SPLC statement on antisemitic shooting at Congregation Chabad in California

Southern Poverty Law Center - Sat, 04/27/2019 - 15:18
Today we saw another horrific act of antisemitic hate at Congregation Chabad in Poway, California, six months to the day after the deadly shooting that killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Sears and St. Germaine Sentencing Update

While trying to piece together media reports and accounts from ARC supporters of the Your Ward News sentencing hearing this morning, one word keeps coming to mind: circus.

Sears answers media questions outside court, flanked by skinheads and other supporters. April 26, 2019 (Photo submitted by an ARC reader.)Your Ward News' Editor in Chief, James Sears, and Publisher, LeRoy St. Germaine, were found guilty in January of willfully promoting hatred against Jews and women under S319(2) of the criminal code. In the lead-up to today's hearing, Sears likened himself to Christ and seemed to relish the idea of being led away in cuffs on Greek Orthodox Good Friday. He also claimed he would (checks notes) bring his "posse of black folks" with him, and would attempt to "reason with the Judge."

Spoiler: no "posse" was in attendance, and certainly no successful "reasoning" occurred.

Crown Attorney Erica Whitford presented thorough submissions relying on extensive research of existing case law that referenced many, if not all, hate crimes cases that have resulted in a custodial sentence in Canada. She called for the maximum sentence of 6 months per count, for a total of 1 year, to be served consecutively. In addition, she asked for 3 years probation, with strict conditions that would prohibit Sears from publishing within that period. The sentence, she argued, must serve both as a denunciation of the hate speech that occurred, as well as a deterrent for future incidents of said hate speech. CP24 reported that she also referenced multiple victim and community impact statements that read, in part:

"By delivering Your Ward News to our door, they were saying there was nowhere to feel safe." "Hate speech strikes at the heart of Canadian values. The glorification of violence against women made them feel vulnerable, retraumatized some, and tended to hurt the cause of equality overall."
Sears' attorney, Dean Embry, conceded that Your Ward News did devolve into hate speech, and called it "repugnant," however, he argued that the publication was not "created with the sole purpose of spreading genocidal thought," and, amazingly, insisted that the Crown had failed to prove that YWN had, in fact, caused any actual harm. According to reports, he insisted that the total sentence should be no more than 2-4 months called for a four-month conditional sentence and added that the Judge cannot sentence based on "theoretical harm." He also claimed that barring Sears from publishing anything for 3 years was too broad.

The proceedings started to go off the rails when Sears was given the opportunity to speak. He had prepared a 62-page "allocution," that he claimed would take at least an hour to deliver. Judge Blouin instructed him, repeatedly, to stick to issues pertaining only to sentencing, however, he still apparently managed to take up 20 minutes of the court's time. Here's a sampling of what he said:

CTV quotes Sears as saying, "I'm approached on a regular basis by angry men, and sometimes women, that Your Ward News gave them a voice when no one else would. Several men have told me that, because of our publication, they did not commit violence." 
He also apparently brought a blind man to court who he presented before the Judge as an example of someone who was "saved" from committing an act of violence against the doctor who blinded him. YWN, he claimed, gave this man a "release valve" for his rage and he now spends his time handing out copies of the publication on street corners. 
Perhaps most interestingly, Sears thanked a woman named "Grace," who is supposedly one of his publication's strongest financial backers. He said she flew in from Japan to be present at the sentencing. 
UPDATE 1: We have confirmed that "Grace" from Japan is, in fact, Holocaust denier Grace Eki-Oyama, who, at one point, vacationed with Paul Fromm in Cuba. 
But wait! There's more:

After calling the Crown racist, he, according to CTV, tried to reason with the Judge, stating that "We're just trying to open a discussion. His Honour cannot take one side of a religious debate or one side of a political debate." 
He then goes on to contradict himself and engage in his trademarked grandstanding:

Despite not having his promised "posse" with him, media have reported that about 15 supporters of the publication were in attendance. So far, ARC has identified the usual suspects, including Paul Fromm, Bahman Yazdanfar, Lawrence McCurry, Arthur Smitherman, and the woman we previously identified as a long-time court attender, dating back to the Zundel trials. We are working to identify some others, and expect to have an updated list soon.

Judge Blouin is taking a month to review the sentencing submissions, including the victim impact statements, which apparently were only delivered to him last night. Sears is expected to be sentenced on May 31st.

St. Germaine has a longer reprieve as the court needs to wait for the submission of his pre-sentencing report. (We assume the press is referring to the Gladue Report). St. Germaine's sentencing is scheduled for July 15th.


Your Ward News contributor, Lawrence McCurry, uploaded a video of yesterday's media scrum with James Sears and his friend Jonathan, who is the blind man Sears claims his paper "saved" from committing an act of violence. For the sake of transparency, I'll make clear that I edited out the beginning where McCurry tries to get Warren Kinsella and Bernie Farber to comment. He claims they were not present to see justice done, but to "represent the globalist position and ideology to the controlled corporate media who have not been honest in the way they have reported on this story from the very start." He then goes on to show a media clip used by a mainstream news outlet to illustrate how the press manipulates things. The bulk of his video, however, is unedited footage of Sears' media scrum, which is what I've included here. Sears sticks to his talking points from his "allocution" about YWN being a release valve, that he is a law-abiding citizen who was trying to open a discussion, and then digs in to his plans for a constitutional challenge over his conviction and pending sentence. Paul Fromm chimes in and compares Sears to James Joyce! I'll let the rest speak for itself, however, I will add a WARNING that there is some graphic language regarding rape:

SPLC: Trump’s defense of Charlottesville comments emboldens white nationalists

Southern Poverty Law Center - Fri, 04/26/2019 - 14:53
In 2017, the nation witnessed Ku Klux Klan members and white nationalists take to the streets of Charlottesville, Va., in protest. 

SPLC Action Fund: Fla. communities endangered by unconstitutional immigration enforcement bill

Southern Poverty Law Center - Fri, 04/26/2019 - 13:44
The Florida Senate approved Senate Bill 168 today. It requires local law enforcement to assist in federal immigration enforcement.

New Mexico Town Worked to Oust Vigilantes Who Partnered With Border Patrol

Southern Poverty Law Center - Fri, 04/26/2019 - 11:35
Just days after a New Mexico town helped evict militia members who held migrants against their will, guests on an antigovernment radio show suggested another militia group establish a camp in Texas.

SPLC: Louisiana’s title of incarceration capital of the world an opportunity for reform

Southern Poverty Law Center - Fri, 04/26/2019 - 09:39
Louisiana once again has the highest incarceration rate, imprisoning 719 of every 100,000 residents, according to a report released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

STAND UP TO RACISM LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN TO ‘Keep Racism Out of the Elections’ AND oppose fascist ‘Tommy Robinson’

Stand Up To Racism - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 10:50


As fascist “Tommy Robinson” (real name Stephen Yaxley Lennon) announces tonight that he will be standing in the upcoming Euro Elections that run between 23 to 26 May, Stand Up To Racism is launching a major campaign to stop him and to ‘Keep Racism Out of the Election’. … Read the rest

Weekend Read: Trump’s citizenship question

Southern Poverty Law Center - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 09:58
The Constitution requires the federal government to conduct a count of all of the people living in the United States every 10 years. 

SPLC Action Fund: Florida House bill would contradict Amendment 4, making it harder for people with past felony convictions to vote

Southern Poverty Law Center - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 08:10
The Florida House this week passed House Bill 7089, an unnecessary piece of legislation that would purportedly restore voting rights to people with past felony convictions, but would actually create hurdles by requiring them to pay all their criminal fines and fees – even if they have been converted to civil liens – before they could get their voting rights restored.

SPLC Action Fund: Florida immigration enforcement bill violates Constitution, makes communities less safe

Southern Poverty Law Center - Wed, 04/24/2019 - 14:26
The Florida House this week approved House Bill 527 (HB 527), which would require local law enforcement to assist in federal immigration enforcement.

SPLC Action Fund: Florida bill seeking to arm teachers with guns jeopardizes school safety

Southern Poverty Law Center - Tue, 04/23/2019 - 14:01
The Florida Senate today approved Senate Bill 7030, which seeks to allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom and would require schools to report students to law enforcement for normal adolescent behavior that is interpreted as a “threat."

Winston Shrout, One of America's Most High-Profile 'Sovereign Citizens,' is a Fugitive

Southern Poverty Law Center - Tue, 04/23/2019 - 13:06
Winston Shrout spent years defying the federal government as one of the country’s most high-profile sovereign citizens and tax dodgers.

SPLC answers questions about antigovernment extremists who detain migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border

Southern Poverty Law Center - Tue, 04/23/2019 - 11:21
In recent days, media outlets have reported that armed militia groups, acting as border vigilantes, have been detaining migrants at gunpoint along the along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

QAnon Conspiracy Increasingly Popular with Antigovernment Extremists

Southern Poverty Law Center - Tue, 04/23/2019 - 09:27
Antigovernment extremists, including some who’ve committed violent acts, are increasingly subscribing to and propagating the QAnon conspiracy theory, which asserts that pro-Trump forces will soon take down the so-called deep state.

VERY Late Update on Pegida Go Fund Me Effort

So remember when I wrote that ARC would be updating regarding Pegida Canada's effort to raise money on Go Fund Me to pay for the damages as a result of a successful defamation suit against the leader and founder of the hate group?

Well I have a very good reason for not doing it earlier!

I forgot.
Yeah, it happens.
In any case as a review Pegida Canada was hit with a $10,000 penalty after losing a defamation suit resulting from an earlier rally and the statements subsequently posted to social media. Some reports suggested it was $11,000, though this might have been incorrect or it also took into account other expenses. Not long after they set up a Go Fund Me account to try to pay for the judgement. Among those attempting to help Pegida Canada raise the money was Mary Forrest who has been profiled hear before.... usually foul mouthed, possibly drunk (though she does also claim to have a traumatic brain injury), and joking about killing their political opposition. In a 20+ minute video (posted not long after the campaign began, Forrest appears to be trying to bully and guilt people into supporting the Go Fund Me campaign. Be forewarned that I've edited for length and have included my usual editorial snark:

She eventually gets to the crux of the issue. In short, and to sum up her brilliant legal analysis, Jenny Hill shouldn't have been sued because the social media post wasn't THAT defamatory:

However, the efforts of Hill, Forrest, and others have been for naught. ARC and others let Go Fund Me know that a hate group (and yes, they are a hate group) was attempting to raise money on their platform and.... well....

With this in mind, Pegida is planning on another march on May 4. Perhaps the fine people of Toronto might like to turn out in the same, or greater, numbers that they did on March 23?:

Book Review: Graphic Novel "Christie Pits"

Christie Pits
Written by Jamie Michaels
Illustrated by Doug Fedrau
Dirty Water Comics

I realize book reviews are a bit of a departure for ARC, but occasionally a book comes along that captures important moments in Canada's history of racism and antisemitism earning itself a spotlight here. Christie Pits, which tells the story of the lead up to, and events of, Canada's "largest single eruption of ethnic violence in Post-Confederation Canadian history" (Michaels, 2019), on August 16th 1933, is one such book.

For those unaware, the riot began after a baseball game in Toronto's Christie Pits Park when a local "swastika club" called The Pit Gang provoked a Jewish and Italian baseball team after a game. Once reinforcements arrived, the brawl swelled to an estimated 10,000 people and spilled over into neighbouring streets. It lasted most of the night and resulted in numerous injuries, as well as property damage to Jewish shops. Fortunately, no one was killed. In the aftermath, Mayor William James Stewart forbade the display of the swastika in the city.

In some ways, I feel unqualified to talk about Christie Pits because I'm not Jewish, nor am I particularly well-read in the graphic novel genre. However, I also feel I'm exactly the sort of person writer Jamie Michaels and illustrator Doug Fedrau are trying to reach with this newly-launched work. In his introduction, writer and historian Irving Abella states that "the format of this book ... is compelling and makes an uncomfortable story more accessible." I believe this is true. And beyond accessibility, a graphic novel combines the slow pace of a book with visuals allowing the reader to sit with both and take them in, contemplate the meaning, and let the emotional connection fully develop.

It is also worth noting that the choice to use this visual medium, with a simple, relatable, Tintin inspired style, was very deliberate. Michaels explained to the CBC that Jewish writers are well-represented in both comic books and graphic novels, paving the way for both writers and readers to engage without the same history of antisemitism found in other genres. "There's a lot of these anti-Semitic tropes embedded in literature and that's the unique thing about comics is, because it's got such Jewish origins, it's kind of one of the first modern mainstream mediums to be free of those stereotypes," he said.

In the lead-up to the riot, readers get to know a group of affable young Jewish men who easily pull you into their world. They're worried about their families, they go to work and school, enjoy sports, particularly boxing and baseball, and they take risks to find love, even if that means approaching someone different from themselves. In many ways, they'd be no different than many you'd meet in Toronto today. As Michaels said in one interview, “when you read a novel you can kind of immerse into a worldview that will give you a better understanding as a human being as opposed to being a historian.”
While the riot is extensively researched and incredibly well-illustrated, it, in fact, only takes up 18 pages of the book. The weight of the story is in developing the characters, as well as adding important context about the state of antisemitism in that era, which humanizes and personalizes the unimaginable for those who were not there. Conceiving of 10,000 people brawling on the streets of Toronto is impossible otherwise. 

Experiencing the riot from a personal point of view is powerful, but what affected me the most is the illustration of the day-to-day antisemitism Jews experienced in Canada in the '30s, while Hitler's shadow loomed large. It is deeply humbling as a current-day activist to understand, even in a small way, how hate and discrimination can limit a person's life and create an undercurrent of fear that impacts every activity from school, to work, to making dinner and relaxing at home.

My favourite line is spoken not by a character in the story, but by Michaels himself in the postscript. He says "history never repeats itself, but it often rhymes." Christie Pits holds up a mirror for us to see an ugly past reflected in our present. As many nations in the West, including Canada, lean in to right-wing populism, we are increasingly putting our rights and relative safety at risk, and vulnerable communities will bear the brunt of voters' astonishingly poor choices. This book, as Michaels says, is "depressingly relevant." However, it contains many important lessons, not just on the dangers of hate, but on the value of ally-ship, the importance of community, and that there is always hope for change.

[All comic images from Dirty Water Comics. Christie Pits riot photo originally from the Globe and Mail, now Wikicommons. It is the only known photo of the riot to be preserved. Plaque from Toronto's Historical Plaques.]

Weekend Read: Cuban asylum seekers detained in Louisiana

Southern Poverty Law Center - Fri, 04/19/2019 - 08:12
Every day, tens of thousands of immigrants are locked behind bars in the United States. Many are detained for months, even years, far from their loved ones and communities. 

Stalking Mosques and Trading Information, Back Woods Survivalist Squad Merges Anti-Islam Fever With Militia Tactics

Southern Poverty Law Center - Thu, 04/18/2019 - 11:52
Back Woods Survivalist Squad (BWSS), a group of Patriot movement extremists, has been using Facebook to coordinate surveillance on mosques around the country, a Hatewatch investigation reveals.

What the Supreme Court ruling could mean for civil asset forfeiture

Southern Poverty Law Center - Tue, 04/16/2019 - 09:34
As the U.S. Supreme Court pointed out on Feb. 20, the constitutional clause that protects Americans from having to pay “excessive fines” traces its lineage to the Magna Carta, which set forth certain rights in England more than 800 years ago.

Fire Guts Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris: Islamophobes Blame Muslims

The first time I visited Notre-Dame in my early 30s I didn't have the words to express the awe I felt simply standing before the 800 year cathedral. Entering the medieval gothic building simply added to my sense of smallness, but also left me with a feeling of being connected across centuries with the millions of people who had come to worship or visit. I was born a Roman Catholic and though I had fallen away from the Church by this point one couldn't help but feel some sort of connection with the divine whether one thinks of it as a sky god with a furrowed brow and white hair or the universe itself.

I have always counted myself fortunate to have been able to experience Notre-Dame and I spent much of the afternoon looking at my old photos of my time spent there. I looked at these photos with sadness now because of the horrible event that occurred today:

This isn't just a loss for France. It is a loss for the entire human family. 
Tragedies like this -- and thankfully there was no human life lost -- bring out the best and worst in people. The people who I who remember include the Parisians who in photos and videos are comforting each other; who state that they will rebuild a great monument to human achievement. These Parisians represent the cross section of the modern, multi-cultural, city; white, African, Arab, Asian. I want to remember the heroism of the firefighters determined to save the cathedral putting their own lives on the line in the process.
Unfortunately, we can't ignore that it also brings out the worst in some who, perversely giddy with excitement, are using the tragedy to stoke fear and hatred:
Unless there are some serious changes in the horizon, none of which I can see, this problem is only going to get worse.— Mack Lamoureux (@MackLamoureux) April 15, 2019

At this point no one is certain what caused the fire though most experts are suggesting that it was likely the result of an accident related to renovations the cathedral was undergoing. This hasn't stopped hate groups and Islamophobes from using this tragedy as an excuse to attack Muslims specifically and immigrants in general. In a sense this didn't surprise me since these people often invoke Muslims as a scapegoat, such as the forest fires in BC and Alberta:
United we roll is about pipelines..... oh, and sharing bullshit from infowars. #yellowvestscanada #cdnpoli#cdnmedia— Yellow Vests Canada Exposed (@VestsCanada) April 15, 2019
In Canada one of the first to jump on this bandwagon was Faith Goldy:

Goldy is infamous for this kind of race baiting. She suggested that the Quebec mosque massacre was perpetrated by Muslims (it wasn't), that the van attack in Toronto last spring was the action of a jihadist (it wasn't), that laws in Alberta have been re-written so Muslims don't need to have their picture take for a firearms license (not true as it is old legislation and was focused on the Christian Hutterite community), and that Syrian children were attacking "Canadian" children in Halifax elementary schools (not true). While these stories have been debunked they continue to spread by the people and groups this blog covers who believe Goldy's lies -- and she is a liar -- and share the lies on social media as truth.
I've collected a small sample of screen shots. Truth be told I was unsure if I should republish them since I am worried about giving these people a platform. However I think it is important to highlight not only the Islamophobia, but also the antisemitism and racism found in these groups because too many people want to stick their heads in the sand to the reality of how toxic things have become:Read more »