Cruz, Florida Shooting and the Far Right: How long before gun control and white supremacist groups are controlled?

Nikolas cuz

Nikola Cruz, a 19 year old, has been charged with the murder of 17 people who it is alleged Cruz shot at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
This incident raises two important issues. One relates to US gun control as once more we have witnessed another massacre of innocent people, which from the view of this UK citizen it is incomprehensible as to why the US has not introduced legislation bringing in stricter and tighter conditions over gun ownership and its use. Clearly the influence of the US’ National Rifle Association must be strong on many US politicians, who from my perspective appear to see votes more important than their constituents’ lives. A reliance on the second amendment of the 1791 Bill of Rights that states, ‘A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed’ in 2018 seems a rather outdated constitutional right. Written at a time when the US did not have a standing army, as the US now has one of the world’s most powerful military this right seems to be obsolete. This is not the main focus of this blog, it is a second issue that this murder raises regarding Cruz’s alleged association with the far right, in particular the group Republic of Florida (RoF). If proved it demonstrates how influential these groups are in inspiring individuals to carry out acts of murder and violence in their name be they direct to by that group or not.

republic of florida flag

A white supremacist group, RoF has claimed that Cruz was associated with them. This is an allegation that is currently being investigated and has yet to be confirmed. That said over the last few years globally there has been a rise in murder and violent acts carried by individuals influenced by the far right narrative. This has included the killing of six people at a mosque in Quebec, Canada in January 2017 by Alexandre Bissonnette. In the UK examples include the conviction of a member of the now proscribed group National Action, Zak Davies for attempt murder, Thomas Mair for the murder of UK MP Jo Cox and more recently Darren Osborne for the murder and injury to Muslim worshippers outside a mosque in Finsbury Park, London. In 2017 the US witnessed the killing of Heather Heyer who was protesting against a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia where it is alleged that James Field (who allegedly has Nazi sympathies) drove into the protestors killing Heather Heyer and injuring 35 others.

us bill of rights

The question is if other states should follow the UK’s lead and start proscribing certain far right groups as terrorist organisations? In raising this question concerns will be expressed as to how this would be seen as a step limiting certain rights. In Europe these are mainly governed by articles 11, freedom of expression and article 12, freedom of association under the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (articles 10 and 11 respectively under the Council of Europe’s European Convention on Human Rights). In the US these rights come under amendment 1 of the 1791 Bill of Rights. In a democracy it is important that views can be expressed freely and to associate with whoever we want to without fear of retribution from the state. As Sedley LJ said in the UK case Redmond-Bate v Director of Public Prosecutions [1999] EWHC Admin 733:
‘Freedom of speech includes not only the inoffensive but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and the provocative, provided it does not tend to provoke violence. Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.’
The phrase that is important in this judgement is, ‘…provided it does not tend to provoke violence’. Note this is not to promote violence, just merely to provoke violence, that is merely to inspire someone to carry out violence.

antipodean resistance
It can be argued that the RoF (formed in 2014) promotes violence. Under the RoF’s ten codes, code 3 promotes a willingness to ‘wage battle’ by encouraging its followers to maintain a level of fitness saying, ‘You cannot fight if you are tired and weak’. Code 7 promotes its followers to be part of an organised militia. RoF has contact and associations with other white supremacist groups including Atomwaffen. Atomwaffen openly describes itself as a neo-Nazi group and as seen on their website the group provokes violence in achieving their aims. In Canada a recent study revealed that there are approximately 100 extreme far right groups active in Canada including Soldiers of Odin, the Alt-Right Group Heritage Front, Blood and Honour and based in Quebec, La Meute (translated as ‘Wolf Pack’), who between 1985 to 2014 were responsible for more than 120 violent incidents. In Australia a number of far right groups exist including Aryan Nation, Combat 18, National Democratic Party for Australia, Soldiers of Odin and United Patriots Front. Formed in late 2016 one of the more recent extreme far right groups to emerge in Australia is Antipodean Resistance. Antipodean Resistance is also openly a neo-Nazi group that appears to have based itself on the UK group National Action. The language and imagery used between Antipodean Resistance, National Action and groups like Atomwaffen are identical.
Earlier this week the UK’s Home Secretary, Amber Rudd revealed that she is encouraging internet service providers to use software that blocks Islamist extremist content. While the Islamist narrative is equally as vile as that of the far right, perhaps globally politicians should look at encouraging companies to use software that also blocks far right extremist content. Maybe other states should go further and proscribe those far right groups that are openly provoking violence. In doing so, this would give the police much wider powers and offences in which to deal effectively with the threat far right groups are posing to the security of citizens in many states. If it is later evidenced that Cruz had connections with RoF surely this is also evidence that certain far right groups should be prevented from carrying out their activities that is attractive to the disenchanted in society and, those like Cruz, vulnerable to being drawn towards violent activity. Rightly, if these were Islamist inspired groups, there would be more vociferous calls from politicians and the public for something to be done. It should be the same for far right groups that promote or merely provoke violence too.

My terrorism book cover

I discuss many of these issues in my forthcoming book ‘Terrorism: Law and Policy’ that is being published by Routledge in March 2018.

Osborne Convicted of Terrorist Murder: Time for all extreme far right groups like Britain First to be banned?

METROGRAB:Suspected  Finsbury Park attacker is detained by police and members of the public
Photo credit: Nawaf Atiq/ Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/nawaf.atiq

Darren Osborne has been convicted of murder and the attempted murder of nine others when he drove a van into Muslim worshippers at Finsbury Park in June 2017. Osborne received a life sentence where he will serve a minimum of 43 years in prison. While tried for murder, as it usual with terrorist incidents when persons are killed, the political cause (here extreme far right) was a sentencing factor and the trial judge, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb stated that Osborne’s actions was a terrorist attack as he intended to kill.

It is important we recognise the dangers the extreme far right pose to the security and safety of citizens, not just in the UK but globally. Extremism in all its forms from Islamist to extreme far right.

National Action 2

In the UK, while the UK extreme far right group National Acton was proscribed in December 2016 as a terrorist organisation (that was followed the groups morphed after National Action was proscribed, Scottish Dawn and NS131), there are other extreme far right groups whose extremist message is influencing others towards violence carried out in their name. That violence is invariably targeted towards minorities, that for many far right groups does not just focus on race and religion but sexuality and political views.

Jayda Fransen court case

The group Britain First is a prime example of an extreme far right group the UK government should seriously consider proscribing as a terrorist organisation. Currently its leader, Paul Golding, and its deputy leader Jayda Fransen are on trial for allegedly carrying out religiously aggravated harassment. The pair  targeted a person related to a rape trial. This is not the first occasion Golding and Fransen have been arrested and appeared in court. There are many examples  including in December 2017 Fransen appeared at Belfast Magistrates Court for allegedly using anti-Islamic comments. In December 2016 Golding was jailed for eight weeks for breaching  am injunction prohibiting him from entering mosques in Bedfordshire. In November 2016 Fransen was convicted for religious aggravated harassment, receiving a £2,000 fine.

Britain-First-badge

While Britain First’s mission statement does not explicitly state it is anti-Islamic, there is a picture of Golding and Fransen with their supporters with a banner saying ‘Time to fight Islamic terror’. The statement says Britain First’s policies are pro-British, loving ‘our people, our heritage and culture’, defending them no matter what odds the group faces, the question is who is ‘our’? The statement is clear the group is anti-foreigner,. anti-asylum seeker and anti-migrant, adding that Christianity, that the group sees as the bedrock and foundation of Britain’s national life, is under ‘ferocious assault, with Christians facing discrimination and persecution.

donald trump 1

It is perhaps time now for the UK government to proscribe Britain First as their narrative does influence others to believe their skewed and warped ideology. The problem of them being free to release anything they want to say is the group can grasp any legitimacy of its narrative, especially when that legitimacy comes from an unexpected source like the US President. In November 2017 US President, Donald Trump retweeted three of Fransen’s tweets that purported to show actions of Muslims , with those actions being shown to be a false depiction of what Fransen was using them for. Fransen jumped on this using it to legitimise Britain First’s narrative claiming that the US President supports them. This incident caused a bitter row between the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May and Donald Trump. Donald Trump has since said he is prepared to apologise for retweeting Britain First’s tweets, claiming that he had no knowledge of what the group stands for.

Although small in membership numbers, groups like Britain First and National Action do inspire others to carry out violent attacks. This is why they should all be proscribed a it gives the security services and the police wider powers and a wider number of offences to deal with the far right. This is seen in the number of arrests there have been on members of National Action, where even in January 2018 six alleged members of National Action were arrested in the UK. In addition to the wider powers being proscribed organisations reduces the platforms from which to spread their damaging and dangerous narrative with which to inspire those less aware of current affairs or special issues from carrying out acts of violence. Anything that does this has to be a positive move.

prevent logo

It is important counter-narratives are developed and used against all forms of extremism and this is an important strand of Prevent strategies. While Prevent has had its problems in the past, there is no credible alternative to use at the moment and the strategy does work. We should all work towards the goal of helping those who are vulnerable to being drawn towards terrorism by producing an effective counter-narrative and making as hard as possible for any extremist group to get their message out.

National Action Member Charged with Encouraging Murder of UK MP

National Action 2

A 31 year-old male, Christopher Lythgoe has been charged for being a member of a proscribed group, the extreme far right group National Action and for encouraging the murder of a UK Member of Parliament (MP), Rosie Cooper. Lythgoe is appearing in Westminster Magistrates Court (London) today. National Action were proscribed as a terrorist group in December 2016 by the UK government.

LBC logo

I will be discussing the implications of this along with the threat extreme far right groups pose to state security with Shelagh Fogarty on LBC just after 3pm (BST) today (27th Oct)

Australian Extreme Far Right Group Antipodean Resistance: Should it be Proscribed Like National Action in the UK?

antipodean resistance

The rise in prominence in nationalist politics has created an environment allowing extreme far right groups to feel more confident and able to express publically their views and beliefs. In Australia One Nation is a right wing nationalist political party that has a number of elected politicians in both state governments and in Australia’s federal government, including its founder and leader, Pauline Hanson. In essence One Nation is an anti-immigration and anti-Islam party, exemplified by Pauline Hanson’s recent theatrics in the Senate when she attended a session dressed in a burqa as part of a protest against Islamic women wearing the garment. Some of the most prominent Australian far right groups includes Aryan Nation, Combat 18, National Democratic Party for Australia, Soldiers of Odin and United Patriots Front. Formed in late 2016 and one of the more recent extreme far right groups to emerge in Australia is Antipodean Resistance. The group is clearly influenced by the national socialist ideology and appears to be inspired by the UK group National Action (who is now a proscribed group in the UK). Looking at their website, to date most of their activity appears rather innocuous as they have been involved in is placing stickers and posters at various locations such as universities, churches and other public buildings. While many groups are clearly anti-immigration or anti-Islam, Antipodean Resistance make it clear that are also anti-sematic, homophobic, racist, anti-multiculturalism and have no time for liberal democratic principles. The articles and news items on their website make this very clear, as seen in an article ‘Being White is Not Enough’ posted in July 2017 that says:

‘There are many, many poor quality or degenerate evil whites in the world. White people can be race traitors, selfish capitalists/communists, rapists, paedophiles and faggots … White men have dropped the ball. We’ve let Jews, non-whites, feminists and degenerates run our nations to the ground.’

antipodean resistance 1

In their latest news bulletin on their website, Antipodean Resistance have attacked the latest journalists’ reporting of their activities and politicians who have equated Antipodean resistance to Islamist based terrorism saying:

‘All reasonable people reading through their nonsense should be able to see the ham fisted attempt at equating any form of legitimate nationalism as terrorism … The problems we as a society face won’t go away with MORE liberalism, MORE state oppression or MORE non-whites. Our society will only start to become healthy with a strong dose of FACISM and nothing else.’

Antipodean Resistance are very open as to the conditions one must meet to join the group. An applicant must be white and living in Australia with ‘blacks, Asians, Jews or mixed abominations’ prohibited along with white people who are in a relationship with a non-white as ‘racial treason cannot be tolerated’. As they brand themselves as the 21st century Hitler Youth, an Antipodean Resistance applicant must be in their teens or twenties, free from serious physical or mental disabilities and must not be a homosexual.

antipodean resistance poster 1antipodean resistance poster

There are calls for Antipodean Resistance to be proscribed as a terrorist organisation. While to date the group have only posted stickers and posters, Antipodean Resistance claim to radicalise their followers at radicalisation camps where they also deliver combat and survival training to its followers. Federal Labour MP, Anne Aly, who worked in counter-terrorism and radicalisation prior to her election, would like to see Antipodean Resistance and similar groups be proscribed as terrorist and violent groups. She says by Australia focusing on the jihadist threat it is missing a very real threat as Antipodean Resistance is about violence and hatred, not about expressing opinions in a civil debate. As the group’s ideology is about killing people, it only takes one person for a terrorist attack to succeed.

The Link between the UK’s National Action and Australia’s Antipodean Resistance

National Action 2
Formed in 2013, National Action see themselves as political radicals not extremists. They promoted themselves as a non-violent organisation, yet actions by their members and those influenced by their narrative suggests otherwise. National Action openly admit to being national socialists, following a contemporary version of the Nazi ideology and actively encourage young people to join them. In their statement of what they represent, regarding the use of violence National Action state they:

‘…only advocate legal violence, i.e. through the Law. Our ultimate aim of a white Britain can only ever be achieved through state power and the complicity of state institutions; Police force, Army, Intelligence Services, etc.’

national action 5

However actions by the group’s members contradicts this position and is one of the key reasons why in December 2016 the UK government proscribed them as a terrorist organisation. Prior to their proscription National Action’s early activity was similar to that seen with Antipodean Resistance that included posting stickers and posters at various locations, including universities in an attempt to recruit members from the student population. What appears as an innocent activity belied the vitriolic intolerance of others and the violence contained in their ideology. This was seen in National Action’s website (that has been taken down since their proscription) that contained phrases such as ‘gas all traitors’ and ‘fight for your country’, which some of its members took literally. Evidence of the latter can be seen in the professionally produced National Action videos that were posted on their website and on YouTube where one consistently hears comments by National Action spokesmen inciting and glorifying violence. An example is the video National Action produced in January 2016 filmed in Newcastle and posted on YouTube where the National Action speaker says, ‘A war is brewing. … And we fight’ and a couple of members then attack a black man who was playing a saxophone.

zak davies

How this self-professed non-violent group’s ideology is influencing its members to commit violence is exemplified with the conviction of one of its members, Zack Davies who in June 2015 was convicted of the attempted murder of a Sikh, Dr Bhambra. This was an unprovoked attack on Dr Bhambra who was shopping at a supermarket when Davies attempted to decapitate him. During the attack Davies shouted racist remarks and had with him a National Action flag. When asked by the police why he carried out the attack, Davies said it was because Dr Bhambra was an Asian. In January 2017 a 17 year-old teenager from Bradford who was a member of National Action was arrested prior to National Action being proscribed and convicted of making a pipe bomb, but not of the offence of preparing an act of terrorism. During his trial it was revealed that he idolised Hitler and saw Thomas Mair, who killed UK Member of Parliament, Jo Cox, as a hero, posting on Facebook, ‘There is one less race traitor in Britain thanks to this man.’
Impact of Proscription on Extremist Groups

Impact of Proscription on Extremist Groups

Since National Action became proscribed as a terrorist organisation the impact this has had on investigations into the group’s activities has already had some impact as there have been a number of arrests made in the UK under the Terrorism Act 2000. In two separate investigations, one led to four members of the British Army being arrested on the 5th September 2017 under section 11 Terrorism Act 2000, being a member of a proscribed organisations, the second led to eleven people being arrested under section 11, five of whom are suspected of funding terrorism and six suspected of preparing acts of terrorism against individuals.

ns131

Recognising that proscription of far right groups can result in them going underground as they become increasingly covert in how they carry out their activities. It is also recognised that proscription will not stop a group from carrying out attacks as seen currently with Islamist groups and nationalist groups such as the New IRA in the UK. That said, proscription allows the security services and the police to investigate them under the wider powers provided by terrorism legislation. With groups like the far right, their organisers can try to avoid coming under terrorism legislation by breaking up and morphing into new groups as National Action have done with the names Scottish Dawn and NS131 (National Socialism Anti-Capitalist Action). Once found they too can be proscribed which, having laid an Order in September 2017, the UK government is currently in the process of doing.

Returning to Australia, while its far fight group activity has been relatively minor from holding protests to posting stickers and posters at public buildings, especially where a group espouses the national socialist narrative like Antipodean Resistance, the Australian government should seriously consider taking a hard legislative line. They only have to look at the UK where in its formative years National Action carried out similar action. As they have based themselves on National Action, Antipodean Resistance’s rise in activities can be nipped in the bud by proscribing the group.