‘Active’ hate groups made up of neo-Nazis growing in the US, experts warn

One of the members from the far-right group Proud Boys wearing a black and yellow bandana, cap and sunglasses

“Active” hate groups that target LGBTQ+ gatherings are growing in the US, researchers have warned. 

Stephen Piggott, a researcher with the Western States Center, a group that works to strengthen inclusive democracy, has tracked the growth of neo-Nazi groups in the Pacific Northwest and found that those attacking LGBTQ gatherings call themselves the Northwest Nationalist Network.

He told news outlet NPR that the groups focus on “centering, organising and trying to recruit people through combat sports… but also, preparing for political and racially motivated violence”.

Groups have also been notably active in Arizona, California, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, while two new networks have recently been announced: The Dixie Alliance, which covers the Southern states, and the Midwest Network, Piggott said.

Neo-nazi groups have been classified by the FBI as “the greatest domestic threat to the United States”.

Morgan Moon, an investigative researcher at the Anti-Defamation League, which estimates there are active groups in at least 30 states, said: “These clubs are decentralised and they’re forming on their own. 

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“We’re starting to see [the active club model] pop up in Europe as well as Canada now.”

In June 2022, 31 men packed into the back of a truck were arrested near the North Idaho Pride Alliance’s Coeur d’Alene Pride in the Park event. Their uniforms were said to affiliate them with the neo-Nazi organisation Patriot Front .

That same month, neo-fascist group Proud Boys were filmed beating up members of another extremist organisation at a Pride event in Oregon City. The incident resulted in two arrests. 

Proud Boys were involved in the storming of the US Capitol in January 2021 and have become notorious for protesting against LGBTQ+ events, including Drag Queen Story Hours, although many of their demonstrations have been met with outpourings of support for the queer community.

In the UK, anti-trans pundit Posie Parker founded Standing for Women – an anti-trans campaigning group she uses as a vehicle to vocalise her so called gender-critical views. 

At one of Parker’s protests in Australia in March, a group of neo-Nazis joined the gender-critical rally, chanting “white power” and performing the Nazi salute.

According to NPR, in the US, the growth of the active club scene is largely due to white nationalist Robert Rundo, the co-founder of the militant alt-right Rise Above Movement. In March this year, Rundo was arrested in Romania and extradited to the US to face charges of rioting and conspiring to riot at political rallies.

Michael Colborne, a researcher, investigator and journalist at Bellingcat, told NPR: “What Rundo did was take a model of European far-right extremism: decentralised [and] quite honestly, borrowing – if not stealing from – far-right football hooligan subcultures, right down to aesthetics and plopping that down into an American context as something new and innovative.” 

Colborne said despite not being in the US over the past several years, Rundo continues to play a central role in the growth of the active club scene through podcasts and selling merchandise online. 

Rundo has also attempted to deepen trans-Atlantic ties with similar-minded hate groups, with Colborne spotting him at events hosted by ultra-nationalists in Budapest, Hungary and Bulgaria in early 2020.