In this season of despair, it is easy to get sucked into feeling that we are without hope and that we lack power and agency to create change. Especially as we intake a daily diet of the horrific, which only seems to be ramping up.
I was reminded, though, of the power of our voices and how—when we come together—we can create change, even if it’s small changes. We can actually make neo-Nazis sell their training camp and get the hell out of Dodge.
For the last several years, New England, and particularly Northern New England where I call home, has seen a significant uptick in neo-Nazi and white supremacy organizing. In the last year, I have written often about it on my blog, even going so far as to shift programming at my day job to focus on this growing threat. Make no mistake, these people are a threat.
Last year, Christopher Pohlhaus—a neo-Nazi influencer, former Marine, and founder of one of the fastest-growing white supremacy groups in the United States—bought property in Northern Maine to create a training camp. Unlike some of these types, Pohlhaus is not a poser. As the youngsters say, he is about that life. A scary, racist dude who travels the country organizing rallies and other hate-filled actions.
Earlier this year, Pohlhaus made his presence known in the state of Maine by organizing a neo-Nazi march through Portland, Maine—our largest and most racially diverse city—terrorizing both BIPOC folks and members of the LGBTQ+ community. He even doubled down on his efforts and organized a rally at our state capital, in Augusta, Maine.
With each event attracting enough attention, lawmakers and others took an active stand to say that Maine will not tolerate his antics. Across the state, local communities and individuals started speaking out against Pohlhaus and his hate-filled indoctrination camp. To the point that Pohlhaus became a pariah in his new community. In a state heavily dependent on tourism, a nationally known hatemonger is not good for business—as one local buddy of his learned when she lost her Airbnb rental privileges for having Pohlhaus working for her.
Apparently, the attention pushed Pohlhaus to sell his camp. He was quoted in the Bangor Daily News, saying: “With the militant leftist doxing the location, it was basically too dangerous for families to make the transition up here,” Pohlhaus said in a Telegram post on Tuesday in reaction to the Bangor Daily News article about the property sale. “People were coming up there all the time, snooping and getting very brazen, even driving down into the clearing.”
In other words, all that attention from lawmakers, local journalists, activists, and everyday people made his life uncomfortable and started to interfere with his plans.
Friends, that is how we disrupt white supremacy organizing in our communities. Sometimes, the wins seem small and almost fly under the radar, but make no mistake: This was a win.
Pohlhaus claims to have other properties in the state, where his name is not on the titles, which means we can’t stop working to weed these people out of our communities. But in these trying times, when the nonstop stream of horrific issues seems overwhelming, we can disrupt the hate. Getting the leader of the fastest-growing white supremacy group in the country to go deeper underground because he didn’t feel it was safe to carry forth his agenda is worth a celebratory moment.
As we enter 2024, there is no doubt we will see more of these hatemongers rise up, as we combat the rise of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, as well as racism and the genocidal agenda of our own country. We have a lot of work ahead—it will be hard—but never forget that when we use our collective voices, we can make a difference. Never stop believing and never give up. Sure, we may need to occasionally step back for our own well-being, but never stop coming back to work for what’s right in this world.
If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Or consider bringing me to your organization or group.