SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — White Nationalism and Neo-Nazism. Fear and hate. These emotions are deeply intertwined with the ideologies listed; ideologies which are alive and present in South Dakota.
On Saturday, June 11, police in Idaho arrested 31 men, including two South Dakotans, who they believe were planning an attack on a Pride parade. These men are alleged to be a part of a group called Patriot Front.
Patriot Front is a white nationalist organization, and it is one of several extremist groups with a presence in South Dakota.
The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps a database of extremist groups operating in the United States. The database lists four hate groups active in South Dakota in 2021. These are the Proud Boys, Patriot Front, Amerikaner, and PZG Inc.
PZG Inc. may be the simplest of these entities to understand, and it is the only which is a registered business. PZG Inc. is a business which sells Nazi memorabilia. Not German military memorabilia, not World War II memorabilia, but Nazi memorabilia.
From their website: “History is forever and it cannot be unlived! It’s not yours to erase, rewrite, tear down or deny! It belongs to us all and if “it” (WW2, Adolf Hitler, SS or Nazi) offends then even better for making us receptive to the historic lessons of courage, strength, and sacrifice from those of all sides, along with the wisdom and grace to move past our pain and trauma towards a brighter future for us all.“
While the site claims the goal is to impart the ‘historic lessons of courage, strength, and sacrifice’ from all sides, it should again be noted that the site almost exclusively carries Nazi memorabilia.
PZG Inc. was established in 2002, and carries such items as Hitler candles, Nazi propaganda and other elements of memorabilia, including coins, knives and modern reproductions of things such as Nazi arm bands.
The Proud Boys may be the most well known of the groups currently present in the state.
Per the SPLC, the Proud Boys are an organization that was formed in 2016 by VICE Media co-founder Gavin McInnes. The group appeared alongside other extremist groups at the 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ rally, which was organized by then Proud Boy Jason Kessler, who has often espoused white nationalist ideas such as the ‘great replacement’ theory.
NOTE: The great replacement theory is a false conspiracy which claims that plans have been made to supplant the white majority population of the United States (and other nations) with non-whites through the mechanisms such as mass migration, immigration, interracial marriage and more. This theory, which has no basis in reality has been tied to several acts of murder and terrorism. Most recently this ideology was in part responsible for the mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY. The accused perpetrator of the attack made posts on social media littered with elements of the great replacement theory. Marchers at Unite the Right in 2017 chanted “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” Many elements of this ideology can be traced back to a book called The Turner Diaries, a novel published in 1978 by William Luther Pierce, a white supremacist and anti-Semite. The book, which chronicled a fictional race war has been referred to by the FBI as the ‘bible of the racist right‘ due to it’s influence on right wing terrorists, including Timothy McVeigh, the perpetrator of the Oklahoma City Bombing. Other events influenced by this theory include the mass shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019, and El Paso, also in 2019.
The Proud Boys are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric, and have frequently been tied to violence at protests and rallies across the U.S.
More recently, members of the group, including current leader Enrique Tarrio, have been charged with seditious conspiracy in their involvement in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
In 2019, the organization applied for a permit to have a street dance in Scotland, South Dakota, but withdrew the application after it was approved due to ‘safety concerns.’
Billy Knutson, one of three South Dakotans charged in connection to the January 6 insurrection, is a rapper who has displayed support for the Proud Boys.
As previously mentioned, Patriot Front is a white nationalist organization. White nationalists, as outlined by the SPLC espouse white supremacist or white separatist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites. Other such groups include but are by no means limited to the KKK, neo-Confederates, neo-Nazis and Christian Identity adherents.
According to the SPLC, Patriot Front is an organization stemming from the explicitly fascist Vanguard America. Rather than espouse direct support for fascism, Patriot Front instead puts forth a visage of overt patriotism, while at the same time calling for an end to democracy in America.
The group also espouses the idea that non-whites cannot be classified as Americans, as they do not descend from European ancestry. Patriot Front are also large proponents of the great replacement theory.
Patriot Front has been active in South Dakota on multiple occasions. In June 2021, unknown members of the group hung banners from bridges over I-29 with quotes reading “no white guilt” and “better dead than red”.
In June 2020, the group placed stickers with the “better dead than red” slogan around Brookings, S.D., and sent anonymous letters to local businesses, telling them that protestors were on their way to the town to riot.
‘Amerikaner’, the German translation of ‘American’, is the 4th group listed as active in South Dakota by the SPLC.
In an email exchange, the SPLC provided additional information to KELOLAND News about the group.
Amerikaner is a platform for white nationalist podcasts, including its flagship podcast “Achtung! Amerikaner.” That podcast features host “Gordon Kahl,” who frequently appears alongside cohosts “Grug Nationalist” and “Grant Norman.” Kahl takes his pseudonym from the North Dakota farmer and Posse Comitatus movement adherent who, in 1983, fatally shot two US marshals who were coming to arrest him for unpaid taxes. The podcast features roundups of news from the Midwest (frequently focusing on topics like the growing Somali population in Minnesota), interviews with other white nationalists who live in the Midwest, and interviews [with] notable groups and individuals in the white nationalist movement. The hosts frequently cite white nationalist ideas, alleging, for example, that Black people and more prone to criminality and less intelligent than white people.
The platform hosts numerous other podcasts with names like “The Learned Elders of Zyklon.” The podcast hosts are integrated into the broader white nationalist movement, hosting guests from other racists podcasts, and frequently diving into niche movement jokes and gossip.SPLC
In addition to this, English language social media profiles using the name Amerikaner can be found, which promote white nationalist ideas such as the great replacement theory, including one which uses the phrase ‘Me ne Frego’ in their bio. Me ne Frego, Italian for ‘I don’t Care’ is the title of a fascist song from the 1920s, which hails poet Gabriele D’Annunzio and dictator Benito Mussolini as the fathers of the fascist movement.
Other extremist groups with ties to South Dakota include the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers.
The Three Percenters are a branch of the militia movement.
Per the ADL, “The Three Percenter concept, created in 2008, is based on an inaccurate historical claim that only three percent of Americans fought in the Revolutionary War against the British.”
The group often falls under the category of anti-government extremists. One of the most well-branded groups on this list, the Three Percenters use the symbol of a roman numeral number three in a circle. This symbol can be found in a variety of forms, including on clothing, firearms and as decals on vehicles, the last example of which can be found in Sioux Falls.
The SPLC has cataloged multiple instances of the type of violent anti-government and anti-Muslim rhetoric used by members of the group.
The Oath Keepers are another anti-government extremist militia group. Members of the group, including leader Stewart Rhodes, have been indicted on charges of seditious conspiracy and other offenses related to the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Following a release of data obtained by the non-profit group Distributed Denial of Secrets, it was alleged by Rolling Stone that South Dakota state legislator, Phil Jensen (R) of Rapid City has been identified in the leaks as a member of the group.
Honorable mention: Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS)
The FLDS is an extremist offshoot of the Mormon Church. Though the group no longer appears to have a presence in South Dakota, the church (described by many as a cult) previously owned a compound in the southern Black Hills near the town of Pringle, S.D.
The group, which practiced polygamy, a remnant of the Mormon faith long abandoned by the mainstream church, was at one time run by Warren Jeffs, a man who was looked upon by the group as a prophet of God. Jeffs is currently serving time in a Texas prison for child sexual assault.