On Saturday, June 11, police in Idaho arrested 31 men, including two South Dakotans, who they believe were planning an attack on a Pride parade. These men are alleged to be a part of a group called Patriot Front.
Patriot Front is a white nationalist organization, and it is one of several extremist groups with a presence in South Dakota.
The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps a database of extremist groups operating in the United States. The database lists four hate groups active in South Dakota in 2021. These are the Proud Boys, Patriot Front, Amerikaner, and PZG Inc.
PZG Inc. may be the simplest of these entities to understand, and it is the only which is a registered business. PZG Inc. is a business which sells Nazi memorabilia. Not German military memorabilia, not World War II memorabilia, but Nazi memorabilia.
From their website: “History is forever and it cannot be unlived! It’s not yours to erase, rewrite, tear down or deny! It belongs to us all and if “it” (WW2, Adolf Hitler, SS or Nazi) offends then even better for making us receptive to the historic lessons of courage, strength, and sacrifice from those of all sides, along with the wisdom and grace to move past our pain and trauma towards a brighter future for us all.“
While the site claims the goal is to impart the ‘historic lessons of courage, strength, and sacrifice’ from all sides, it should again be noted that the site almost exclusively carries Nazi memorabilia.
PZG Inc. was established in 2002, and carries such items as Hitler candles, Nazi propaganda and other elements of memorabilia, including coins, knives and modern reproductions of things such as Nazi arm bands.
The Proud Boys may be the most well known of the groups currently present in the state.
Per the SPLC, the Proud Boys are an organization that was formed in 2016 by VICE Media co-founder Gavin McInnes. The group appeared alongside other extremist groups at the 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ rally, which was organized by then Proud Boy Jason Kessler, who has often espoused white nationalist ideas such as the ‘great replacement’ theory.
NOTE: The great replacement theory is a false conspiracy which claims that plans have been made to supplant the white majority population of the United States (and other nations) with non-whites through the mechanisms such as mass migration, immigration, interracial marriage and more. This theory, which has no basis in reality has been tied to several acts of murder and terrorism. Most recently this ideology was in part responsible for the mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY. The accused perpetrator of the attack made posts on social media littered with elements of the great replacement theory. Marchers at Unite the Right in 2017 chanted “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” Many elements of this ideology can be traced back to a book called The Turner Diaries, a novel published in 1978 by William Luther Pierce, a white supremacist and anti-Semite. The book, which chronicled a fictional race war has been referred to by the FBI as the ‘bible of the racist right‘ due to it’s influence on right wing terrorists, including Timothy McVeigh, the perpetrator of the Oklahoma City Bombing. Other events influenced by this theory include the mass shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019, and El Paso, also in 2019.
The Proud Boys are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric, and have frequently been tied to violence at protests and rallies across the U.S.
More recently, members of the group, including current leader Enrique Tarrio, have been charged with seditious conspiracy in their involvement in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
In 2019, the organization applied for a permit to have a street dance in Scotland, South Dakota, but withdrew the application after it was approved due to ‘safety concerns.’
Billy Knutson, one of three South Dakotans charged in connection to the January 6 insurrection, is a rapper who has displayed support for the Proud Boys.
As previously mentioned, Patriot Front is a white nationalist organization. White nationalists, as outlined by the SPLC espouse white supremacist or white separatist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites. Other such groups include but are by no means limited to the KKK, neo-Confederates, neo-Nazis and Christian Identity adherents.
According to the SPLC, Patriot Front is an organization stemming from the explicitly fascist Vanguard America. Rather than espouse direct support for fascism, Patriot Front instead puts forth a visage of overt patriotism, while at the same time calling for an end to democracy in America.
The group also espouses the idea that non-whites cannot be classified as Americans, as they do not descend from European ancestry. Patriot Front are also large proponents of the great replacement theory.
Patriot Front has been active in South Dakota on multiple occasions. In June 2021, unknown members of the group hung banners from bridges over I-29 with quotes reading “no white guilt” and “better dead than red”.
In June 2020, the group placed stickers with the “better dead than red” slogan around Brookings, S.D., and sent anonymous letters to local businesses, telling them that protestors were on their way to the town to riot.
‘Amerikaner’, the German translation of ‘American’, is the 4th group listed as active in South Dakota by the SPLC.
In an email exchange, the SPLC provided additional information to KELOLAND News about the group.
"Amerikaner is a platform for white nationalist podcasts, including its flagship podcast “Achtung! Amerikaner.” That podcast features host “Gordon Kahl,” who frequently appears alongside cohosts “Grug Nationalist” and “Grant Norman.” Kahl takes his pseudonym from the North Dakota farmer and Posse Comitatus movement adherent who, in 1983, fatally shot two US marshals who were coming to arrest him for unpaid taxes. The podcast features roundups of news from the Midwest (frequently focusing on topics like the growing Somali population in Minnesota), interviews with other white nationalists who live in the Midwest, and interviews [with] notable groups and individuals in the white nationalist movement. The hosts frequently cite white nationalist ideas, alleging, for example, that Black people and more prone to criminality and less intelligent than white people."
The platform hosts numerous other podcasts with names like “The Learned Elders of Zyklon.” The podcast hosts are integrated into the broader white nationalist movement, hosting guests from other racists podcasts, and frequently diving into niche movement jokes and gossip.
In addition to this, English language social media profiles using the name Amerikaner can be found, which promote white nationalist ideas such as the great replacement theory, including one which uses the phrase ‘Me ne Frego’ in their bio. Me ne Frego, Italian for ‘I don’t Care’ is the title of a fascist song from the 1920s, which hails poet Gabriele D’Annunzio and dictator Benito Mussolini as the fathers of the fascist movement.
Other extremist groups with ties to South Dakota include the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers.
The Three Percenters are a branch of the militia movement.
Release our men’: Far-right used power grid threats to try and blackmail government into freeing neo-Nazi bank robbery suspects
The threat was picked up by the Department of Homeland Security.
A suspected white supremacist threatened to attack the power grid unless two men with far-right ties were released from custody, documents obtained by the Daily Dot show.
In a bulletin shared on April 6 by the South Dakota Fusion Center (SDFC), which disseminates intelligence to law enforcement on suspected criminal and terrorist activities, screenshots from Telegram show an unidentified individual demanding the release of two men arrested by the FBI in late 2022.
The individual shared “four diagrams of electrical grid transformer equipment” before stating that failure to release the men would “result in more attacks on infrastructure.”
In the first eight months of 2022, the power grid was attacked, primarily by gunfire, 107 times. Many attacks have been linked to far-right groups looking to sow chaos and advance their cause.
The bulletin, acquired by the Daily Dot through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), notes that the Telegram post named “Doc Grimson and Luke Kenna” as the two men in custody. A June 23 press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York states that Kenna and Grimson, real name Michael Brown, Jr., are accused of planning a bank robbery.
The 41-year-old Brown, a native of Pennsylvania, pled guilty to conspiring to commit bank robbery in June and is set to be sentenced on Sept 3. Kenna, a 43-year-old from New York, is scheduled to appear before a judge on Aug 17.
The plot was uncovered after Kenna was pulled over by police in New York during a routine traffic stop on Nov 26. Kenna was reportedly wearing all-black clothing, black gloves, a ballistic vest, and was in possession of a diary that laid out plans for the bank robbery. Kenna was also found to be in possession of an untraceable “ghost gun” and a large knife.
Investigators later discovered a chat group on the encrypted messaging app Threema titled “SS Screenwriters Guild,” a reference to the Nazi paramilitary organization, that laid out in intricate detail the planning and preparation by Kenna, Brown, and a third individual, later identified as 29-year-old from Virginia.
A December report from the Daily Beast, based on an unsealed criminal complaint, details Kenna’s links to the neo-pagan hate group known as the Wolves of Vinland. Kenna’s Facebook profile was also found to contain imagery “consistent with white supremacist ideology,” including the Nazi sonnenrad as well as “pagan symbols/runes.”
Brown, who sold knives through his now-defunct company Black Market Tactical, is known to have run a neo-Nazi Telegram channel, although it is unclear whether the recent threats were made on that same channel.
The Telegram post listed two specific demands before threatening to attack the grid if they weren’t met: “1. Release our men 2. Leave them alone there after.” The individual also captioned the four diagrams, with a notice coyly stating that they were “for educational purposes only of course” before adding an upside down smile face emoji. According to the bulletin, the post and images were obtained by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Intelligence and Analysis, indicating it was monitoring the threat.
The Daily Dot is declining to publish the uncensored diagrams.
Neither the FBI or DHS responded to requests for comment from the Daily Dot regarding the threat. The attorney for Kenna, Matthew E. Trainor, did not respond either.
Last year saw a significant uptick in attacks against the power grid, including high profile incidents in North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Oregon, and Florida. It still remains unclear the motive behind all the attacks. Far-right groups on Telegram have implied that many of the incidents are linked and were carried out by “combatants,” although no evidence has been presented.
As exclusively reported by the Daily Dot this month, documents also revealed law enforcement’s concern over some extremists’ interest in the Flipper Zero hacking tool in relation to the power grid. Experts, however, say that such concerns are unfounded and greatly exaggerate the actual capabilities of the tool.