When white nationalist Garrett Kelsey discovered an internet video castigating Nordic neo-Nazis, he allegedly turned his fury on the Manhattan-based Jewish group that posted it.
From his home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Kelsey left a voicemail ranting about “filthy (expletive) Jews” — then followed up with a threat to “take action” if the video didn’t come down in three days, authorities said.
In an interview with THE CITY, Kelsey described the group in the video not as Nazis but as members of the “Nordic resistance.”
“These are just people who want to do what everyone in the world wants to do, which is to protect your ethnic heritage,” he said.
Kelsey was arrested last month by the NYPD and FBI at his Iowa home and charged with one count of making an interstate threat. He’s out on $50,000 bond.
His case, authorities say, is emblematic of a growing threat in New York City: out-of-towner white supremacists taking their hateful agendas to nation’s most diverse metropolis.
It’s happening via online message boards, xenophobic posters plastered in immigrant neighborhoods, even at public rallies in Manhattan. Much of the hate is fueled by groups promoting the conspiratorial “white replacement theory.”
Rhetoric — and Crimes — Grow
The NYPD unit that collects intelligence on terroristic threats has discovered a growing trend of racist online rhetoric circulated by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups — and directed at New York, said John Miller, the Police Department’s deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism
“What we’re seeing is an increase in the level of chatter, the number of platforms, the pitch and tone of the vitriol and the forums to share that in, where these individuals cannot just share ideas but also can churn and stir and whip each other up,” Miller told THE CITY this week.
In response, the NYPD has added analysts and investigators to track the white nationalist chatter and stay ahead of the curve of any potential attacks, Miller said.
Meanwhile, hate crimes in the city have jumped dramatically in the last two years — especially assaults, threats and vandalism targeting the Jewish community.
So far this year, the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force’s caseload has spiked almost 50 percent, records show. Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 4, the task force opened 249 cases, up from 169 during the same period last year.
At the same time, arrests for bias-motivated crimes grew from 92 to 119.
Much of the white nationalist activity in New York City appears limited to random assaults, vandalism and offensive leafleting.
But law enforcement has noted a larger, emerging pattern: lone-wolf white men attracted to online white supremacist rhetoric.
That was the case with the gunman who killed 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October, as well as the gunman who fatally shot 22 people in El Paso on Aug. 3 in response to what he called the “invasion” of immigrants.
That was also the case with James Harris Jackson, who traveled from Baltimore to New York City in 2017 and fatally stabbed Timothy Caughman, a 66-year-old black man, collecting recyclables in Hell’s Kitchen.
Jackson told NYPD detectives Caughman’s murder was “practice” for a racial terror attack. He’d posted a manifesto stating “The racial World War starts today,” and told the Daily News, “The white race is being eroded.”
Miller said New York’s concentration of media outlets also helps make the city a target for terrorists — not only for international Islamic jihadists, but for domestic racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic groups.
“We have a guy like James Harris Jackson who comes to New York City with a specific purpose when he could have stayed in Baltimore, but because New York is the media capital of the world, he felt he would have more impact there,” Miller said.
A Vile Threat
In May, when Kelsey aimed his anti-Semitic fury at New York City, the impact was immediately felt by the Jewish group he targetted.
The group had posted a video calling on Sweden to crack down on a Nordic neo-Nazi group that wants to end all non-white immigration into that country.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Manhattan Federal Court, Kelsey, 31, called the Jewish group and left a profanity-filled voicemail message invoking the Holocaust.
He then sent an email demanding the group take down the video within three days “and offer an apology to the Asatru community or we will be taking action against your organization full of degenerates,” the complaint states.
Asatru refers to a pre-Christian Nordic religion practiced by the Vikings and now embraced by white supremacists. When he was confronted by law enforcement, Kelsey admitted making the voicemail and email statements under the name Garrett Odinschild, a reference to the Norse god Odin, the complaint states.
Even after law enforcement interviewed him, he posted a photo on his Garrett Odinschild Facebook page depicting Jewish men and women lined up against a wall after the Warsaw uprising, the complaint alleges.
Signs of Hate
Kelsey’s notion of preserving European “heritage” is the principle that drives a number of the groups that have plastered New York City with stickers and posters, often promoting an anti-immigrant, pro-white agenda.
In October, posters went up in Sunnyside, Queens, calling on “all citizens of the United States of America” to report “any and all illegal aliens” to federal immigration authorities.
Queens Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer — who found the posters while out for a jog and tore them down — said a white-supremacist group called Vanguard America took credit for the posters but didn’t reveal who put them up.
In the last year, Patriot Front, a Long Island-based splinter group formed out of Vanguard America, has slapped up stickers all over the city with white supremacist slogans such as “Not Stolen, Conquered” and “Keep America American,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Some stickers have a QR code to get more information from Patriot Front’s website.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Patriot Front as “overtly fascist.” Two years ago this week, members attended the deadly “Unite the Right” Charlottesville demonstrations wearing the familiar khaki pants and polo shirts.
The SPLC says the group promotes the racist myth that the nation needs to be reborn, that America is white and Christian at its core, and that all immigrants must be deported.
The Center also has flagged another group, Identity Evropa, and documented its increased activity in New York City.
Last year, Identity Evropa put up posters, including at New York University, and staged a two-part public demonstration in July 2018 — first chanting “Build the wall!” outside the Mexican consulate in Manhattan, then unfolding a banner proclaiming “Stop the Invasion, End Immigration” on a cliff at Fort Tryon Park.
Three months later, members of the far-right Proud Boys brawled with protesters outside Manhattan’s Metropolitan Republican Club.
City’s Diversity Targeted
Miller said the NYPD intelligence unit also has noted the presence of a highly secretive neo-Nazi group, the Atomwaffen Division. The SPLC lists the group as based in New Jersey with a presence in New York, and describes them as “Hitler worshipers.”
The Anti-Defamation League has tallied dozens of anti-Semitic and white supremacist incidents in New York City in the last two years, particularly involving Patriot Front and Identity Evrope. But other white supremacist groups also have played a role.
“Any group that spreads that kind of hateful rhetoric, particularly the [white] replacement theory, is concerning to us,” said Alex Rosemberg, ADL’s community affairs director.
And New York City, Rosemberg said, will likely continue to attract the attention of these groups.
“It’s just a matter of objectively reading who we are as a city,” he said. “There’s always a fear that someone is going to choose [New York] because of the diversity of the city and the symbolism of the city.”
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