On March 4th, supporters of Trump’s proto-fascist presidency took to the streets nationwide in a variety of rallies and marches. In response, counter protesters organized in a number of different ways to shut down these events, with varying degrees of success. While, between local and alternative media, much has already been written about the events that took place in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Beyond the overt pro-Trump agenda though that the marchers were supporting, the Oregon “March4Trump” served as a vehicle for the more insidious agenda of white nationalist and militia movement groups. While the growing ties between the patriot movement, white supremacists, and the Alt-Right have begun to be unveiled, the “March4Trump” provides an excellent example as to how exactly this melding is taking place.
But the real story is not the screaming that was carrying back and forth across State Street. In full view of the Trump supporters and counter-protesters, white supremacists and militia members were using this event as a cover to organize in public. The Trump administration is creating opportunities across the nation for violent white supremacists to parade in the open, practice their organizing skills, and gain supporters.
The Portland metro area has a recent transplant to the city, a bona fide member of the KKK and a Christian Identity believer, who has also previously worked with the National Socialist Movement. His name is Steven Howard, and he was present at the March4Trump, mixing it up with those at the rally and taking part in the harassment of the counter-protesters, unopposed by the so-called “security” claiming to “manage” the march.
Steven Howard, the NSM, and the KKK
Howard is not just another southern boy who posts the occasional selfie with the Confederate flag. He has been an Imperial Wizard of the Northern Mississippi White Knights of the KKK since at least 2012, appearing in several documentary films. In 2016, he was working with the National Socialist Movement, and attended their rally in Harrisburg. Recently, he has moved to the Portland area, and is known to reside in Vancouver, Washington.
Renamed the National Socialist Movement (NSM) in 1994, the National Socialist American Workers Freedom Movement was founded in 1974 by former members of the American Nazi Party. The NSM has been stepping up their recruitment efforts in the last decade, and is the largest Neo-Nazi group in the country, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In the last decade, the NSM has been attempting to change their image, to appeal to a wider audience and shake their ties with Third Reich Nazis. They haven’t worn Nazi uniforms since 2007, instead adopting an all black “battle dress” attire. Following the presidential election in 2016, they replaced their swastika emblem with a rune, in attempt to curry favor with the “alt-right” Neo-Nazi rebranding.
The NSM has proved so popular that it has even drawn converts from the KKK, but this has also backfired, as it did in 2007, when Gordon Young, former leader of the World Knights of the KKK who took on leadership of the NSM in Maryland, was forced to resign after being charged with sexually assaulting a minor. Howard’s affair with the NSM also faded quickly. Although it is unknown what caused Howard to depart from the NSM, recently a couple of their members referred to Howard as a “media whore” in an online video, and Howard has returned to referring to himself as the Imperial Wizard of the Northern Mississippi White Knights of the KKK.
On March 4, Howard was in Lake Oswego, where he harassed several counter-protesters, and then stood guarded by the III%ers “security team,” who seemed more than happy to let this KKK member do as he liked in their midst. This is unsurprising, given that the III%ers and Howard share similar roots in the history of American white supremacist movements.
What is unseen in the March 4 photos, is that under his neck bandana, Howard has a 14/83 tattoo. Many people are aware of the “1488” Neo-Nazi slogan, that stands for the “14 words” motto coined by a member of the white supremacist terrorist group The Order. “88” is a stand-in for “HH,” or “Heil Hitler.” In the case of Howard’s tattoo, “83” is for “Hail Christ,” a popular substitution used by members of The Christian Identity movement.
Christian Identity is a racial interpretation of Christianity, which believes that all non-white people will be killed or enslaved to create a heavenly kingdom on earth for “god’s chosen” race. Christian Identity was promoted by George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party. Gordon Kahl, a sovereign citizen tax resister killed by the FBI in 1983 shootout following a shootout with US Marshals, had ties to both the Posse Comitatus movement and Christian Identity. And so did The Order, which was inspired partly by Kahl’s death and by William Luther Pierce’s race-war fantasy novel, The Turner Diaries. The Idaho-based white supremacist church Aryan Nations practices a version of Christian Identity, and Randy Weaver, the target of the ill-fated Ruby Ridge standoff, also had ties to the movement. Christian Identity proponents believe in typical anti-semitic conspiracy theories, and often train in paramilitary tactics as a way of resisting the government and preparing for their fantastical race war.
Howard may pale in comparison to these far more violent figures in American white supremacist history, but he is of the same lineage. The groups he is active with are carrying on the violent, racist legacy, and as Howard showed on March 4, he looks to continue in those footsteps, by assaulting and berating people in a public park in Lake Oswego.
It is perhaps unsurprising that the march organizers are willing to let KKK members and fascists join them, given that they have questionable racial politics of their own. The march was organized by a member of the Oregon III% (The III%ers, or Three Percenters), who are a decentralized militia with links to the Oath Keepers. Unlike the Oath Keepers however, whose membership is strictly former or active servicemen and police, the III%ers are willing to engage with folks with criminal records and other problematic behaviors. These groups have a made it their mission to oppose lawful government, and enact their own vision of a United States in which might makes right, and their armed gangs of paramilitary soldiers confront the federal government, seizing public property for their own enrichment. In the mindset of the III%er, a gun is the only law that counts -- and as the armed “security” at the march has shown, they don’t mind if white power thugs like SH join their gatherings and harass people that they dislike.
In context of the most recent March4Trump, the III%ers agenda became clear when members swooped into organize a caravan from Salem to Lake Oswego after one of their members was able to infiltrate the organizing staff during the fallout of from “Kevin the Geek” being ousted from the planning of the march. This strategy reflects the underlying agenda of the III%ers to use patriotic and Pro-Trump events as a smokescreen for pushing their own agenda.
The III%ers and the Oath Keepers are the contemporary face of the militia or armed patriot movement, which has been experiencing a resurgence since 2009. The 1990s militia movement surged in response to both the Ruby Ridge and Waco standoffs, but reached a peak in 1995, when Timothy McVeigh, a Christian Identity proponent, bombed the Oklahoma City Federal Building with Terry Nichols. The militia movement drew much of its language and concepts from the decentralized Posse Comitatus movement, started in Portland, Oregon in 1969 by a former member of the American fascist organization, The Silver Shirts. Posse Comitatus had deep ties with the Christian Identity movement, and inspired many sovereign citizens. In addition to Christian Identity fantasies of race war and anti-semitic conspiracy theories, Posse Comitatus was united by the idea that the US Constitution’s description of federal powers was a sham, and that county sheriffs were the only legitimate force of legal interpretation and law and order.
The far-right theories of Posse Comitatus have inspired many to not pay taxes or honor any other laws that they happen to disagree with, and engage in armed conflict with authorities or murder. In addition to the federal agents killed by Gordon Kahl in 1983, Posse Comitatus proponent Mike Ryan was found guilty of murdering two people in Nebraska in 1985. One was a five-year boy, killed because he was believed to be a “mongrel,” or mixed race between white and Native American parents. The other was a former member of Ryan’s Posse group, who had been tortured, including anally raped with a shovel handle, until he was dead.
While the name Posse Comitatus seems to have faded, their theories have survived through the ‘90s militia movements, to find new proponents in the the III%ers and the Oath Keepers. The goal of setting up “security teams” to work in close proximity with local law enforcement is part and parcel of a historical strategy introduced by Posse Comitatus, which then became a strong part of the militia movement of the 90’s. As the Trump administration’s Chief Strategist Steve Bannon adamantly carries on about dismantling the “Deep State”, III%ers stand poised in fill in those gaps with their own distorted idea of constitutionalism and freedom.
Founded in 2008 and 2009 respectively, the III%ers and the Oath Keepers have grown in a decentralized fashion, self-organizing across the country without much in the way of national leadership. The Bundy Ranch standoff in 2014 and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge takeover in 2016 provided rallying points for all sorts of unaffiliated armed patriot groups, and while the III%er and the Oath Keepers did not directly take part, they were present at many related events, and often were found in the area, claiming to be “doing security” or keeping a “buffer” between the occupiers and federal agents.
Both of these groups claim that they reject any racist theories, like the strong anti-semitic and anti-Catholic conspiracy theories of their ideological forebearers. And yet, in the vacuum of power that they seek to create, their members’ own bigotries take hold, backed up by the power of their assault rifles. The membership of both groups are strongly anti-Islamic, and promote conspiracy theories about a world takeover of “Sharia law,” which easily replaces the anti-Catholic or anti-semitic conspiracy theories of earlier decades. Individual members of both the III%ers and the Oath Keepers are known to be anti-semitic, racist, and have ties to more traditional hate groups. These groups are known to use threats and intimidation to carry out their political aims with local authorities and politicians, as documented in the Rural Organizing Project’s detailed report, Up in Arms. And under the auspices of the first and second amendments, these groups also walk around in public heavily armed. Their dream of re-enacting the Revolutionary War as they defeat the federal government in order to create their own warlord utopias is manifested in open-carry intimidation.
While the III%ers may have dreams of being some sort of constitutional militia (their name refers to the 3% of English colonists who carried arms against British troops during the American Revolution) the reality is that they are inexperienced, violent bullies. While the Oath Keepers are supposed to have a background in law enforcement or the military, the III%ers main form of discipline seems to be owning expensive trucks and weekend-warrior firearms modifications. They were out in force at the March4Trump in a range of tactical gear, both in their trademark black hoodies, and in plain clothes. But their unifying trait was the inability to act as the “security” they believed themselves to be. Even confronted with a just a few yelling protesters, the III%ers quickly devolved into joining the shouting matches, pushing bystanders, and at “best” dragging a few protesters over to the police and begging for them to be arrested.
While it would be nice if we could simply mock the III%ers, the fact is that they are very dangerous. With an ethos that they know better than any other authority, and their willingness to carry weapons and lash out at innocent bystanders, the III%ers turn an otherwise run-of-the-mill America pep rally like the March4Trump into a playground for extremists. On March 4, 2017 the III%ers showed their true colors by showing up in a wealthy suburb, beating on innocent people, and standing shoulder to shoulder with Klansmen.
Truth be told, some of the III%ers seem to be ordinary Trump supporters with a militant intolerance for people with different political opinions. But the decentralized way that the III%ers organize themselves, in which anyone who buys a sticker and a hoodie gets to carry a weapon and be part of the gang, allows wolves to creep in amongst the sheep. Some III%ers claim to accept members of any race, creed, and faith but the only tolerance they seem to show is to allow white supremacists sanctuary in their midsts.
If you have information on this or any other neo-Nazi activity in our area please email us at [email protected].
Steven Shane Howard
Home Address: 3004 SE Balboa Dr. Vancouver, WA (since September 16, 2016)
Wife: Kimberly Howard (nee Finstad)
Job: Comcast Contractor in the Portland Metro Area. (Any further information on his employment situation is welcome.)