In January, Portuguese news outlets reported on the shocking news that a new far-right group with ties to neo-fascists and neo-Nazis, “Grupo 1143” (Group 1143) planned an “Against the Islamization of Europe” march with tiki torches through a diverse central Lisbon neighborhood. Online, promoters of the event were raising money to “buy 40 firecrackers” and “five bottles of liquid paraffin,” as well as “40 maritime green and red flares.” This provoked a backlash from local politicians, anti-fascist groups, and anti-racist NGOs that called for the march to be canceled. (At the time of publishing, Lisbon City Hall has canceled the march originally proposed to be held at the Praça Martim Moniz, but organizers say they will still march elsewhere in the city at the same time.)
An investigation by the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE) into “Grupo 1143” (Group 1143), resuscitated by infamous Portuguese neo-Nazi Mario Machado in late 2023 and the organizers of the march, finds that there are reasons to worry about whether an event such as the one originally planned for February 3 might descend into violence. This is due in part to the membership, which includes amongst its ranks neo-Nazis, skinheads, and historical ties to the violent neo-Nazi skinhead group, Portuguese Hammerskins, through Machado himself. In addition, Grupo 1143’s efforts to leave tags with references to Nazism, and overt harassment of minorities, implies that a demonstration in one of Lisbon’s most multicultural districts would be at least provocative.
Grupo 1143 had long been a Portuguese ultras sports group, known for their fanatical team support. Such outfits are prominent in Europe, with Grupo 1143 having explicit ties to the Portuguese far right, and more specifically, the Portuguese Hammerskins, the most violent skinhead group in Portugal in recent decades. Originally formed in 2003, after ultra football culture was spread through Portugal, by a dissident from the Juventude Leonina (Juve Leo) ultras, the group became a faction within the larger Juve Leo club. The group would infamously be led by Machado, who first came into contact with far-right ideology when attending football matches with the Juve Leo, and consisted of a significant amount of “carecas” (skinheads) as members, all of whom were under 30 years old.
Aside from violence at matches and yelling racist insults at minorities, the group would be known for using the totenkopf skull, swastikas, and Celtic crosses as their symbols, sporting neo-Nazi tattoos, and flying a white banner that read “Sporting SSempre” (Sporting Forever) with the two “S’s” in the second word resembling Nazi lightning bolts. Grupo 1143 was distinct in Portuguese football culture for its isolation from the rest of the Juve Leo fans and their tendency to commit racist attacks even on supporters of their own football team. This isolation would eventually lead to a Grupo 1143 splitting from the Juve Leo fans in February 2003.
Historically, Grupo 1143 existed within a broader network of far-right organizations in Portugal, including the political party Partido Nacional Renovador (National Renewal Party, PNR), the pressure group Frente Nacional (National Front), the rock band Ódio (hate), and the internet site Fórum Nacional (National Forum), and served as a recruitment tool for the Hammerskins and their affiliated organizations as far back as the early 2000s. Court documents obtained by GPAHE from a 2022 case involving 27 members of the Portugal Hammerskins detail police raids in 2016 that uncovered Grupo 1143 memorabilia in the possession of many of the Hammerskins, including a wooden baseball bat with a leaded tip with the insignia “Grupo 1143,” testifying to the close relationship between the two groups at the time of the arrests. By 2015, Grupo 1143 started to fall apart, and was believed to have become either inactive or dormant, due in part to the departure of Machado in 2014, and the arrests of 20 members of the Portugal Hammerskins in 2016.
It appears, however, that Grupo 1143 is back, now reconstituted as a political movement that is anti-Muslim. In late 2023, the original group’s leader, Machado, reorganized the sports club into a more outright political movement that harasses minorities, takes direct action against symbols of progressivism in the country, and holds demonstrations against Muslims and immigrants. While the extent to which the current group remains linked to the Hammerskins is unclear, continuity exists with the old Grupo 1143 in that the new organization is led by Machado, uses the same symbols, slogans, and aesthetics, and at least retains some semblance of an interest in athletics. Aside from the usage of the same name, Grupo 1143, which references the “founding of Portugal,” the year that the Treaty of Zamora was signed rendering Portugal independent from Spain, the group also employs the same slogan “Orgulhosamente SÓS” (Proudly Alone) used by the football ultras.
Original 1143 shirt from a Hammerskin member (left); 1143 flag held by a supporter of the new group (right)
Instead of a local base of supporters in Lisbon, where the football team is located, the Grupo 1143 counts members from across the country in cities such as Porto, Lisbon, Evora, Braga, Guimarães and Santarém. Its members include the usual supporters of neo-fascist groups, such as skinheads, Casual-style Nazis, and regular promoters of neo-Nazi content on social media platforms such as X. The numbers 1143 and 88 are well represented in the usernames of individuals affiliated with the Grupo 1143, such as Nuno, the manager of a Lisbon-based cleaning service who uses the letters 88, standing for “Heil Hitler” in his username. The more radical members of the group have been responsible for the recent wave of street tags of 1143 symbols, tear down LGBTQ+ flags, and harassment of minorities across the country. Several recent tags using the 1143 logo consisted of traditional symbols of the far right, such as the slogan “Portugal aos Portugueses” (Portugal for the Portuguese) and the neo-Nazi Celtic cross in Braga and Guimarães. Despite sharing these on his personal page for the 1143, Machado has claimed that another tag that made news, consisting of the 1143 logo and a swastika on the store of a mini-market owned by a Muslim immigrant, was a “false flag” by left-wing agitators or secret services.
Several current and former members of the far right political party Chega (Enough) are a part of the movement, including Rui Roque, known for proposing a motion at a Chega convention to remove the uteri of women who had an abortion, and who was recently expelled from the party. Other far-right veterans include António, a former member of the Proud Boys, and a card-carrying member of Chega, who proudly shows his Proud Boys tattoo, yellow and black Fred Perry polo shirts, and his “stand back and stand by” hat on social media.
At the same time, the reconstituted Grupo 1143 is slightly more diverse and has attracted more supporters outside of the traditional far-right, neo-Nazi circles that do not fit the typical stereotype of members of far-right street organizations. If the previous Grupo 1143 was almost exclusively made up of young white men, the new Grupo 1143 counts among their membership a small percentage of women (albeit still with a large majority of white men), such as Margarida, who shares the 1143 flag as a profile picture on her social media pages; Rafaela, who includes both 1143 and Chega in her bio, writes in support of Machado and Grupo 1143, and includes the recent 1143 banner drop, with the words “Reconquistar Lisboa aos Mouros” (Reconquer Lisbon from the Moors); and Rita, who shows off her 1143 apparel online. A video shared to the 1143 page of “athletes” belonging to the movement shows members such as Paul, a professional bodybuilder, and Angel, a local entrepreneur and owner of a chain of nightclubs in Lisbon. Another member of the group, whom Machado jokingly refers to as “Der Übermensch” (The Superman), allegedly tackled a group of undocumented immigrants after they attempted to flee from a traffic accident, while another member appears to be an individual in military gear holding an assault rifle, alongside other soldiers. Further outside of the circle of 1143 members, a half-a-dozen local Chega activists, including some who have been present at past Chega conventions, can be seen liking and sharing their content on social media.
Grupo 1143’s coming out was expected to be on February 3, when they would parade around Lisbon with anti-Muslim placards and torches against the “Islamization” of Europe along a route with many Muslim-owned restaurants and the main headquarters of the left-wing opposition party Bloco de Esquerda (Left Block). Not only was the path chosen by Machado incredibly contentious, but the announcement of the march generated a lot of publicity due to its subject and planned location. Groups opposed to the protest promised to counter-protest on the same day, and called for the march to be banned by authorities. SOS Racismo (SOS Racism) has stated that they would be filing a criminal complaint against Machado for “discrimination and incitement to hatred and violence.” Only a week before the march was to be held, the Lisbon City Council declared that they would not allow it to proceed due to security concerns, however Machado simply replied that they would hold it on the same day in another part of the city.
Machado claims the demonstration will be a “peaceful” march against the “Islamization of Europe,” a not-so-subtle reference to the racist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that alleges a plot to replace Europeans in their home countries with immigrants and refugees. But Machado’s long rap sheet and multiple prison sentences gives pause. On the night of June 11, 1995, Machado was infamously present with the same group of skinheads found responsible for the murder of Alcindo Moneiro, and convicted of eight instances of “simple bodily harm” for attacking people of African descent not far away in Bairro Alto, for which he was sentenced to four years and three months in prison.
On November 29, 2007, Machado was sentenced to four years and ten months in prison for racial discrimination, possession of a weapon, threats, coercion and aggression in a trial that included over 35 defendants from the skinhead movement for his involvement in the attack on the owner and customer of a bar in Peniche. Then on July 16, 2007, Machado was sentenced to seven months in prison for illegal possession of a weapon, and three months in prison for possession of a prohibited weapon, with a suspended sentence, after an RTP report on Machado displayed him being in possession of an eight-shot semi-automatic shotgun, and stating that his supporters would be ready to “take the streets by storm, if necessary.” In 2009, Machado was sentenced to seven years and two months for crimes related to kidnapping, robbery and coercion.