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’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 Front” white 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.)
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.
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.
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 Roof – the 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.
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 .
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.)
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.