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September 9, 2016

Who’s Who in White Lives Matter

WLM protest at NAACP office in Houston, Texas

WLM protest at NAACP office in Houston, Texas

In late August, around 20 so-called “White Lives Matter” (WLM) activists attracted national attention after staging an armed protest in front of the Houston, Texas, offices of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

A WLM spokesperson claimed that the extremists were there to protest against the purported failure of the NAACP to speak out against alleged “atrocities” committed by the Black Lives Matter movement.

When white supremacists toting assault rifles show up in front of NAACP offices, that’s news.  The incident understandably caused concern.  But what is White Lives Matter?  Is it a group?  A movement?  Just a slogan?

The best way to describe WLM might be as a network—a small network of hardcore white supremacists with connections to a variety of hate groups.  These extremists started organizing events and activities under the banner of “White Lives Matter,” regardless of what group or groups they actually belonged to.

The white supremacist movement in the United States has a history of this type of organizing; in 2012-2014, various white supremacists around the country engaged in similar activities as part of the so-called “South Africa Project” and related “White Genocide Project,” designed to raise awareness of purported (but actually fictional) “genocides” of whites in South Africa, the United States, and elsewhere.  WLM follows squarely in this tradition.

Most such campaigns fade away after a year or two, but because WLM is in effect an active white supremacist protest against Black Lives Matter, it theoretically has the potential to last as long as that movement does.  It is important to stress that the Black Lives Matter movement and the WLM network are in no way equivalent or comparable, either in size or the nature of their beliefs and goals.

White Lives Matter Activities

WLM fliers for distribution

WLM fliers for distribution

“White Lives Matter” began as a transparent white supremacist slogan designed to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement, a protest movement that emerged in late 2014.  No single person came up with the slogan; by early 2015, numerous white racists were already using “white lives matter” as an on-line rallying cry.

It did not take long before some white supremacists began to take the concept out into the physical world, with the distribution of WLM fliers in neighborhoods in Connecticut in April 2015.  Most WLM activities since then have taken place in Connecticut, Texas or California, with a few scattered incidents elsewhere.

White supremacist posting WLM handbill

White supremacist posting WLM handbill

WLM matters activities have typically taken the form of on-line promotion of white supremacy using the “White Lives Matter” slogan, organizing WLM protests and rallies, distributing WLM fliers, handbills or stickers, and releasing red balloons into the sky “for Caucasian victims.”  The latter takes place on a very small scale and is usually caught on video to use on the Internet.

White Lives Matter: The Cast of Characters

Dozens of white supremacists around the country have taken part in one or more WLM activities since 2015, but the network is not very large.

In fact, a small handful of individuals are responsible for conducting or organizing most of the on-line and real-world WLM activities.  The first to become active, in the spring of 2015, were Ken Zrallack from Connecticut and his friend, Travis Golie, who has recently lived in Texas and Georgia.

By late 2015, the Aryan Renaissance Society (ARS), a longstanding white supremacist group based primarily in Texas, had also begun promoting WLM—to the irritation of the others.  In October 2015, Golie groused about ARS, which he described as a “brand new self proclaimed group” and a “silly gang,” claiming they stole WLM materials and put their own logo on them.  The materials appear to have been transmitted through Rebecca Barnette.  Barnette herself is disliked by some other WLM activists.  California WLM activist Mellissa Dennis described Barnette in September 2016 as “a bottom feeder who wants attention.” A WLM facebook page apparently run by Zrallack claimed that Barnette “has absolutely nothing to do with what we are doing.”

Key WLM activists include:

White supremacist Ken Zrallack

White supremacist Ken Zrallack

  • Ken Zrallack (aka Kevin Harris and other pseudonyms).  Zrallack, who more than any other person may lay claim to starting the WLM network, is a long-time hard-core white supremacist from Connecticut who in the early 2000s with his brother founded the Connecticut White Wolves, a racist skinhead group.  In the mid-2000s he was involved with another hate group, White Revolution; later, he helped form yet another white supremacist group known as Battalion 14. In 2010, Zrallack and two other men were arrested in an alleged conspiracy to sell grenades and guns to a police informant posing as a white supremacist.  While one of the trio was convicted, Zrallack and the other defendant were acquitted.
  • Travis Golie.  Golie, who has lived most recently in Texas and Georgia, is a key ally and partner to Zrallack in WLM.  Golie is the current head of the Nationalist Movement, a small but longstanding white supremacist group, which is probably one reason why some of the early WLM fliers sported the address of the Nationalist Movement website.  Golie served time in prison in Iowa for second degree robbery, which caused Ku Klux Klan members to protest at his prison in 2009 in support of him.  He was released from prison in 2012.
  • Rebecca Barnette.  Barnette, who has perhaps received more publicity than anyone else associated with WLM, has not necessarily played one of the most important roles.  Barnette has claimed that WLM was started by Zrallack and herself “and a few others.”  She was an early on-line promoter of WLM, but her one attempt at organizing a WLM rally, in Buffalo, New York, in July 2016, was an embarrassing failure, with only 1-3 people showing up—but not Barnette herself.  After this debacle, she lost standing with other WLM activists. Barnette is from Tennessee, where she has been very active with the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement. She has also had ties of varying strengths to other white supremacist groups, such as the Aryan Renaissance Society.
  • Ken Reed.  Reed, a Texan (though he spent several years in Rhode Island as a mattress salesman), is probably the most active figure in the Texas contingent of WLM.  He is one of the leaders of the Aryan Renaissance Society (ARS), a longstanding white supremacist group that dates back to the 1990s, when it was a racist skinhead group known as Aryan Reich Skins. It has also used the names White Power Liberation Front and Aryan Liberation Front. Originally based in New Jersey, ARS’s center of activity later moved to Texas, where it became something of a prison clique.  More recently, it has given itself a neo-Nazi makeover.  What has remained constant throughout is its white supremacy.
  • Doug Chism  Chism is the leader or “president” of ARS,  of which he is a long time member, dating back to its Aryan Reich Skin days.  He spent much of his membership behind bars in Texas, serving time on various convictions until 2009.  He lives in the greater Houston, Texas, area. Chism, born in 1969, is one of the oldest of the WLM activists.
  • Horace Scott Lacy.  Lacy is another ARS member from the Houston area; like Chism, he is one of the oldest WLM activists, born in 1967. Before Lacy was involved with ARS, he was a member and “special assignments major” in the large and violent Texas-based white supremacist prison gang known as the Aryan Circle. He became an Aryan Circle member in the 1990s and was still a member as late as 2009. Lacy is a felon with an extensive criminal history dating back to 1985, including convictions for possession of a controlled substance, aggravated robbery, and multiple theft charges.  He was arrested in April 2016 on aggravated robbery charges.
  • Bill Hagan (aka William Quigg).  Hagan, who publicly goes by the pseudonym William Quigg, emerged as part of California’s white supremacist scene in 2015 as the “West Coast Grand Dragon” of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. In February 2016, Hagan and other white supremacists organized a “White Lives Do Matter” rally in Anaheim, California, an event that received considerable media attention after insufficient police crowd control allowed left-wing counterdemonstrators to attack the white supremacists, turning the event into a bloody brawl that resulted in numerous serious injuries and multiple arrests to and of people from both sides.  Hagan also got media attention for claiming to “endorse” Hillary Clinton for president, then later claiming that he had somehow raised $20,000 in donations for Clinton from members of his tiny group. Hagan also has close ties to the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement and attends many of their events.
  • Melissa Dennis.  Dennis, another Californian living in Bakersfield, is a member of the Noble Breed Kindred, a small white supremacist group. Dennis has been one of the most active West Coast promoters of WLM, both on-line and in the physical world, where she has passed out fliers and released red balloons.  She also sells WLM t-shirts and other white supremacist paraphernalia. Like Zrallack, she has also promoted “Free Matt Hale” events.

whitelives-matter-4-from-vk

Selected White Lives Matters Incidents/Events

  • September 2016: WLM flier drops by Zrallack in Connecticut. WLM members in Texas claimed to have “hand delivered food aid to Whites effected [sic] by the flooding in Baton Rouge, LA.”
  • August 2016: WLM flier drops by Zrallack in Connecticut. WLM protest in front of NAACP office in Houston, Texas.
  • July 2016: WLM flier drops by Zrallack in Connecticut. Small WLM protest in Dallas, Texas, in front of Bank of America Tower.  Failed WLM protest in Buffalo, New York.
  • June 2016: WLM flier drops by Zrallack in Connecticut. WLM flier drops in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, apparently by Ken Reed.
  • May 2016: WLM flier drops by Zrallack in Connecticut.
  • March 2016: WLM /“Free Matt Hale” flier drops by Zrallack in Connecticut. Matt Hale is a white supremacist serving a 40-year federal prison sentence for soliciting the murder of a federal judge. Many WLM activists also are vocal Matt Hale supporters.
  • February 2016: WLM/“Free Matt Hale” flier drops by Zrallack in Connecticut. Small WLM protest in Anaheim, California.
  • January 2016: WLM supporters put up handbills, apparently in Bakersville, California.
  • December 2015: WLM flier drops in various locations.
  • October 2015: WLM red balloon releases (“for Caucasian victims”) in different locations.
  • September 2015: WLM red balloon releases in different locations, plus distribution of fliers and stickers in California and Connecticut.
  • August 2015: WLM red balloon releases in different locations. Flier drops in Connecticut.
  • May 2015: Flier drop in Westport, Connecticut.
  • April 2015: Flier drop in Milford, Connecticut.

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June 16, 2016

Charleston Anniversary: We Mourn, We Act

One year ago, on June 17, 2015, a white supremacist murdered nine parishioners at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.   It’s terrible – and unfair – that the quiet space in time we should have had to reflect and properly mourn these murders targeting African-Americans has been literally blown apart by another tragedy – even larger in scale – involving the deliberate targeting of members of the LGBTQ community in Orlando this past weekend.

We can and must grieve for the victims of the heartless white supremacist who murdered nine people who had welcomed him into prayer,

communion, and fellowship.   We can and must mourn the victims in Orlando celebrating life during Pride Month and Latino Night.

And:  we can do more than stand in solidarity and mourn.

On this anniversary, after a weekend of bias-motivated mayhem, we should rededicate ourselves to ensuring that we, as a nation, are doing all we can to fight hate and extremism.

1)     Law enforcement authorities are now investigating what role – if any – radical interpretations of Islam played in inspiring the Orlando murderer to act — and that work is clearly justified.  But we must recognize and pay attention to extremism and hate coming from all sources – including white supremacists, like the murderer in Charleston.

2)     Charleston and Orlando are further evidence that firearms are more pop­u­lar than ever as the deadly weapons of choice for Amer­i­can extrem­ists. We must end limitations on federal research on gun violence – and make it more difficult to obtain firearms through increased waiting periods, safety restrictions, and limitations on purchases – especially of assault-style weapons.   None of these steps will certainly prevent the next gun-toting mass murderer – but, as President Obama said, “to actively do nothing is a decision as well.”

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Photo Credit: Cal Sr via Flikr

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.
Photo Credit: Cal Sr via Flikr

3)     We need more inclusive and extensive laws in place to combat violence motivated by hate and extremism.  On the state level, though 45 states and the District of Columbia have hate crime laws, a handful of states – including South Carolina – do not (the others are Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, and Wyoming).  ADL and a broad coalition of three dozen national organizations have formed #50 States Against Hate to improve the response to all hate crimes, with more effective laws, training, and policies.

And, though hate crime laws are very important, they are a blunt instrument – it’s much better to prevent these crimes in the first place.  Congress and the states should complement these laws with funding for inclusive anti-bias education, hate crime prevention, and bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment prevention training programs.

4)     And finally, let us resolve to more fiercely resist unnecessary and discriminatory laws, like North Carolina’s HB 2, that deprive individuals of the opportunity to live their lives in dignity, free from persecution because of their race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

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March 22, 2016

Intended or Not, SJP’s Actions Have Consequences for LGBTQ People

By Seth M. Marnin, Vice President for Civil Rights

Recent homophobic and anti-Semitic incidents at Brown University came on the heels of the announcement that Janet Mock, transgender author and founder of #GirlsLikeUs, a social media project that empowers trans women, had cancelled her scheduled speaking engagement there. Mock’s talk, Redefining Realness, was sponsored by Moral Voices, the Brown Center for Students of Color, Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, LGBTQ Center, Sexual Assault Peer Educators, Swearer Center for Public Service, Office of the Chaplains, the Rhode Island School of Design’s Office of Intercultural Student Engagement, and Brown/RISD Hillel.

Reacting to the fact that Hillel was one of the co-sponsors of program, the Brown University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) launched a change.org petition urging Ms. Mock to reject Hillel’s invitation to speak, saying that she should accept “Brown students’ sponsorship instead of Hillel’s.”  Although they were only able to gain 159 supporters (of the nearly 9,000 students who attend Brown), SJP’s divisive efforts led to Ms. Mock cancelling her talk.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

While some may be quick to criticize Ms. Mock’s decision, condemnation should instead be leveled against SJP and their efforts to splinter a community and use Ms. Mock as a pawn. In their effort to link Hillel’s Moral Voices’ campaign – a largely domestic initiative highlighting violence against LGBT+ individuals and communities – to violence in the Middle East, SJP forced a transgender woman of color to choose between silencing herself or allowing herself to be exploited for their unrelated crusade.  She should never have been put in that position.

The homophobic and anti-Semitic graffiti that appeared on Brown’s campus just days later occurred in an environment that SJP helped create. Their claim to be surprised is unpersuasive.   Moreover, the graffiti is only one visible sign of the consequences of SJP’s actions. While SJP’s efforts to alienate Jewish students are well documented, there are other implications too.

There are far too few visible transgender role models and leaders. Efforts that have the effect of quashing those scarce voices have far-reaching repercussions.  For example, studies have shown that the suicide attempt rate among transgender men and women exceeds 41%, greatly surpassing the 4.6% of the overall U.S. population who report a suicide attempt at some point in their lives. The elevated rates of suicide attempts are connected with survivors’ experiences of family rejection and discrimination and violence at school and work. The absence of transgender voices in mainstream discourse also plays a role. There few role models for young transgender people, and families, co-workers, and friends of transgender people have limited opportunities to hear from transgender leaders.  Such an experience would better equip them to be allies in the future. Unfortunately, SJP’s actions foreclosed that possibility for the Brown University campus.

The importance of providing platform for transgender voices is underscored by the fact that, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ most recent report, violence against transgender women and particularly transgender women of color remains at an alarmingly high rate. At present, only 17 states and the District of Columbia have hate crime laws that explicitly cover gender identity. Critical efforts to address violence against LGBTQ people, including advocacy for inclusive hate crime laws like the 50 States Against Hate campaign, are undermined by organizations that engage in activism that results in silencing transgender voices. That too is what SJP did.

SJP encouraged a speaker – wholly unrelated to Israel – to reject an invitation from a broad coalition of student organizations solely because one of those organizations is Jewish. Intended or not, SJP harmed the LGBTQ community at Brown and beyond.  It’s well beyond time to reject these divisive tactics.

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