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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Justin Burger (Douglasville, Georgia), Ian Booton (Gibson, GA) and University of Central Florida Student Simon Michael Dickerman in Far-Right Flash Protest at Burnette Chapel
On Sunday, October 29, white nationalists held a five-person flash protest outside the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee (about twenty minutes from Nashville.) A month earlier, gunman Emanuel Kidega Samson targeted Burnette Chapel, killing one congregation member and wounding seven more. A note left in the shooter’s car allegedly mentioned Dylann Roof, the white supremacist responsible for 2015 massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. White nationalists have now seized on the Burnette Chapel shooting for propaganda purposes, for a couple of reasons. First, the mention of Dylann Roof in the note left in Samson’s vehicle could be used to build a “revenge” narrative around the Antioch shooting — a narrative which is helpful to white nationalists. Second, Emanuel Samson was born in Sudan but spent most of his life in the United States. Far-Right commentators such as Alabama-based League of the South publicist/“Alt-South” blogger Bradley Dean Griffin have seized upon the Antioch shooting to increase racist and anti-immigrant sentiment. The shooting is also useful to white nationalists because it can be used to draw false equivalencies and to deflect attention from their own movement’s role in radicalizing Charleston murderer Dylann Roof.
Throughout the weekend of the “White Lives Matter” rally, rumors swirled that Nationalist Front members would show up in Antioch and hold a protest outside Burnette Chapel. However, no such protest occurred on Friday. On Saturday in Shelbyville, racist organizers announced an evening presence at the Antioch church, but this event was eventually cancelled just as the Murfreesboro demonstration had been earlier. However, the next morning, a handful of militant racists showed up outside Burnette Chapel with a banner, until the arrival of police shooed them away. The flash protest was documented by Newsweek correspondent Michael Hayden. By showing up at a church that had already experienced trauma and violence, the white nationalists made it even plainer that their movement does not care about the Burnette Chapel congregation. The racist movement just hoped to exploit a tragedy for its own agenda.
Summary: Neo-Nazis and Klansmen are planning a rally on April 23, 2016 at Stone Mountain, Georgia, as well as a racist rock show at a venue elsewhere that evening. Anti-racists will organize against these white power events. Please spread the word. We must resist this show of force by militant white supremacists.
The Upcoming “Rock Stone Mountain” Event
White supremacists are busy organizing an “openly White Power March up Stone Mountain” plus a “White Power concert at a separate location that evening” in Georgia. The march and concert are scheduled for April 23, 2016. It is being promoted on Facebook, Twitter, and on white supremacist websites such as Stormfront. Figures such as former White Revolution chairman Billy Roper in Arkansas are assisting with publicity. The event’s Facebook attendee list includes ex-members of the Aryan Nations and current Ku Klux Klan activists. The post-rally concert will feature rock acts catering to a bonehead (racist “skinhead”) audience. The “Rock Stone Mountain” Facebook page mentions that one or more bands could be supplied by the international Blood & Honour neo-Nazi network.
Rock Stone Mountain event page on Facebook
Discussion of bands for the white power concert
The upcoming April 2016 event follows in the wake of a “Defend Stone Mountain” rally held on November 14, 2015. The November rally billed itself as a Southern “heritage” protest against a proposal to add a monument in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Stone Mountain site. (The debate regarding Stone Mountain has since shifted, see this story for details.)
Confederate displays on public property have increasingly been criticized and opposed after Dylann Storm Roof’s massacre of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC earlier this year. In response to the outcry about symbols of the Confederacy on public property, Confederate flag/monument supporters have stepped up their own organizing, including an August 1st Confederate flag rally at Stone Mountain that attracted hundreds.
Explicit white supremacists and Klansmen organized and promoted the later November 14 Stone Mountain protest, which was also backed by neo-Confederate organizations. Whereas Atlanta Magazine misleadingly claimed that “No KKK members or white supremacists made their attendance known” at the November 14 protest, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has fully documented the Klan and white supremacist presence on that day. The AJC also notes that Stone Mountain officials knew that members of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK were involved in organizing the event.
November 14 2015 Stone Mountain rally: a protester displays his Klan “blood drop” ring
The November 14 protest emboldened Klan and neo-Nazi activists–the circles who are now putting together an openly white supremacist show of force at Stone Mountain. As the April 23 event page states: “It is time to stop apologizing […] If it were not for Our Race, that Flag [the Confederate flag] would not exist! They are going to call us ‘racist’ anyway, so wear it as a Badge of Honor […] Better to be called a Racist than a traitor!”
Stone Mountain is inexorably linked to Klan history—it is where the modern KKK was born one hundred years ago. The giant carving on the mountainside was begun by Klan member Gutzon Borglum, but the project ran out of funding before completion. (Only General Lee’s head was carved by Borglum.) Work on the monument was restarted by others decades later, once the State of Georgia purchased the site. Resumed work on the monument coincided with the State’s fierce efforts against the Civil Rights movement. The monument is a symbol of racial subjugation—it is no wonder why racists love the site, and why they are determined to fight for it.
While current Klan and neo-Nazi activists are tapping into an earlier white supremacist history, the plans for April 2016 also represent a more virulent form of racist politics than other recent events at Stone Mountain. Previously, Klansmen and their comrades still made concessions to fit in with the broader flag/monument protest crowd (which tried to portray itself in more moderate terms.) Now, flagrant white supremacists are confident enough to go it alone. Neo-Nazis and the Klan are completely controlling the agenda for the April 23rd events.
Who “Rock Stone Mountain” is following on Twitter. Note: “88” is alphanumeric code for “H.H.” or “Heil Hitler.”
Anti-Racists: Start Getting Ready…
The white supremacists who are organizing the April event will not go away if we ignore them. They are a real threat. Allowing blatant neo-Nazis to rally without opposition would pose at least two serious dangers. First, if allowed an easy victory white supremacists will further gain confidence, and this in turn will make violence against their perceived racial or political enemies more likely. Second, successful neo-Nazi and Klan organizing will allow others on the racist Right to portray themselves as “moderate” by comparison, which could help these other racist forces to progress towards the political mainstream. It is for these reasons and more that the April 23rd march and gathering must be resisted. Doing work against the far-Right is especially important at a time when militant racists harass and shoot protesters against police killings in Minneapolis, and when xenophobic and anti-Muslim incidents have spiked in the US.
On behalf of some anti-racists in Atlanta who have been discussing the upcoming white power event: organizing against the April 23rd rally and concert will begin in the not-too-distant future. We aim for a large and multifaceted response to white supremacist organizing. We are committed to doing our part in local anti-racist mobilizations.
First steps to be taken: most importantly, please circulate this news far and wide. Get in contact if you have information that may be useful in combating the Klan/neo-Nazi mobilization. Please be on the lookout for further updates, and start to talk with your circles about responses you would like to see happen. We urge anti-racists and anti-fascists to mark their calendars for the weekend of April 23-24, 2016. If you are an anti-racist living in the South—or even further afield—consider making a trip to Atlanta during this time. We promise you will not be bored.