The Last Refuge of Scoundrels Makes an Appearance in Lower Manhattan
The Patriot Front, a self-proclaimed white nationalist organization described by the Anti-Defamation League [ADL] as a “white supremacist group [with an] ideology of hate and intolerance,” marched through Lower Manhattan on Saturday morning. The group of approximately 50 assembled on Church Street opposite the World Trade Center shortly before noon, wearing uniforms of blue windbreakers, khaki slacks, beige baseball caps, and white ski masks. Their jackets were emblazoned with modified versions of the American flag, which incorporate the ancient Roman symbol of a column of wooden rods, bound with leather and mounted with an axe head. (In Latin, this symbol was called “fasces,” meaning “bundle,” and it is the origin the modern word “fascism,” owing to this icon’s adoption in the 1920s by the party of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.) The group’s website address contains the words, “blood and soil,” which, according to the United State Holocaust Memorial Museum, “was an early Nazi slogan used to evoke the idea of a pure ‘Aryan’ race and the territory it wanted to conquer. The concept was foundational to Nazi ideology.”
The Patriot Front group formed into lines of three columns at the National September 11 Memorial, unfurled a 40-foot banner announcing “America is Not for Sale,” then began marching in step, while beating drums, out of the World Trade Center complex and south along the pedestrian promenade that lines West Street. Upon reaching Battery Place, they marched in lock step to the Bowling Green site of the National Museum of the American Indian and unfurled a second banner that read “No Zionists in Government.”
As the group chanted, “we claim America!” its leader, Thomas Ryan Rousseau, said, “we bring our strength and virtue against the insidious forces that ensnare our nation through their greed, that depopulate our cities of American stock with subsidized gang violence and economic exploitation. Here is a place where money buys immunity from justice, where killers and rapists are allowed to run rampant because it represents an inconvenient truth about race to punish them.”
“There’s a lot of really bad people here,” he added, gesturing toward the surrounding Financial District. “There’s a lot of really nasty stuff happening on Wall Street. People are flooding the country with immigrants who don’t care about our values, don’t want to continue our form of government. A lot of really, really rich folks are screwing over everybody.”
“They call me a racist, yes,” he continued. “This is an irrelevant buzzword. It means nothing. It’s an insult, more than a label of political ideology. I’m a nationalist. I believe that race and nationality are intertwined ,and government should respect the concept of the nation as a natural collective, just like a family is.”
The Patriot Front’s manifesto reads, in part, “an African, for example, may have lived, worked, and even been classed as a citizen in America for centuries, yet he is not American. He is, as he likely prefers to be labelled, an African in America. The same rule applies to others who are not of the founding stock of our people as well as to those who do not share the common unconscious that permeates throughout our greater civilization, and the European diaspora.”
As the group departed, Mr. Rousseau was asked why his followers were masked. He answered, “anonymity is an American right. Anonymity is an American virtue. Revolutionaries have every right to hide their identity from a government which has proven itself not to protect free speech, not to protect the right of individuals to protest.”
The Patriot Front is an offshoot of an avowedly neo-Nazi group, Vanguard America, which came under fire after the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, at which a counter-demonstrator was murdered by a man who rammed his car into a crowd.
Since then, according to the ADL, “Patriot Front transitioned from using explicitly antisemitic and traditional white supremacist language in its propaganda to using more ambiguous messaging, including phrases such as ‘America First,’ ‘United We Stand,’ ‘Better Dead Than Red,’ ‘Two Parties. One Tyranny,’ ‘Reclaim America’ and ‘Not Stolen. Conquered.’”
The Patriot Front, which is based in Texas, has acquired a reputation in recent years for staging “flash” demonstrations, which are often organized in secret, with no prior public announcement and without filing the legally required application for an assembly permit. This may have been the case with Saturday’s event, which crossed through three separate jurisdictions that would have required such authorization. The portion of the march that took place on the World Trade Center campus would have needed permission from the Port Authority and its Police Department. The part that progressed along the pedestrian path parallel to West Street would have needed approval from the Battery Park City Authority. And the rest of the event would have been contingent upon permission from the New York Police Department. Spokespersons for the Port Authority and the Battery Park City Authority confirmed that no applications for permits were filed or granted by the Patriot Front. A spokesman for the NYPD did not respond.
Tammy Meltzer, chair of Community Board 1, responded to Saturday’s march by saying, “hate has no place in New York City or anywhere in our country. We are a city that embraces all cultures, and we have visitors that come from all over the world to enjoy Lower Manhattan.”
She continued, “our corner of New York is pivotal to American history—Community Board 1 encompasses Liberty and Ellis Islands, further embracing the importance of immigration. We speak for the people who live, work, visit, and study here, with all the diversity of humanity. We are successful due to our inclusivity.”