Hate groups in Kitsap — a sign of the times

Chances are you were unpleasantly surprised to learn that there are supremacist groups right here at home.

How did they ever get here? Perhaps they never left.

“There have always been racists in this country — the U.S. was founded on and prospered from genocide and slavery — but this president’s open support has given extremists a bold new confidence,” writes AlterNets’ Kali Holloway. “Trump might be happy to know that the white supremacists he publicly sympathizes with have stepped up their recruitment efforts on campuses all around America.”

White supremist groups in Washington include several anti-Muslim groups (like Act for America), Firm 22 (racist skinheads), and the Ku Klux Klan (in Vancouver, Wash.).

Kitsap has Vanguard America, Patriot Front and Patriot Prayer.

Vanguard America (VA) is a white supremacist group following fascist, anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi ideology. “Blood and Soil” is its slogan, which refers to the special connection members believe white blood has with American soil.

Members wear khaki pants and white polo shirts, sometimes marching from one venue to the next chanting “Blood and Soil.” Vanguard America declares it defends “our religion, our traditions, and our identity” from non-whites who are trying to live or immigrate into the white American dream.

Vanguard America organizes “free speech rallies” to defend its beliefs. Members post fliers at night at universities and community colleges, including Olympic College in Bremerton.

The group’s website claims, “An African may have lived, worked, and even been classed as a citizen in America for centuries, yet he is not American. He is, as he likely prefers to be labelled, an African in America. The same rule applies to others who are not of the founding stock of our people, or do not share the common unconscious that permeates throughout our greater civilization, and the European diaspora.” (Now … sit back and breathe.)

Patriot Front (PF) is a white supremacist group that split off from Vanguard America last summer. A teenage boy leads PF. Members post fliers at colleges in Washington and Oregon. Their propaganda has been seen in Kitsap and Gig Harbor.

PF’s website states, “Democracy has failed in this once great nation; now the time for a new Caesar to revive the American spirit has dawned.”

Patriot Prayer (PP) is not a white supremacist group but a far-right group based in Vancouver, Wash. PP declares it advocates for free speech and opposes big government. Many members are Trump supporters and work regularly on organizing rallies and protests. PP’s goal is to “liberate the conservatives on the West Coast.” Its presence has been noted in Bremerton.

Last month, PP was the group at the University of Washington campus that scuffled with counter-protesters. Five of the latter were arrested. PP sued the UW because the UW wanted to charge the organization $17,000 for the university and city police protection at the rally. The issue remains: Who pays when these types of groups come to town? Many of these groups use the technique of harassing counter-protesters in order to provoke a scuffle.

Fliers are used by these groups to recruit new members, attract public attention, and intimidate their targets. “I think you need to get them [recruits] while they are young,” white nationalist speaker Richard Spencer said. “I think rewiring the neurons of someone over 50 is effectively impossible.”

White supremacists blame non-whites for today’s woes. Does the blame belong somewhere else … such as in D.C.? Just asking.

Kitsap Aware will host a forum on “Hate Groups in Kitsap” from 2 to 4 p.m. March 4 at the Suquamish Museum. The featured speakers are long-time human and civil rights activists Chuck Tanner and his wife Leah Henry-Tanner. Admission is free. For more information, contact Carollynn Zimmers, drcarollynn@comcast.net, or me.

— Marylin Olds is a local opinion columnist. Contact her with comments or questions at marylin.olds@gmail.com.