin Falls, ID
There has been a rash of other, mostly petty, ugliness as well: A sixth-grade Muslim schoolgirl in Brooklyn was attacked at the school – punched, her headscarf yanked, and called “ISIS” by classmates – but police declined to file a report in the matter. Two Muslim women were verbally assaulted by a fellow patron at an Austin, Texas, restaurant, and then told that “nobody” cared about them. A woman in Fort Worth, Texas, reported that an angry woman confronted her in her car, rolling down her window and shouting at her, before she spat on her.

The Twin Falls case provides a stark example of how extremist anti-Muslim rhetoric trickles down to create permission for violence in local communities. The local refugee resettlement center has in recent months become the focus of a virulent campaign stoked by national groups designated as anti-Muslim extremist and hate groups by the SPLC, even attracting the high-volume participation of armed militiamen from the antigovernment “III Percent” movement.

The spate of ugliness has wounded the Muslim community: “I think people are upset, people are humiliated,” observed Marwan Kreidie, director of the Arab American Development Corp., in an Associated Press interview following the incident with the pig’s head. “We’ve never had incidents like that – even after 9/11, we didn’t have anything like this.

“Unfortunately, some of the rhetoric – especially coming from the Republican candidates for president – has been atrocious. And words have consequences.”

Indeed, the GOP presidential field – led by Donald Trump – has already played a substantial role in whipping the embers of Islamophobia into flames in recent weeks, aided and abetted by both right-wing and mainstream media. Much of that focused on whether or not Muslim refugees from Syria should be welcomed, with Trump announcing that if he were elected, “They’re going back!”

The bonfire became a massive conflagration in the wake of the Nov. 13 ISIS-based terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead and another 368 injured. A parade of mostly Republican governors promptly announced they intended to close their doors to Syrian refugees, even though that decision is not within their purview. And Muslims began seeing a marked increase in hate crimes and other attacks.

After last Wednesday’s massacre, the issue blew up altogether, with a number of politicians and pundits lining up to declare that their fears about admitting Muslim refugees had been proven right. At the same time, the floodgates of ugly behavior toward Muslims appeared to open wide all across the country.

On Monday, in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings, Trump turned the issue into a national uproar by declaring that he wanted to see all Muslim immigration into the United States shut off altogether – temporarily, he claimed, “until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on.”

"In a country that is already thick with hateful anti-Muslim ideologues, Donald Trump may well be the person who has done more than any other to demonize Muslims and, ultimately, to subject them to criminal hate violence,” observed Mark Potok, the SPLC’s Intelligence Report editor. “Words have consequences. Although the hateful comments of Trump — not to mention those of a number of the other Republican presidential candidates — are protected by the First Amendment, there is little doubt that they will ultimately lead to more violence directed at minorities. What Trump is saying is despicable, un-American and a shameful moment for our country.”

The Republican candidates’ fearmongering, however, is only the culmination of a long-running campaign by extremist organizations to whip up fears about Muslims. A number of these groups – in particular, Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, whose misinformation was cited by Trump in his attempts to justify his call for a Muslim immigration ban – have been claiming for years that all Muslims are extremists in waiting. One of Gaffney’s acolytes, Ann Corcoran, has played a leading role in the effort to associate the refugee-resettlement programs with the ostensible threat of terrorism.

As a consequence of this rhetoric, hate crimes against Muslims have skyrocketed in recent years, even at a time when hate crimes against other minorities are declining. CAIR officials recently expressed concern about the recent escalation in bias crimes: “We don’t literally have time to issue a statement on every incident because they’re coming in so fast and furious,” CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said. “When the leading Republican presidential candidate can say, ‘Bar all Muslims coming to America’ and know he can get more support for it — it is truly frightening.”

In the meantime, Pentagon officials explained Tuesday that this kind of bigotry was playing directly into the hands of the terrorists, whose whole intention is to attempt to create bigoted attacks on Muslims in America and Europe so that those Muslims will have an incentive to become radicalized.

“Anything that bolsters ISIL’s narrative and pits the United States against the Muslim faith is certainly not only contrary to our values but contrary to our national security,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told a news briefing.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Skinheads’ Empty Boasts for ‘Martyrs Day’ Event in Seattle Bring Out Large Crowd of Counter-Protesters

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Maybe it was the rain, which came down in buckets all day Sunday in Seattle.

Or maybe it was the massive crowd of over 500 people, a large number of them black-clad and masked anarchists, waiting to greet them up in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Or maybe, as the white supremacists who took part in this year’s “Martyrs [sic] Day” commemoration in western Washington tried to claim afterward, it was all just a hoax, a massive prank meant to tweak Seattle liberals.

Whatever the cause, the contingent of neo-Nazi skinheads who boasted beforehand that “we will be marching through Capitol Hill in Seattle to show these liberals, anarchists antifa and fags that we are here and here to stay” after a day of listening to white-power bands, in reality turned out to be complete no-shows Sunday as far as any kind of public appearance.

The same could not be said of their opponents, who significantly outnumbered them in any event. The anti-Nazi protesters blocked traffic and created a scene in the neighborhood; there were reports of minor vandalism attributed to the presence of anarchists. The black-clad and masked young men remained in clusters around the neighborhood well after the march, waiting for someone to show.

Organizers from the Northwest Hammerskins, a well-known racist skinhead outfit, had posted on the white-supremacist website Stormfront their plans for this year’s version of “Martyrs Day,” held annually on Dec. 6, usually on Whidbey Island, to commemorate the death of Robert Mathews, leader of the neo-Nazi criminal gang The Order, at the hands of the FBI in 1984. This year, they vowed in the posts, they planned to hold it in the form of a white-power rock concert in the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard, followed by a cross burning, and then a march up to Capitol Hill.

A woman (using the nom de plume “Hardcore Honey”) associated with Northwest skinheads posted that this year’s event would be “something you will NOT want to miss!” She also included a poster of the planned concert.

"Join us Sunday, Dec. 6th in Ballard,WA. We will be meeting up at an undisclosed location in Ballard …

"The event will present five white power bands including Ironwill and Beer Hall Putsch and a couple others making their NW debuts. Comrades and crews from across the country will be in attendance and about 300 people are to be expected for a day of comraderie, music, hailing our heroes and good ol' goosestepping. Food and drinks will also be provided.

"After the bands and a traditional cross burning we will be marching through Capitol Hill in Seattle to show these liberals, anarchists antifa and fags that we are here and here to stay.

"This will be the biggest event in NW history as of yet so let's put the beautiful Pacific Northwest back on the map and make Robert Mathews proud!"

That set off a flurry of activity by anti-fascists and socialists in the region, who organized a large rally Sunday in Capitol Hill intended to make the neo-Nazis feel unwelcome. By the time darkness had fallen on Seattle – along with the heavy rains – a crowd estimated at over 500 had collected at Cal Anderson Park, in the heart of the district.

Capitol Hill, as the city’s most prominent gay neighborhood, also has a long and unfortunate history of attracting anti-LGBT hate-crimes from outside the area. The problem dates back to at least 1990, when a group of neo-Nazis from northern Idaho came to Seattle intent on setting off a series of pipe bombs inside Neighbours, a popular gay nightclub in the area (those men were arrested before enacting their plot and wound up serving federal prison time).

Organizers of the rally included Rose City Antifa, a Portland, Ore.-based antifascist group, who spread the word about the skinheads’ intentions through social media, using the hashtag #DefendSeattle. Soon a number of socialist and feminist organizations, as well as some anarchist groups, had joined in, and on Sunday, they made their numbers known. As the evening darkened and the rain grew heavier, the crowd headed out from the park and marched down Broadway, the main avenue on Capitol Hill.

Many carried handmade signs: “Nazis Go Home” and “Skinhead Fascists Not Welcome Here,” were fairly typical. A big banner read: “Smash White Supremacy.” Some signs even had a sense of humor: “Thor Hates You,” read one.

Chanting various anti-Nazi slogans – “Nazis are not welcome here,” and “Nazis out, refugees in” were favorites – the crowd traveled down about five city blocks, then circled back around to the park where the march started, at which time police ordered them to disperse, and they did.

A news van for KIRO-TV was vandalized by some of the masked young men – several windows were broken in the van, and it had been tagged with graffiti. Other graffiti had been left behind: “Fags Against Nazis” read one tag that had been hastily painted across a stark white building wall. And some business owners reported having their windows broken as well.

On Monday morning, one of the skinheads boasted on the #DefendSeattle Facebook page that it had all been a prank:

Lol. Well I hope you nerds enjoyed the hoax played on you by us idiot boneheads. Our memorial went off with no problems yesterday. All you revolutionaries managed to do was to vandalize the city you say you where defending. You've also managed to expose yourselves and now we have lots of info on people who try desperately too hide their identities. Places of work, your residents, and places of leisure may no longer be a safe space. So much for outsmarting us idiotic boneheads. Playing Che can be a lot of fun, but it's time to realize that you really are a bunch of white nerds who live in all white neighborhoods from middle class white families. None of you are oppressed, unless you count your drug addiction and low iqs oppression. Funny how you guys where at the SPD earlier before your rally. Making sure they where there to keep you safe lol. Fight the system man. Well thanks for the laugh, in solidarity, antifa hahaha.

In reality, the skinheads had indeed held their usual commemoration on Whidbey Island earlier in the day Sunday, but had in fact subsequently also gathered at a Seattle-area private residence at which a few dozen neo-Nazis were treated to a white-power rock show by a couple of white-power bands, according to information received by the SPLC. The show ended in the early evening and the participants did not, apparently, make the trek to Capitol Hill.

No doubt it was the rain.