Neo-Nazi organizers viewed a 2017 Portland rally by the right-wing group Patriot Prayer as fertile recruitment grounds to grow their white nationalist movement, according to private messages leaked to an alternative media nonprofit.
The online chats, published in batches between August 2017 and March 2019 by Unicorn Riot, show that self-described neo-Nazi groups regarded Vancouver, Wash.-based Patriot Prayer as an "alt-light" group—that is, not extremist enough to be taken seriously, but attractive to people who could be further radicalized.
The Traditionalist Worker Party is a neo-Nazi hate group that espouses anti-Semitic and white nationalist views.
The racists involved in the discussion responded enthusiastically.
The chat logs show that the neo-Nazis considered some of the Patriot Prayer supporters at the June 4, 2017 event to be ripe for indoctrination.
"A significant number of the Alt light people are National Socialists, deep down, they just need to find somewhere they belong," wrote dd*555, who says in other chats that she is a single mom. "If I'm going to get called a Nazi no matter what I do, why not just be the Nazi that I have always been."
Joey Gibson, the leader behind Patriot Prayer who organized the June 4, 2017, rally the neo-Nazis targeted, tells WW that media portrayals of his group as racist drew in white nationalists.
"I am not surprised they thought some people would be open to racism since everyone calls us racist 1,000 times a day," Gibson said in a text responding to WW's request for comment. "It also shows that I wouldn't get along with anyone who may be racist because of my ethnic background."
The chats show the white supremacists disparaging Gibson, who is half-Japanese, and other Patriot Prayer supporters and Proud Boys as "race mixers," at times using slurs to describe them.
The neo-Nazi organizers frequently insult the less extreme members of the so-called Patriot movement, who often disavow explicit racism and white supremacy, and more commonly express xenophobic and anti-immigrant sentiments. They mock groups like Patriot Prayer for focusing on "free speech" over racist ideologies.
In the past, chat logs leaked to Unicorn Riot from the popular gaming chat site Discord have been used to sue the far-right extremists who organized the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The independent media organization has been publishing leaked Discord chats since 2017, including one called Cascadian Coffee Company, which includes members of hate groups that have been active in the Pacific Northwest and several discussions about white supremacist organizing in and around Portland.
Last week, Unicorn Riot published new chats between members of the neo-Nazi group Identity Evropa, which has attended rallies in Portland. Several posts in the Identity Evropa servers mention organizing in Portland.
Portland comes up several times in the leaked chats. The logs also show that local neo-Nazis designed a publicity stunt specifically to get attention from local newspapers. They singled out WW in particular.
In what they called "Eclipse Banner Operation," the white nationalists coordinated to drop racist signs from freeway overpasses throughout Oregon and southern Washington during the 2017 eclipse that drew in thousands of tourists.
"Photos should be emailed to Willamette Weekly/other local news outlets from a fake email (ex: RosaHernandez8@yahoo.com), make a short sob story about how you saw the banner and it made you afraid to live in Oregon or whatever," one user wrote. "This is a good bet to increase our coverage via a news article about "Massive Nazi Network Displays Hate". Let's have fun with this legal free speech activity."
WW, along with several other local news organizations, did write about the racist banners. The Oregonian reported at the time that Springfield neo-Nazi Jimmy Marr claimed responsibility for the banners. The chats show other members of hate groups, including the Nationalist Worker Party and PDX Stormers, worked with him to hang the signs.