Neo-Nazis Celebrate the Release and then Call for Violence after the Re-Arrest of Rise Above Movement and Active Club Founder Robert Rundo

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On February 21, a U.S. District Judge in Orange County, California, dismissed criminal charges of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Riot Act and rioting against neo-Nazis Robert Bowman and Robert Rundo, who was arrested and extradited to the United States from Romania after fleeing the country. The dismissal spurred neo-Nazi followers of Rundo and his projects to rejoice in this decision. Their sentiments quickly turned to anger after Rundo was re-arrested just days later on February 23. They are now calling for violence against their perceived “enemies.”

The case was dismissed because Rundo and Bowman were being, according to the judge, “selectively prosecuted” while “far-left extremist groups” involved in the same alleged rioting evaded prosecution. Rundo was free for only two days while a staying order was filed pending an appeal by the prosecution. He was taken back into custody on February 23 following an emergency order issued by the court to arrest Rundo to prevent a flight risk, after he was found to be near the United States-Mexico border.  

Rundo is the founder of the white supremacist Rise Above Movement (RAM), a violent street gang created in Southern California in 2017. RAM engaged in several violent street confrontations, including in the racist riots in Charlotesville, Va., in 2017 among others. Rundo was arrested in 2018 alongside other RAM members; the charges were dropped and subsequently reinstated in January 2023 – until this week’s dismissal.

In late 2020, Rundo began using his influence to facilitate the creation of “Active Clubs” with the help of Russian neo-Nazi Denis Kasputin (Read GPAHE’s report on the Active Club network here). The clubs are meant to be a decentralized international white brotherhood and a training initiative for the creation of a transnational neo-Nazi militia. Active Clubs have experienced rapid growth both online and offline, culminating in the creation of almost 150 chapters worldwide as of late 2023. 

Active Clubs work with numerous other racist groups, such as the Proud Boys, White Lives Matter, the Patriot Front, Action Française and Identitarian groups in France, and the Hammerskins in Canada, Sweden, and Germany. And they have a track record of violence. A key leader in a French Active Club attacked customers at a gay bar in Lille, a leader of a United Kingdom-based Active Club was imprisoned for possessing a Nazi “murder manual,” and Swiss Active Club members had weapons seized and are currently under surveillance by the authorities.

Rundo pointing at street art of the Confederate flag alongside text that reads “Kill your local Antifa scum” (Source: Elliot Higgins on Twitter)

Nazis promote violence following Rundo’s initial arrest

The dismissal of Rundo’s case, and the reasoning for doing so, have acted as justification for Rundo’s hateful beliefs, previous violent actions, and Active Clubs’ thirst to continue their violent mission. In the United States, 21 chapters of Rundo’s neo-Nazi Active Clubs celebrated the decision by posting messages of support on their Telegram channels. Many of these messages were shared from either the American Freedom Party or a group called “American Archives.” These channels celebrated the ruling as a “great day for American freedom” through a “decisive victory over anti-White terrorists,” who they described as “Zionist forces in the United States and Europe.” The Heartland Active Club, based in Kansas City, held an in-person gathering to commemorate Rundo’s pending release.

The Heartland Active Club mobilizes based on Rundo’s release, placing propaganda around the Kansas City, Missouri, area (Source: Telegram)

In their propaganda, Active Club chapters and other white supremacists justified past violence committed by Rundo and advocated for more in the future. One popular image circulating depicts Rundo attacking a protester during a rally attended by RAM, Trump supporters, and leftists. Groups shared it both as a sign of victory, and to remind their followers of the violence for which they are training. The Ohio Active Club shared a picture of someone wearing a Trump t-shirt “diving in the way of a fascist to protect an antifa member,” and denounced it as representative of the relationship between “the far-left, conservatives, and [neo-Nazis],” meaning fascists and neo-Nazis see themselves as more willing to enact violence, which they believe is justified, against anyone they perceive to be on the “far-left.” 

In the chat group for the white supremacist Texas White Lives Matter chapter, the same picture was shared along with a message supposedly explaining the context behind it, calling violent fascist protestors “enthusiastic” and reminiscing about the “alt-right and MAGA…[rallying] together and beat[ing] the shit out of antifa.” A user replied to the post by invoking a quote they attributed to former United States Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell, saying “The conservative is a man who is too cowardly to fight and too fat to run,” criticizing traditional conservatives and Trump supporters as unwilling to engage in the kind of violence in which Rundo and RAM delight in.

Heartland Active Club shares an image endorsing violence against “leftist” protestors. (Source: Telegram)

Similarly, neo-Nazi Telegram influencer “The Western Chauvinist” shared an image of Rundo attacking a protester at a riot, saying Rundo was “correcting antifa behavior.”

The Western Chauvinist shares a photo of Rundo attacking a protester, justifying the violence by calling it “correcting” antifasicsts’ behavior. (Source: Telegram)

Other American neo-Nazis and white supremacists took part in celebrating the decision, including the Sacramento Proud Boys, the American Freedom Party, the Nationalist Network, which is run by neo-Nazi Ryan Sanchez, Nathan Damigo, who was formerly part of the American Identitarian Movement, the neo-Nazi Aryan Freedom Network, neo-Nazi outlet Amerikaner, white nationalist online media network Red Ice TV, and the Patriot Youth, a group with ties to the white nationalist Patriot Front with members as young as 14 operating primarily in gaming spaces but also in real-world campaigns alongside the Tennessee Active Club.

Patriot Youth shares an image of Rundo attacking another protester and exclaiming that Rundo’s violence going unpunished represents a “victory” for the movement (Source: Telegram)

Neo-Nazi Celebrations Worldwide

In Australia, neo-Nazi Thomas Sewell, founder of the Lads Society, European Australian Movement (EAM) and the National Socialist Network (NSN), shared the same images circulating on American neo-Nazi Telegram channels, claiming that while this is “one of many recent victories” it is “certainly Not The Last.” Nathan Bull, a neo-Nazi who has protested alongside the NSN, shared an image of Rundo with the words “Hail Victory,” otherwise known as Seig Heil, a Nazi slogan, placed on it. Neo-Nazi Joel Davis also shared a post about the case’s dismissal.

In Belarus, the country’s Active Club chapter shared a post celebrating Rundo’s release. In Canada, the Frontenac Active Club, chat members of the Canadian Nationalist Party, and the neo-Nazi channel “LeafWaffen,” all joined in celebrating the dismissal of Rundo’s case. Leading figures in the white supremacist Diagolon movement, Jeremy Mackenzie and Alex Vriend, also joined in. Vriend, who admitted to joining an Active Club, rejoiced in Rundo’s ability to now “continue doing work” in California, “where he built his organization.”

In France, the umbrella Active Club France Telegram group posted the previously-mentioned picture from the “American Archives” channel. In Germany, the Active Club-adjacent organization Kampf der Nibelungen posted an image of Rundo wearing a t-shirt with their logo captioned “Welcome back to the madness on this side of the bars – let’s move on!” In Hungary, Active Club-adjacent group Légió Hungária (“Legion of Hungary”) shared a post from fellow Hungarian Telegram channel “Nationalist Zone” discussing Rundo’s flee to Eastern Europe and RAM’s influence in the American nationalist scene as bringing “exercise, street activism and spiritual awareness” back into the mainstream “with a modern look.” 

In Lithuania, the country’s Active Club chapter shared a post by the American Freedom Party and followed up by echoing the sentiment of other Active Club and neo-Nazi chapters, saying the case’s dismissal will “certainly not [be] the last” victory for neo-Nazis. In the Netherlands, “Dutch Dissident,” a Telegram channel that claims to provide news “from a Folkish perspective,” celebrated Rundo’s release and emphasized the judge’s “selective prosecution” reasoning. In Romania, “Casus Belli” (Latin for “Casualties of War”) shared a post calling Rundo an “American Hero” and shared the judge’s reasoning as a cause for celebration. In Spain, “cultural combat community” Devenir Europeo (“Becoming European”) posted a message congratulating Rundo on the dismissal of his case, highlighting the “selective prosecution” reasoning by the presiding judge.

Joy Turns to Anger

Their joy was short-lived. On the morning of February 23, many Active Clubs in the United States and across the globe learned of Rundo being re-arrested. Most have only shared a post by “Justice-Initiative” informing their followers of the arrest, but also calls to support Rundo and send him “commissar[ies],” meaning money for supplies purchased in jail. The Parker County Active Club shared an image of a woman in distress from a 2017 pro-Trump rally, which escalated into violence between protestors and counter-protestors, saying “when antifa terrorists attacked women and high school kids, RAM was there” and questioned whether Trump supporters will “be there” for Rundo after he was arrested again, implying that they should ally with, and support, Rundo.

Members of the chat group for the neo-Nazi outlet Amerikaner were particularly perturbed, with one commenter claiming the United States would not have attempted to re-arrest a “feral n****r with a mile long violent rap sheet” nor a “child predator.” Like the presiding judge, neo-Nazis online believe there is a bias against the far-right in the United States justice system. Neo-Nazi Telegram Influencer “The Western Chauvinist” claimed the arrest to be “legal (((trickery)))” and “selective,” the latter statement once again referring to the Judge’s original decision. The three parentheses encasing “trickery” are referred to as “echoes,” which is an antisemitic symbol used by extremists online to signal the names of those thought to be Jewish – in this case blaming Jews for Rundo’s arrest. International groups weighed in with similar thoughts.

In the Amerikaner chat group, one commenter demonstrates their belief in bias against white people by the American justice system (Source: Telegram)

In Hungary, Légió Hungária issued a statement calling “American law…completely inextricable.” In the United Kingdom, Active Club North West, based in England, shared a “rallying cry” to anyone sympathetic with “Active Clubs, National Revolutionaries and other 3.0 Orgs,” 3.0 being Rundo’s “White Nationalism 3.0” ideology. In this message, Active Club North West told their followers to “expect state repression to scale up” by imposing “chains and bonds…upon White men.” They believe that the “torrents of war” are coming, and that the “old order will crash” as neo-Nazis “usher” in a new “dawn.” Language such as this calling for the mass violence and destruction of democratic political systems resembles accelerationism, a violent ideology endorsed by terrorist organizations like the Atomwaffen Division, whose members were recently arrested for planning an attack that would have taken down Baltimore’s power grid.

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