white nationalism

An Alarming Weekend of White-Nationalist Activity

Pallbearers on August 9 wheel the casket of Angelina Englisbee, 86, who lost her life in the El Paso mass shooting at Walmart. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Following the shooting at an El Paso Walmart that left 22 people dead last weekend, the nation renewed its focus on the threat of white supremacy. While, thankfully, there were no additional large-scale incidents in the U.S., multiple reports in recent days have underscored the serious threat posed by white nationalist violence.

On Friday, Conor Climo, a 23-year-old security guard who had discussed attacking a synagogue, was arrested after law enforcement found bomb-making materials in his Las Vegas home in addition to an AR-15, a bolt-action rifle, and a drawing of an attack on a gay bar. The man had also allegedly been in contact with a neo-Nazi group via the encrypted chat service Discord, a group he ultimately left after becoming “bored” with “their inaction,” according to federal prosecutors, who also detailed his plan to “mobilize an eight-man sniper platoon to conduct a shooting attack on Jewish people either at a Las Vegas synagogue or any other area of opportunity.”

A couple thousand miles away, in Winter Park, Florida, a white supremacist was arrested on Friday for threatening to shoot up a Walmart. In addition to a manifesto espousing white-nationalist views and anti-immigrant rhetoric, 26-year-old Richard Clayton reportedly posted on Facebook: “3 more days of probation left then I get my AR-15 back. Don’t go to Walmart next week.” Despite the threat, he was not on probation.

Also on Friday, Matthew Gebert, a foreign-affairs officer in the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources, was placed on leave after the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch Initiative reported that he “oversaw the Washington, D.C.–area chapter of a white nationalist organization, hosted white nationalists at his home and published white nationalist propaganda online.” On a white-nationalist podcast in 2018, under the pseudonym Coach Finstock, he said: “We need a country founded for white people with a nuclear deterrent. And you watch how the world trembles.” The year before, on the same podcast, he said he was ready to lose his career in the name of white nationalism.

And on Saturday, a white gunman in his 20s, influenced by the Christchurch attack in March and the shooting in El Paso, stormed a mosque in Oslo, Norway, before a 65-year-old congregation member, Mohammad Rafiq, tackled him and wrestled two shotguns and a pistol away from him. The acting chief of the police investigation said that the suspect held “far right” and “anti-immigrant” views, and spoke fondly of Vidkun Quisling, who lead Norway’s collaborationist government under the Nazis. Though no one was killed in the attack, police found the body of the suspect’s 17-year-old step-sister and are charging the alleged shooter with murder.

Despite the rise of white-nationalist violence in the United States — anticipated by the Department of Homeland Security as early as 2009 — the DHS and the Trump administration have failed to make countering acts driven by the ideology a priority. (Its rhetoric, repeated by the president close to habitually at this point, is another matter entirely.) In an interview on Meet the Press on Sunday, Acting DHS Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan said that domestic terrorism of the sort was now becoming a priority “for the first time.” But according to two sources within the administration who spoke with the New York Times, DHS officials feel that they cannot address topics of domestic terrorism and white-supremacist violence with Trump because he’s not interested.

An Alarming Weekend of White-Nationalist Activity