Georgia Neo-Nazi Organizer is Senior at Whitewater High School (Fayetteville, GA)

Anti-racists have discovered that Donovan Stai – currently a senior at Whitewater High School in Fayetteville, Georgia – worked throughout 2017 as state leader for Vanguard America, a self-proclaimed “fascist” organization whose website rants about “bloodthirsty negroes” and “Jewish puppet masters.” As a state leader for Vanguard America, Stai propagandized via the “Vanguard Georgia” Twitter account, he assisted with the group’s internal organization, and he participated in campaigns of coordinated harassment. Stai has signaled support for violence and even murder on behalf of his neo-Nazi cause. Given the number of murders committed by neo-Nazis and white supremacists over the last year, we believe that Stai’s embrace of racist violence should concern the community.

donovan stai
Donovan Stai

Vanguard America

Donovan Stai’s organization, Vanguard America, is notorious as the organization that James Alex Fields, Jr. stood with at the bloody “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017. The afternoon of “Unite the Right,” Fields drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist counter-protesters, murdering Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of others. Vanguard America denies that Fields was a member of their organization, even though Fields stood in formation with Vanguard America members at Charlottesville that day and held a shield featuring a Vanguard America logo. Donovan Stai did not attend the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, although at least one Vanguard America member from Georgia was there. Typing from afar, Stai celebrated the white power violence in Charlottesville, encouraging attendees to “Beat their [anti-racists] shit in” and later posting an image glorifying James Field, Jr.’s murderous attack.

Vanguard America is a white nationalist and self-declared “fascist” organization formed in 2015. The organization promotes a “blood and soil” nationalism similar to the German Nazi worldview. Over the last year, Vanguard America has been increasingly explicit in its neo-Nazism, for example posting Hitler quotes and pictures of its members with Nazi flags to social media. In the aftermath of “Unite the Right,” another organization, Patriot Front, splintered from Vanguard America and pursued more “patriotic” branding.

Vanguard America operates as part of the “Nationalist Frontwhite power alliance, including other racist groups such as the National Socialist Movement, the Traditionalist Worker Party, and the League of the South.

Donovan Stai’s Neo-Nazi Profiles

Donovan Stai used several different accounts for white power organizing. The first account is Stai’s personal Twitter account @hldisL which was created in March 2015. This account lasted until mid-December 2017, when Twitter removed many Vanguard America accounts. @hldisL used various names on this account, such as “Goebbels Jr” (a reference to the Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels), “See Kyle” (which sounds like “Sieg Heil” when said aloud), “Sceneablist”, and earlier in the account’s life “Donovan Hawks” and “Donovan Stai”. In the beginning @hldisL promoted anti-feminist and libertarian themes, but it became increasingly radical and racist as time passed. A backup account, @JosephRedRay / “Col. Raymond” was established in January 2017 – by that time the content was explicitly racist, antisemitic, and Alt-Right (that backup account was also suspended in 2017.)

hldisL Jun 15 2015 Donovan Stai
@hldisL account in  June 2015, using the name “Donovan Stai”
hldisL with Vanguard America logo
@hldisL account in 2017 featuring Vanguard America logo superimposed on a Confederate battle flag

The Twitter account for Vanguard America in Georgia — @gavanguard / “Vanguard Georgia” – was established in March 2017. (An earlier Twitter account for Vanguard Georgia was established in January 2017 — giving its location as Columbus, Georgia — but that account did not last long.) It was clear from its early days that @hldisL was responsible for the Vanguard Georgia organizational account that began in March 2017. First, a masthead image of the Vanguard America logo superimposed on a Confederate battle flag was used by both @hldisL and @gavanguard at various times. Second, @hldisL / “Goebbels Jr.” was one of the first accounts followed by @gavanguard. Finally, in March 2017 @hldisL continually retweeted the @gavanguard account, trying to increase the following for the new Vanguard Georgia account.

vanguard georgia twitter screencap 2017
Vanguard Georgia profile operated by Donovan Stai

For a .pdf archive from Donovan Stai’s @hldisL, @JosephRedRay, and @GaVanguard accounts on Twitter, click here (or follow the link at the end of this article).

In November 2017, the Unicorn Riot journalism collective leaked logs from the “Southern Front” Discord server. Discord is a messaging system used by video gamers, which has also been adopted by more tech-savvy portions of the extreme-Right. The “Southern Front” server facilitated communication between Vanguard America members located in the US South. A user named “The Don GA” is identified in the leaked Vanguard America chats as a “SL,” which in context appears to stand for “state leader.” (In addition to being part of Vanguard America, “The Don GA” also showed up in leaked chats from the far-Right group Anti-Communist Action.) On six different occasions “The Don GA” posted URLs for posts by the @gavanguard Twitter account within the “Southern Front” Discord server. The leaked Southern Front chats cut off shortly after “Unite the Right,” at the time Patriot Front splintered off from Vanguard America.

While “The Don GA” Discord user was clearly connected to the @gavanguard Twitter account, the @gavanguard Twitter account was linked to the @hldisL personal one, and @hldisL initially used the real name “Donovan Stai,” some readers may still question that Donovan Stai was behind all these accounts. For these skeptical readers, we will point out that “The Don GA” posted an image of dogs to the “Southern Front” server, which includes a Stai family pet. “The Don GA” also commented about starting a Wisconsin chapter for Vanguard America, which corresponds with Donovan Stai having lived in Wisconsin earlier in life. (Both Donovan Stai and the @hldisL Twitter account are also Green Bay Packers fans.) Atlanta Antifascists possess a screenshot from the @hldisL Twitter account providing a birthday of February 3; this is also Donovan Stai’s birthday. A photo posted to the @hldisL account in August 2016 has its face almost entirely covered but is consistent with Stai’s appearance.

hldisL 7 Aug 2016
In August 2016, @hldisL posted this self-portrait to his account. While the face is obscured, it is consistent with Donovan Stai’s appearance.

Although both Stai’s personal @hldisL twitter as well the Vanguard Georgia account were removed by Twitter in December 2017, there is no sign that Stai has distanced himself from Vanguard America or the white power movement since that time. We now examine some of Donovan Stai’s activity more closely.

Glorifying Intimidation and Murder

Chatting with his Vanguard America peers in the “Southern Front” Discord server, Donovan Stai made a series of posts laughing about and endorsing racial intimidation and murder. In a May 17, 2017, post, “The Don GA” / Stai shared an image celebrating Dylan M. Mahone, who had been arrested the month prior for vandalizing a Jewish Community Center and nearby church in Fairfax County, Virginia with graffiti including a swastika. (Mahone also placed antisemitic flyers for the “Aryan Underground” at a Northern Virginia Community College campus in March 2017.) Following on from his image celebrating Dylan Mahone’s actions, Donovan Stai wrote: “As apart [sic] of our new vetting process [for Vanguard America] we shall make everyone burn down a synagogue.”

Earlier on May 17, Donovan Stai proposed an image of Dylann Roofthe white supremacist murderer behind the Charleston Emanuel AME Church massacre – as the insignia for the “South District” of Vanguard America.

While the arson proposal and the Dylann Roof insignia comment from Stai may not have been meant literally, they nevertheless communicated a clear message to his peers: attacks on synagogues and the murder of Black churchgoers are all funny, and these acts may be something to emulate. When diehard racists rile each other up with these sorts of comments, the result is that further acts of violence become more likely.

On the same server, Donovan Stai celebrated white supremacist violence at the “Unite the Right” rally. While Stai did not attend the rally, his comments on the Discord server that day are gleeful. In a post time-stamped the next day, Stai shared an image to the Discord server celebrating James Alex Fields, Jr.’s vehicular murder of Heather Heyer.

The Don GA james alex fields jr meme
Image posted by Donovan Stai / “The Don GA” celebrating white supremacist murder in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 2017

Active Harassment 

At times, Donovan Stai moved from celebrating racist intimidation and violence, to actively participating in harassment. For example, the Vanguard Georgia Twitter account circulated the personal information of (or “doxxed”) Georgetown University Professor Dr. C. Christine Fair on May 22, 2017. The post linking to Fair’s personal information was also retweeted by Stai’s @hldisL account. At the time, Christine Fair was being harassed by white nationalists due to her confronting racist “Alt-Right” leader Richard Spencer at her Alexandria, Virginia gym, which then ended Spencer’s membership .

Stai circulates Christine Fair dox
Online harassment by Donovan Stai against C. Christine Fair

A couple of months earlier, Donovan Stai targeted journalist Kurt Eichenwald, arguably attempting an assault against him. As a journalist, Kurt Eichenwald angered some Trump supporters with his critical reporting on Trump’s business interests. For bigots on the Alt-Right, Eichenwald’s Jewish heritage was a further reason to attack him. Eichenwald has written about his epilepsy diagnosis on several occasions. In December 2016, he was sent a strobe-light animated graphic on Twitter, containing the words “You deserve a seizure for your posts.” According to Eichenwald, the flashing image did indeed cause a seizure. In March 2017, a veteran who sent the image to Eichenwald was arrested (He currently faces assault charges and a hate crime enhancement). Since the initial attempted assault, dozens of other people sent flashing images to Eichenwald, presumably with the aim of inducing another seizure. Donovan Stai, using his @hldisL account, was one of them. Stai sent Eichenwald a strobe-light image on March 17, 2017. Stai then added “I hope he [Eichenwald] wore his helmet.” (While the archived version of the post from Stai / @hldisL does not flash, archived comments as well as discussion from the 4Chan message board, all make clear that the original file was a strobe-light animation.)

hldisL targets Eichenwald
Donovan Stai sends an animated strobe-light image to Kurt Eichenwald, March 2017. Stai’s follow-up comment shows that he clearly hoped to cause an epileptic seizure.

Due to his neo-Nazi ideology, his comments glorifying intimidation and even murder, and his history of harassment, we believe that community members should be warned about Donovan Stai. After graduation, Donovan Stai hopes to become an emergency medical technician or a firefighter. We believe that Stai should not be allowed to infiltrate these professions. People of Color or Jewish people should not be forced to trust their lives to a member of a neo-Nazi group.

Was Donovan Stai Influenced by White Power Teacher at Whitewater High School?

Finally, some readers may recognize Whitewater High School in Fayetteville – which Donovan Stai attends — as the school where Hitler-admiring racist Joshua David Hitson taught English until August 2017, when Hitson resigned after being exposed to the community as a white power agitator. (The ex-Principal for Whitewater High School, Roy Rabold, took an aggressive stance in defense of Joshua Hitson despite all the available evidence.)

Since Joshua Hitson’s time as a white nationalist teacher at Whitewater High School overlaps with Donovan Stai’s time there as a student, this suggests several interesting questions. Did Joshua David Hitson play a role in Donovan Stai’s radicalization, or politically mentor Stai in any way? Did Joshua Hitson and Donovan Stai organize together on white nationalist projects?

At present, we do not have enough information to draw definite conclusions. We do know that Joshua Hitson’s “Contrarian Gent” Twitter was one of the first accounts followed by Stai’s “Vanguard Georgia”. Donovan Stai also used his personal Twitter accounts (@hldisL and @JosephRedRay) to retweet “Contrarian Gent” / Hitson. These close online associations suggest that Hitson and Stai may have coordinated politically offline also. If you have more information about Donovan Stai’s racist organizing, including any further links to Joshua David Hitson, we would like to hear from you.

Early accounts followed by GaVanguard twitter
Joshua David Hitson’s @ContrarianGent Twitter account was one of the very first followed by Vanguard Georgia / @gavanguard

Twitter ArchiveStai Twitter Archive coverClick here for an archive of materials from the @gavanguard, @hldisL and @JosephRedRay Twitter accounts.

 

Richard Spencer Gets a Not-so-Warm Welcome at Auburn University, Alabama, April 18, 2017

Introduction

On Tuesday, April 18, white nationalist leader Richard Spencer (of the National Policy Institute and Altright) gave a speech at Auburn University in Alabama, which is less than two hours away from Atlanta. Anti-racists mobilized against this event and, shortly after the end of Richard Spencer’s talk, students angrily escorted Spencer’s white power followers off campus and chased some of them through the streets of Auburn.

In the run-up to the Tuesday event, Spencer’s forces blatantly organized for violence on campus, using scarcely veiled language of assembling “safety” squads, and urging racists and far-Right anti-communists to travel from far and wide to invade the campus. On the actual day, the far-Right ended up having a hard time, with their attempts at aggression met with compelling responses from students and other anti-racists. While white nationalists predictably declared a victory, this verdict was informed by delusional claims about the day. For example, racist claimed that their members were not really chased off campus so much as followed, and that their forces “drastically outnumbered” anti-racists. Such messaging from white nationalists, combined their focus on waging war on anti-fascists in the aftermath of Tuesday, suggests that they are in fact unhappy about how the day went.

the chase for story

Spencer’s Visit Approaches

Richard Spencer used a Youtube video to announce that he would be speaking at Auburn just under a week before he was scheduled to appear on campus. Before Spencer’s announcement, an Alt-Right “White Student Union” for Auburn had launched a website and begun circulating antisemitic flyers on campus, attempting to cultivate a climate of intimidation on campus. Anti-racists including our organization began circulating news of Spencer’s visit to Auburn soon following his announcement – since events at Auburn were part of regional coordination by Alt-Right white nationalists, we believed that anti-racists should likewise treat this event as a regional concern since a victory at Auburn would affect all of us as people living in the South. While the state-friendly anti-extremists of the Southern Poverty Law Center urged students to avoid and not confront the racist mobilization, several Auburn students shared our view that fascist organizing prospers when left unopposed. A Twitter account was established by Auburn students opposed to racist organizing, and a call for loud, vocal opposition to Spencer’s visit was released. Atlanta Antifascists solicited endorsements from other anti-racist and leftist organizations for the call to action. At this point, the situation began shifting rapidly.

The first change came on Friday when Auburn University canceled Spencer’s booking, citing concerns over student safety. While we were happy that white power organizing had hit a roadblock, it was also clear that actions of the sort taken by the University, could just as easily be used against leftists and anti-racists in the future. For this reason, appeals to cops, courts, or other authorities have never been at the center of our work as anti-racists.

Richard Spencer issued a furious response to the University, claiming that Auburn would “rue the day” they made this decision, and stating that he would fly in key white nationalists for the Auburn event as well as organize squads equipped with “safety gear.” (Shortly before Spencer announced his Auburn visit, he had discussed the formation of a “white bloc” to take on anti-racist opponents.)

Denied a room on campus, Spencer stated that he would hold a rally of some sort anyway, the constant subtext of his statements being that organizing far-Right forces to go after enemies on campus would be a fine alternative to a speaking engagement. Amongst those Spencer flew in for his event was Mike Peinovich AKA “Mike Enoch,” operator of TheRightStuff website as well as “The Daily Shoah” podcast. In the days to come, other far-Right formations mobilized to descend on Auburn: Identity Evropa, Brad Griffin’s “Alt-South” network, Anti-Communist Action, the Traditionalist Worker Party, and the League of the South (who took on a security role.)

The other major escalation took place on the other side of the country, where on Saturday the 15th far-Right forces (including open white supremacists) clashed with anti-fascist protesters in Berkeley, California. This event, portrayed by the far-Right as a victory, emboldened more far-Right and white nationalist forces (including some of the groups listed earlier) to pledge to be at Auburn with the hope of routing their enemies in a brawl. Just as in Berkeley where organized far-Right forces used “free speech” as a pretext to organize violence and attempt to control territory, in the days as Spencer’s Auburn visit drew near, his coalition was increasingly brazen about wanting to control the turf with violence.

(A war of posters and counter-flyers also broke out on campus, with anti-racist flyers against Spencer’s visit being countered with fake “Antifa” flyers as well as White Student Union materials portraying militant anti-racists as troublemakers willing to attack random bystanders.)

While Spencer’s forces organized for a physical fight, Richard Spencer also pushed through legal channels for his event to go ahead. On Tuesday afternoon, mere hours before the event began, Spencer announced that he had obtained a court order compelling Auburn University to allow his speaking event to proceed as initially scheduled. Spencer’s case had been argued by Atlanta white nationalist attorney Sam Dickson – a fixture on the racist scene nationally — on behalf of Cameron Padgett, a student who had made the booking for Spencer’s visit using a Georgia State University (Atlanta) email address.

Foy booking exhibit from lawsuit
Foy Hall booking, exhibit in Sam Dickson’s lawsuit

Tuesday Afternoon and Evening

The court order changed the scene. Had Spencer held an outdoor rally in defiance of his cancelled booking, our expectation was that this mobilization would be combined with bands of white power/“Alt-Right” militants ready to street fight and to target those they saw as enemies (for example, people of color, Jewish students, or leftists.) Alabama “Alt-South” organizer Brad Griffin later wrote that Spencer’s court victory was in some sense also disappointing for him, because with the changed situation “I wouldn’t get a chance to fight and win a bit of glory for myself […] in […] an epic throw down.” Griffin’s claim clarifies what the far-Right forces mobilizing for Spencer had in mind shortly before the court made its ruling. With the court ruling, however, they’d have to queue to go inside a room, being scanned with a metal-detecting wand beforehand.

Students came out in large numbers in response to Spencer’s speaking event, with some protesting outside, some attending Spencer’s talk to press him, some by contrast taking a “no platform” approach, and others merely checking out the scene. Into this situation, leftists and anti-racists from several parts of the South also arrived. The fascists who from mid-afternoon onward were spotted in bands around campus, took position at the venue for Spencer’s speech, separated from protesters by police and barriers.

It was a solid week of organizing by anti-racists — students of various political persuasions as well as “outsiders” to Auburn like our organization — which enabled a powerful response to Spencer’s assembled forces. From our perspective, some things went far better than others. At Auburn, the black bloc – a tactic originating from radical Left and anarchist movements in Europe during the second half of the 20th Century – was generally a shit-show, although the fact that networks activated and anti-fascists traveled to attend was itself a positive. Auburn Police were extremely aggressive in targeting anti-racists who were wearing masks or bandanas (to guard against later harassment by the far-Right.) By contrast, white supremacists obscuring their faces were occasionally told to remove masks but overall, were not aggressively targeted. It is to be expected that the police, whose unions overwhelmingly endorsed Donald Trump’s right-wing populist presidential campaign and who generally protect a racist status quo, will typically side with organized racists over anti-racists.

Anti-racists — from Auburn and from elsewhere — maintained a lively presence outside Foy Hall during the time people entered for Spencer’s speech, as well as during the event itself. This anti-racist presence played some role in stopping people from drifting away before Spencer’s speech was over and racists filed out. Chants of “Fuck Richard Spencer!” were popular. However, there was also friction between some anti-racists who had travelled to Auburn, and other parts of the student body. For example, some “outsiders” were at first annoyed by Auburn pride chants, since they seemed to be an attempt to replace more pointed chants against the white supremacists gathering on campus. In retrospect, the situation was complicated than we initially understood; the Auburn spirit chants may have also communicated collective confidence in the face of adversary: “We’re proud to be Auburn, we’re going to stick together and see each other through this situation.”

The only arrests of the day occurred while Spencer’s speech was happening. Ryan Matthew King — who has subsequently been identified as a Montgomery, Alabama tattoo artist and “compatriot” of the racist/secessionist League of the South — was stationed outside and tried to attack an anti-racist in the crowd. King’s assault did not go as planned, with King promptly landing on the ground after misdelivering a blow, and receiving a stern physical rebuke from the crowd. King and two anti-racists were arrested as the police rushed in.

Ryan King story photo
League of the South “compatriot” Ryan Matthew King at Auburn University before starting fight

Tension grew in the crowd as it got later and darker outside, with the tide of opinion moving even further against Richard Spencer after he made the mistake of attacking college football and Black athletes. As white nationalists filed out, they received an angry escort from campus by the assembled crowd. Matthew Heimbach’s troopers of the Traditionalist Worker Party and other white supremacists attempted a poorly-conceived charge on students and other protesters, but soon realized their mistake. Some of the departing white nationalists were chased by students and protesters. A few racists ended up worse for wear.

Conclusion

Ultimately, Spencer’s event at Auburn showed that wherever ideological racists try to organize on campus, they should expect determined opposition, even at campuses such as Auburn with a reputation as conservative. The events at Auburn demonstrate how closely Far-Right organizing for violence accompanies the “free speech” activity of white power leaders like Spencer. On the 18th, white power activists were restrained in their violence compared to what they had threatened in days beforehand. Combined students and Southern anti-racists gave every racist-instigated act of violence an unmistakable response. Further, despite some concerns from Auburn students about militant anti-racists arriving on campus from elsewhere, Auburn students themselves chased and confronted “Alt-Right” racists at the end of the evening.

Since white nationalists can be slow learners, we expect that the “White Student Union” at Auburn may drag on for some time. For information on opposition to this White Student Union and other racist activity in and around Auburn, check out twitter.com/no_nazi_auburn

Photo galleries of Alt-Right, racist and far-Right activists at Auburn University on April 18 are available here, here, and here.