The white supremacist Soldiers of Odin (SOO) are clearly feeling emboldened as they have openly mobilized in communities as distinct as Nanaimo, British Columbia and Edmonton, Alberta over the last month. And their approach is clearly opportunistic as they have mobilized to threaten a homeless camp in Nanaimo while announcing plans to give food and water to homeless people outside a street ministry in Edmonton. The attempt to connect with homeless people is not a unique one as SOO in Surrey, BC, tried to stir anger among homeless people against refugees who SOO blamed, incorrectly of course, for “taking” housing. In Edmonton, as in Nanaimo, a community rallied to confront the neo-Nazis and drive them off the streets.
Online messages claimed that the Soldiers of Odin, Onward Christian Soldiers, and the Northern Guard were planning to serve food and water to homeless people outside of the Mustard Seed Church on Labor Day, September 3rd, 2018. They called on all “like-minded patriotic groups” to join them.
Instead residents in the city’s McCauley neighborhood went door to door to bring people out to confront the racists. In the end about 40 residents showed up to oppose a dozen or so SOO members and a handful of their supporters. After some verbal sparring the SOO moved on. Counter-protesters followed them as they moved a few blocks away. After a half-hour standoff, monitored by cops, the neo-Nazis packed up and took off.
As in Nanaimo it should be noted that there are layers of supporters who show up to encourage the SOO and/or to express bigoted views (against migrants but also against homeless people). This needs to be recognized and confronted.
The SOO event happened only a few blocks away from the Edmonton and District Labour Council’s annual Labor Day barbecue and was likely planned to draw people from there. It is unfortunate that a sizeable contingent from the organized labor gathering did not go to confront the neo-Nazis. That would have been a show of social unionism, organized working class community defense, and perhaps a recognition that fascists are always geared toward destruction of unions and union movements. Antifascist organizing is something the labor movement needs to re-orient towards actively in the present period (and beyond).
Twice in a matter of weeks in August the white supremacist Soldiers of Odin (SOO) threatened to assault homeless people and take down Discontent City, the shared space at which they are living, in Nanaimo. A march of SOO the first weekend in August was opposed by a collective gathering of homeless people and allies effectively turning SOO away. A week later the SOO made a threat to forcibly tear down the tent city on August 19. Again a mass turnout of people showed up to oppose them but the fascists no-showed.
We must not misunderstand the neo-Nazi basis of the Soldiers of Odin. We should all be deeply concerned about the open, brash, mobilization of the white supremacists against poor people housing themselves at the Discontent City in Nanaimo, a major city in so-called BC. It says plenty about the anti-homeless group, Action Against the Discontent City (AADC) that they would unashamedly ally themselves with neo-fascists.
It is important to view the rise of neo-fascism and white supremacy in a context of growing poverty and homelessness. It speaks to the effects of austerity politics and poorbashing by politicians and public figures in promoting and installing those policies (including stigmatizing homeless people, as “undeserving,” as “others,” etc.). It is not surprising that the structural violence (inequality, poverty, colonialism) that contributes to homelessness would give rise to bare manifestations of neo-fascist, white supremacist violence.
Notably, in Surrey, BC, where I live and work, Soldiers of Odin unsuccessfully tried to recruit homeless people on 135A Street (the Strip) against refugees, who Soldiers of Odin wrongly blame for taking housing. Strip residents had none of it.
The community responses to defend Discontent City shows a positive way forward in times of crisis. Support and care rather than stigmatizing rage and scapegoating that further harm people who are already victimized by structural violence. Solidarity works against fascists as the situations in Nanaimo have shown. It remains necessary to be vigilant and prepared.
It is curious that AADC want to pose as respectable citizens compared to the unrespectable tent city residents, yet do so by collaborating with neo-fascists and white supremacists. People on the sidelines in Nanaimo and elsewhere need to ask: “Who would you want as a neighbour: poor people acting to build a supportive community or ‘good citizens’ who would ally themselves with neo-Nazis?”
Just a few days ago, we ran a story about the Traditionalist Workers Party linking up with Patriot and skinhead groups to hold a community event in Charlottesville, Indiana. The event was booked to be held at the city’s Lion’s Club lodge, which looked to be an inside/outside event for the facility. Several Lion’s Club members voiced their outrage about the event, and anti-racists and anti-fascists in the Indiana area, and from around the country, went to work to counter the scheduled event and contact the Lion’s Club International.
The Lion’s Club acted quickly after being notified, putting out a public statement noting that they did not know the nature of the event and that they were canceling it.
The event which you referenced, was not a Lions Event. The Charlottesville Lions Club was given misinformation regarding the event, when someone asked to rent their building.
Once we were all made aware, Charlottesville Lions realized they did not have a contract for this event, and actually the building was double booked.
It is my understanding that the venue has been changed.
Lions Clubs do not condone these types of meetings. They are in direct violation of our Code of Ethics.
Thank you for your concern.
The local chapter of the Lion’s Club also put out a statement saying that they were not involved with the event. This is a positive move for a community organization like the Lion’s Club, which took a strong anti-racist stand much more quickly than many community organizations do.
Brien James, the organizer of the event, had to issue a public statement to supporters that they event has lost its venue and is being changed to a private one. This information is no longer public, and you have to message James specifically to get the information. This will all but cancel the event as communication will be difficult and the location will likely end up being difficult to distribute widely. Since it is likely a private residence, there is a smaller likelihood that large numbers will even want to attend.
James found our original article and foolishly commented on it, attempting to distort allegations of the event’s racialist nature.
Come on out if you want. We have nothing to hide. The event is open to the public. There will be people of all races and faiths attending. The 3%ers, SDL, and SOO are all multi-ethnic groups. One of the bike clubs invited is a black bike club. If you are genuinely curious as to what is going on you are welcome to send a representative. If you are just hell bent on looking for trouble you can find that too.
As we reported in the original article, James’ racist organizing and views are well known, as are the organizations involved in the event. No matter what type of posturing he attempts here, anti-fascists are aware of his true intentions.
The canceling of this event is from the direct work of anti-fascists who reached out quickly and organized both an on-the-ground response and those who called in to pressure the Lion’s Club. This is a great show of unity as Alt Right groups reach out to Patriot militias and traditional Nazi organizations, all emboldened by the Donald Trump campaign.
The reframing of Syrian refugee migration into Europe and the United States is critical to the messaging of the racist right-wing. Instead of seeing these as rightful refugees of an incredibly violent, war-torn region, they are instead painted as “invading hordes.” The dehumanization of these immigrants of color is obvious, but it is also an effort by Alt Right voices to reframe the discussion in terms of their own interpretation of pre-modern tribal norms. The term “hordes” inspires the listener to immediately apply “barbarian” to it, which inclines them to think in an “us and them” mentality. The idea here is to begin thinking of people of European ancestry, specifically Northern Europe, as a distinct “tribe” with its own interests. This is opposed to the universal morality that sees actions within the same moral framework whether they happen to someone of a similar ethnic background or someone from a distant country with different customs and religious practices. To see the refugees as “invaders” is to then see the need to protect the “tribe” from the immigrant populations that you are absolved of the responsibility to care about.
This shift in perspective plays directly in the new Soldiers of Odin phenomenon, a group of people who are trying to “defend” European nations and the U.S. from these refugees. Playing on fallacious notion that the refugees are responsible for increased rates of crime and sexual violence, they have created an impetus that street vigilante action against non-white people is necessary. The “Odinic” reference is also key as Odinism/Asatru, as a resurrection of the ancient Nordic pagan religion, is often interpreted racially, using the pseudoscientific concept of “meta-genetics” to say that the Nordic Gods are literally a part of the psyche of people deriving from Northern Europe.
The Soldiers of Odin were created in Kemi, Finland in October of 2015, towards the beginning of what is now phrased as the “refugee crisis.” This was created to be a street gang that would patrol areas with asylum seekers, often appearing as a motorcycle gang or mirroring white tribalist groups like the Wolves of Vinland. The founder of the movement, Mike Ranta, was close to the nationalist Finnish Resistant Movement, as well having a 2005 conviction for a racist attack that injured two victims.
The group’s dynamics of racial violence seem obvious, but they have grown over the last five months, creating locals all over Europe and moving into several places in the United States. The process began by creating multiple Facebook groups, all with lax security protocols, that have open racialist understandings of who the “invaders” are. Even with this white nationalist slant, the growth of these groups has been incredible and the numbers of people unaffiliated with the racialist movement at large has been striking. Large numbers have been coming directly from the Odinist/Asatru movement, even beyond the explicitly racialist forms.
Among these new groups is one for Colorado, with members running the gamut. This includes the Gothi, or clergy, of the Eagles of Yggdrasil, a folksih heathen kindred.
Canadian locals have popped up with common membership, indicating that there is likely less local organizing happening as much as a few enthusiastic metal-head racists who are creating these groups for different regions in the hopes that it will spark some growth. The blog Anti-Racist Canada has reported on this growth, noting that the nativist Canadians United 4 Canada have begun to ally with neo-Nazis in the Soldiers of Odin project. Charlene O’Farrell, who started that group on Facebook, has posted long diatribes in support of the Soldiers of Odin to start “protecting Canada and us(sic) women, children and even men who can’t defend themselves from being attacked or rapped(sic) if this should happen here in Canada.”
Dave FightingBack, a Facebook name, has also been a high profile member organizing in Canada, known for neo-Nazi connections, has sent back the kind words to O’Farrell. Anti-Racist Canada further exposed several of the SOO organizers who were sporting neo-Nazi tattoos and images, Confederate battle flags, and “seig heiling” in various social media posts. Several of them are members of known skinhead gangs, affiliated with Blood and Honor “white noise” music networks, and sporting Rock Against Communism and Totenkopf t-shirt images. This includes one SOO organizer, Kory Knowles, who, among being friends with O’Farrell, is also friends with open Creativity Movement followers. It would appear that, at least in Canada, the SOO movement is almost entirely run by neo-Nazi skinheads looking for a political crossover, and the crossover between them and Canadians United 4 Canada has led many open neo-Nazis to now be made admins of the Canadians United 4 Canada Facebook group.
Now the Soldiers of Odin have organized a “meet-up” event for those interested in their racist organizing project, one that is not a public event and instead a private gathering dedicated towards furthering organizing projects. In California, a meet-up is planned for April 30th at Lodi Lake Park, in Lodi, CA. Topher Justis, one of the U.S. Soldiers of Odin organizer who has been active online, seems to be one of the key organizers of this.
In an effort to call attention to the racial violence that is embedded in the Soldiers of Odin project, as well as to demoralize their plans, this would be a great event to have an anti-fascist contingent attempt to attend and counter-protest. If you would like to go under the radar, you could also attend and send in a report back that could further aid anti-fascist counter organizers to give inside information on plans, specific organizers, and hard information.