The Eradicate Hate Global Summit began its second day Thursday with a deep dive into violent extremism, the recruitment techniques of white supremacist groups and legal updates.
Eradicate Hate co-chair and founder Laura Ellsworth began the first plenary of the day, “A Case Study of the Challenge: Atomwaffen,” saying the summit would turn its attention to “individuals who have committed violence against other people because of who they are.”
To that end, a panel of experts presented the case of Atomwaffen, a far-right extremist and neo-Nazi terrorist network with branches in the United States and Europe.
Thomas Woods, assistant U.S. attorney of the Western District of Washington, who prosecuted a case against the group, said that Atomwaffen, while responsible for violence and murder, is also skilled in marketing and in attracting young, disaffected individuals.
A promotional video created by the group was played for the few hundred in attendance. It featured aggressive electronic music, similar to that heard in popular video games, beneath images of young men dressed in paramilitary costumes firing assault rifles and burning Israeli and LGBTQ+ flags.
Woods said that his office, the Seattle Police Department, the FBI and local prosecutors took advantage of one of the first red flag laws in the United States and seized the group’s arsenal of weapons. And while he said law enforcement did the work, it was journalists who “were the true heroes of the story — they were the folks that actually made the most difference.”
Multiple journalists, including Chris Ingalls and several Jewish reporters, received flyers that listed their addresses and contained threats directed at them, Woods said.
The flyer left at Ingalls’ house read: “Two can play at this game. These people have names and addresses. You’ve been visited by your local Nazis.” The flyer incorporated a picture from one of the Charles Manson murders with “Death to pigs” written in blood on a wall.
The flyers eventually were traced to the white supremacist group through a text inadvertently sent to a government informant.
Woods said that the targeted journalists testified against the group, which resulted in one of its leaders, Kaleb Cole, being sentenced to seven years in prison.
Another speaker, Emily Oneschuk, recounted the story of her brother Andrew, who was murdered by Devon Arthurs.
Andrew lived with Arthurs and Jeremy Himmelman in an Atomwaffen cell. Arthurs murdered both Andrew and Himmelman after they reportedly ridiculed his conversion to Islam.
Oneschuk talked of the difficulties her family faced as they observed, and tried to prevent, the radicalization of her brother. She said her family was a typical middle-class family, with a history of military service.
Her brother, she said, started spending more time on the internet, which eventually led to his involvement with white supremacy theories.
Oneschuk said her parents tried everything from punishment to therapy in attempting to shield her brother from radicalization by the violent extremist group.
“My family lived with the dark, slow creep of radicalization for the next seven years,” she said, “and it pretty much tore us apart.”
She recounted once coming home from college and finding that her brother had hung a Nazi flag on his bedroom door. A confrontation, which included a physical altercation between the two, took place.
“This is where the story gets crazy,” she recalled. “I felt like I had to apologize because he said, ‘You don’t respect my beliefs. You don’t understand me.’”
The attempts by family members to convince Andrew to change his views, Oneschuk said, only pushed him further away.
She said it was important to remember that those who have been radicalized are not monsters.
“These are someone’s brother, kid, sibling, friend and nephew,” she said. “The more we make this about us, then the further we get from solving this problem.”
The summit’s second session, “Violent Extremists: Who and How” included several experts reviewing how people are recruited to become members of hate groups. The discussion referenced retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. and conspiracy theorist Michael Flynn, Christopher Pohlhaus and his gang Blood Tribe, the Goyim Defense League and “Active Clubs,” which promote white fraternity and mixed-martial arts events.
A third plenary session provided a legal update on several cases that occurred over the past year and outlined a long and violent path of white supremacist acts, including those of James Reardon, who was sentenced to 41 months in prison for threatening a Jewish Community Center in Youngstown, Ohio.
The session included among its panel members Daniel Kramer, brother-in-law of Jerry Rabinowitz, who was murdered during the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.
The day continued with panels about the power of personal connection, how white supremacist groups are using video games for recruitment and prison programs that attempt to pull people out of the world of violent extremism.
The Eradicate Hate Global Summit continues Friday. PJC
David Rullo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle and the Pittsburgh Union Progress are collaborating on covering the Eradicate Hate Global Summit, which runs through Friday Downtown, and some of which is being livestreamed for free. Learn more at eradicatehatesummit.org.