Leaks reveal San Diego operations of white nationalists active at area colleges
A recent leak of more than 200,000 online chat logs from a white supremacist group reveals how local members are targeting students on San Diego college campuses and trying to project a respectable image even as the group’s members privately espoused Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and racist views.
The group, called Identity Evropa, is nationally known for helping organize the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a protestor was killed and dozens were injured over two days of clashes.
More recently, the group made news because online whistleblowers began identifying Identity Evropa members, publishing their online chat messages and linking them with social media posts. In the past week their efforts have led to official investigations of a Virginia school police officer and seven service members from various branches of the US military.
The logs were released by Unicorn Riot, a non-profit educational media collective. Unicorn Rito has previously released chats from other extremist organizations and hosts them online in a searchable database.
A Union-Tribune review of the chat logs reveals a local branch of Identity Evropa has visited local colleges at least a dozen times since Fall 2017, though flyers first appeared at San Diego State University the year before. The chat logs also refer to publicity and recruitment activities at Southern California colleges as recently as last month.
Its leadership rejects these definitions.
Current CEO Patrick Casey, who graduated from San Diego State University in 2016, has tried to rein in his group’s extremist expressions online, the chats show.
“REMINDER,” he wrote under his acknowledged pseudonym Reinhard Wolff. “Do not post negative things about other races, do not advocate violence, do not use crude language. In short, do not say anything that, if leaked, would make us look bad.”
The leaked chats show Casey’s efforts to muffle hate speech were ineffective.
Identity Evropa members sometimes referred to Islam in the chats as a “cancer” and warned about Muslims immigrating to and holding public office in predominantly white countries.
Group members discussed the “great replacement” in more than 150 comments, referring to the idea of Europeans being replaced by people of color. A similar concept was part of the written message by the mass shooter who killed 50 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand last week.
Members also wrote more than 200 times about the “Jewish Question,” a conspiracy theory that posits that Jewish people yield wide-ranging societal and governmental control.
In a series of interview emails with the Union-Tribune last week, Casey said Identity Evropa was not a hate group.
“We explicitly denounced racial hatred and extremism on many occasions,” Casey said. When asked about the types of comments Identity Evropa members posted in the chats, Casey declined to answer, calling the question “boring.”
Even so, he said he has started a new group, the American Identity Movement, which also recently distributed flyers and stickers on the campuses of the University of California Berkeley and Sacramento State, according to its Twitter account.
The leaked chats from Identity Evropa show members targeting mainstream, conservative student organizations, such as the College Republicans and Turning Point USA.
One Identity Evropa member bragged online in February about manning a Turning Point USA table at a college while promoting his group’s beliefs — and getting Turning Point USA to pay for lunch.
“My ultimate goal is subversion of my school’s TPUSA chapter into a front for IE,” he wrote, referring to Identity Evropa.
Turning Point USA did not respond to requests for comment.
Someone chatting under the name “TMatthews” in September said he is an officer of the College Republicans on his campus and believes many other Identity Evropa members also have joined.
“It’s easy to infiltrate low level GOP stuff if you just show up,” he wrote.
Ben Rajadurai, deputy executive director of the College Republican National Committee, said these extremists are not welcome.
“Racial divisiveness has no place on our college campuses, and students joining our organization are committed to treating people with respect and defending human rights for everyone,” he said in an email.
Nationally, Identity Evropa was responsible for at least 191 of 319 reported incidents of white supremacist propaganda at colleges and universities in 2018, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Dr. Peter Simi, a Chapman University researcher specializing in extremist groups, said Identity Evropa is potentially more dangerous than traditional skinhead and neo-Nazi organizations because Identity Evropa’s strategy is to feign respectability while playing down violent or racist themes.
“It’s more dangerous because it potentially has broader appeal,” Simi said. “There are folks who wouldn’t necessarily get involved with a group that’s more extreme looking. You have to see it as part of a larger strategy to normalize their presence.”
Even the name of the group’s online chat channel — “Nice Respectable People Group” — reflects Identity Evropa’s desire for a sanitized public face. More than 800 individual accounts were registered to the group’s server before that channel was shut down, according to the leaks.
In San Diego county, the leaks show Identity Evropa members engaged in at least a dozen instances of white supremacist propaganda postings and distribution on college campuses.
Members usually posted materials at night in common areas on campuses and on bulletin boards and light poles. They often returned the next day to take photos of their work, according to the chat entries.
Casey told the SDSU student newspaper, The Daily Aztec, last year that there were between 50 and 100 members of Identity Evropa attending the university. But leaked online chats show 13 individual accounts from the San Diego area and just a handful of people posting pictures of their activities between September 2017 to March 2019.
This small group, who posted under pseudonyms, were responsible for flyers at SDSU in September 2017 and February 2018, and banners at UCSD in October 2017 and flyers the next month, the chat logs show.
Last year, Identity Evropa posted materials at San Diego City, Palomar, Grossmont and Mira Costa colleges. A San Diego-Southern California cell also posted materials at CSU Fullerton and Mt. San Jacinto College and last month spread flyers around UC Irvine and Saddleback College campuses.
Some of the group’s posters and flyers proclaimed “It’s okay to be white.” Other flyers left off Identity Evropa’s logo and name while promoting a white supremacist’s book, using the phrase “your professor is scared of this book.”
Identity Evropa held a private speaking event in an SDSU lecture hall In November 2017. A photo from the group’s closed Twitter account showed at least 30 attendees.
In January 2018, two people claiming to be part of Identity Evropa announced they were observing an ethnic studies class at UC San Diego. They texted on cell phones during class and, on the way out, one flashed an Identity Evropa badge, according to a UCSD Guardian story.
According to Identity Evropa’s chat logs, none of the group’s members were UCSD students at the time.
In 2017, a group of Identity Evropa members hung two banners from the Price Center & Bookstore at UC San Diego.
A UCSD spokeswoman condemned the organization and its activities.
“As hate groups continue to target colleges and universities throughout the country, taking advantage of policies that protect freedom of expression, UC San Diego will continue to unequivocally condemn all language and actions that espouse and support hate as well as any doctrines that elevate one group above another,” said Christine Clark, a university spokeswoman.
“The antidote to hate speech is more speech – speaking out against intolerance and bigotry – and one the university will continue advocating.”