ambush at B&N

Brent Finnegan -- November 3rd, 2007

This story was sent to me by reader Erik Kimsey, who witnessed the following event at Barnes & Noble in Harrisonburg.

The morning of October 20, 2007, at roughly 10:30am, I witnessed four people in masks crowd around three men at a bistro table at the cafe in Barnes & Noble.

“People of Harrisonburg, we would like to expose to you of the coordinated activities of a Neo-Nazis here in town!” One of the masked persons yelled. The other three masked members chanted “Neo-Nazis” while pointing at the three men.

The three men, two middle-aged and another in his mid-twenties, reacted in indignation. The younger man of the supposed Neo-Nazi group, obviously shaken up, covered his face with the collar of his black sweatshirt. “We’re not Nazis! […] I don’t know who put you on to this, but we’re not Nazis! You were set up people! You were set up! […] We’re not Nazis!” One of the older men yelled at the masked group. Meanwhile, a dozen-or-so customers at the cafe vicinity had become an unwilled audience to the spectacle and others had moved to the cafe to watch. “In fact, I’m Jewish! We’re not Nazis!”

One of the accusers began taking photos of the three riled men. One of the accused screamed “Put the f***ing camera away! Stop taking pictures! We’re not Neo-Nazis!”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” one the older alleged Neo-Nazis stood to say: “I would like to use what is happening right now as an example of the filth colleges are teaching these days!” This statement was followed by an equally indignant guffaw from the surrounding B&N customers – some two dozen or so witnesses.

A B&N manager rushed to the scene where he told the crowd that he was calling the police. The manager apparently identified one of the masked accusers and began called his name. The accusers fled and within minutes three police squad cars had arrived.

Editors note: I’ve learned form a few sources that two of the men who were ambushed are pressing charges. I’m told the HPD have identified at least two of the masked accusers, and that they are associated with a local anarchist group. I’ll post more info as it becomes available.

25 Responses to “ambush at B&N”

  1. Erik Kimsey says:

    Having been a human being for twenty six years now and having witnessed the reactions of these accused men, I’d have to say they reacted in a manner not convincing of their innocence. And, I’ve since learned, between the time of the incident and now, that the masked persons had been communicating with alleged Neo-Nazis online, where they convinced the three men to meet in public. The younger of the three, I’ve been told, even shaved his head for the meeting.

    Aside from being photographed, I don’t understand what is legally at stake for these masked persons? It seems that situations like these require a lot of up-close squinting to find the lines (if they can be found) between that considered to be “private” and that considered “public”.

    I’m charmed by what the masked persons did that morning. It seemed everyone else witnessing the situation was charmed as well. Racism is a completely frivolous, ungrounded endeavor -to treat it analytically. In fact, I feel it is only pursued out of boredom and utterly false indignation.

  2. Phil says:

    2:1 the whole thing was a setup by right-wingers. The pronouncement about “the filth colleges are teaching these days!” at the end smells fishy to me.

  3. Emmy says:

    It really does sound odd and I hope it was a setup. But, I’ve learned the hard way that people are sometimes very different than they want everyone else to believe.

  4. Lowell Fulk says:

    ???

  5. Erik Kimsey says:

    No, no, no. It was a setup by the masked people in order to “expose the activities” of local, alleged “Neo-Nazis”.

    NOTHING about this incident had anything to do with silly bipartisanism, as what I witnessed is concerned. NOTHING about the incident alluded to a “Left” acting out on a “Right”. It seemed as though it was simply some people wanting to make public something that was potentially damaging to the community.

  6. finnegan says:

    According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Intelligence Project,” there are more than two dozen “hate groups” in Virginia. The only one listed in Harrisonburg is the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi organization.

    While I object to and reject racism, I also believe that humans have the right to think and say what we want. When it comes to the issues of racism and the First Amendment, I have to agree with the ACLU when they supported the KKK’s right to march in Cleveland, and with Noam Chomsky when he defended French author Robert Faurisson’s right to deny the Holocaust. These people and ideologies are the “thorns on the rosebush of free speech.”

    I guess you have to decide what’s worse: racism or vigilante style McCarthyism.

  7. Gxeremio says:

    Free speech doesn’t mean we don’t react to the speech of others, especially when it’s evil. Free speech doesn’t mean people are off the hook for whatever they believe or say because it’s their right.

    Free speech is a valuable right, and it means that the government doesn’t stop people from expressing their thoughts, for OR against, in a peaceful way.

  8. finnegan says:

    Agreed, Gxeremio. But I wonder what the masked accusers hoped the end result of their action would be.

  9. Emmy says:

    I think I’ve mentioned on here before that my father (and I use that term loosely) is a member of a hate group. When we were still speaking he would tell me of others in the area who are as well. Their numbers are larger than we would want to believe.

    I agree with Gxeremio. Perhaps their goal was to expose the reality that these groups still exist. Depending on who the accused were it may have been an attempt to damage their lives. Would you be as likely to do business with someone who you knew was a raging bigot?

  10. Erik Kimsey says:

    I think the intent carried by the masked accusers was exactly what Emmy stated above. That is, the accusers wanted to make known the identities of members of local hate groups (“neo-nazis”). Doing so would have dramatic effects on the lives of these people -mostly likely in a negative way.

  11. Gxeremio says:

    Here’s some more about this event on the Infoshop News site. The accusers may be charged under VA Code 18.2-422 which prohibits masks except under certain conditions. Class 6 Felony seems a little over the top to categorize this “crime,” though.

  12. finnegan says:

    Thanks for that link, Gxeremio.

    A few thoughts: by pressing charges, these alleged white supremacists — if they are indeed members of that group — may be making their situation much worse by drawing attention to it in court, and risk ending up in the local media spotlight. On the other hand, if the masked accusers were mistaken, or if their info was bogus, they’ll look doubly bad in the “court of public opinion.”

    At first, it struck me as odd that you would have one politically marginalized group (anarchists) going after another politically marginalized group (neo-Nazis) rather than targeting a more mainstream institution like the police or local government, but if they are correct, and if this event exposes a larger white supremacist group in the area, then it makes more sense. But the story would have to get coverage in print media and TV first.

    Other questions I have are: how active and dangerous is this group, and why have I not read/heard anything about them before? Crips, Bloods, and Sur-13 get a lot of media attention around here, and the HPD has a gang task force. Is the NSM not a gang? knowgangs.com, a leading gang info website often used by law enforcement, lists the Aryan Brotherhood, Peckerwoods, and Nazi Low Riders as 3 of 19 prominent gangs in the US.

  13. finnegan says:

    I’ve received a number of emails about this incident. The white supremacist message board thread containing the info about the meeting has been removed.

    http://www.stormfront.org/forum/showthread.php/harrisonburg-va-426923.html

    Google has it cached:

    danerebor1
    Join Date: Dec 2005
    Location: Shenandoah Valley, VA
    Posts: 226

    A number of us plan on meeting up in Harrisonburg, VA on October 20th. That’s a Saturday and we’ll be meeting in the morning.

    We usually just chat about current issues that affect white nationalists. It’s a good way to network.

    If you’d like to attend, let me know and I can give you more details…

    Dan

  14. Tim says:

    The Washington Post ran a story a couple of weeks ago about the recent trend of nooses being annoynomously hung as a threat. Although I do think that it’s mainly hot air (the most public case involved high school students) I feel that it’s relavant to the disscusion and what Emmy was saying about hate groups being more prevelant than we might think.

    As far as free speach goes I believe people should be free to say what ever they want. I’m also free to react in any legal way that I want, including being pissed off. However, I do think people should reconsider their message if they have to do it in masks, hoods, or any fashion you’re not supposed to talk about in church. Even that “preacher” who was at JMU calling female students whores was man enough to take responsibility for what he said. He was nuts but he didn’t hide behind a mask, sheet, or fake screen name.

  15. Ted says:

    Tthe masked men didn’t video all of this and put it up on YouTube? Darn….

  16. Anti Racist Action Harrisonburg says:

    Anti Racist Action Harrisonburg

    This is an update to our previous update. We want to give a clearer picture of the events of October 20th 2007.

    A group of concerned citizens in Harrisonburg heard that people from the online forum Stormfront (www.stormfront.org) would be meeting up in Harrisonburg, VA on October 20th. The exact post (by danererbor1) for the meeting went as follows:

    A number of us plan on meeting up in Harrisonburg, VA on October 20th. That’s a Saturday and we’ll be meeting in the morning.

    We usually just chat about current issues that affect white nationalists. It’s a good way to network.

    If you’d like to attend, let me know and I can give you more details…

    Dan
    __________________
    Ask our enemies this: how will bringing millions of third worlders into our countries NOT make our countries more like the third world? You know, rife with crime, corruption, poverty, disease, and a collapsed infrastructure. Why aren’t we allowed to have our OWN countries?

    Put our enemies on the spot. Make them justify their insanity.
    Peak Oil! / Bob’s Underground Seminar/ Northern VA Patriots /

    It was originally located at: http://www.stormfront.org/forum/showthread.php/harrisonburg-va-426923.html but they have deleted this thread from their site. Google however has a cached version located at: http://64.233.169.104/search?q=cache:zNSfR8PQRlMJ:www.stormfront.org/forum/showthread.php/harrisonburg-va-426923.html+harrisonburg+stormfront&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us&client=firefox-a

    Stormfront (stormfront.org) is an online white nationalist community which promotes a racist worldview. Dan, the organizer of Saturday’s meeting has posted the following on stormfront.org:

    Blacks in Ireland? Disgusting.
    Good to hear they’re getting deported!
    http://www.stormfront.org/forum/showthread.php?p=4490037#post4490037
    and
    Yep, the blacks and browns are like moths drawn to a white flame. H’burg still has its nice spots though.
    You should come by to one of our meetings sometime.
    http://www.stormfront.org/forum/showthread.php?p=4701697#post4701697

    by Stormfront member danerebor1 – [NAME REMOVED by MODERATOR on 11/6/07] – who appears to be the main organizer for the Shenandoah Valley. Stormfront has deleted the user danerbor1 or changed the author, though the original quotes can still be found in google’s cache.

    Currently the white supremacist/neo nazi movement is growing all around the world and making themselves known sometimes through propaganda and symbology (rightwing websites and newspapers to the rash of nooses being reported across the US) and other times through outright violent attacks (frequent attacks & beatings of immigrants and minorities occurring worldwide to the kidnapping and killing of two immigrants by Russian neonazis this summer who videotaped and publicized the murder online). This growth and the violence that is accompanying it is a serious concern which must be confronted wherever it appears.

    Four people from Anti-Racist Action Harrisonburg went to Barnes & Noble on the morning of Saturday, October 20th to let everyone know who was meeting there and to let the stormfront meeting know that they are not welcome. Anti-Racist Action also asked the group of neo-nazis to leave the store. Once the store’s manager arrived and asked everyone to leave, the group immediately did so.

    As was mentioned in a previous release two people have been arrested in connection with this event. They are being charged with wearing a mask
    section 18.2-422 of the code of Virginia the “Prohibition of wearing of masks in certain places” which is a Class 6 Felony and carries a maximum sentence of 5 years. (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+18.2-422)
    Any assistance would be most helpful. Currently what is most needed is financial help for the legal bills…

    We feel that it is important to make people aware that these types of groups exist in the Shenandoah Valley and that they are organizing and growing. A blind eye should not be given to this type of activity!

    If you have any questions or comments please contact us at: antiracistactionharrisonburg@yahoo.com

  17. Gxeremio says:

    Thanks for the information. Why were the ARAH members wearing masks, though? That’s a piece of the puzzle I don’t get.

  18. Emmy says:

    I understand your cause, maybe more than some, but I think that there has to be a better way to get your message out than a masked ambush.

  19. David Miller says:

    Having just read all of this I have the previous information I have a few thoughts. The sound of the word Neo-Nazi scares the hell out of me, how about you. I’d be hard pressed to confront them without a mask. Having said that, I disagree with the approach that Anti Racist Action Harrisonburg used. I personally would have utilized the media in an effort to expose these men for what they are. Frankly though, I would bet that this wouldn’t have gotten much support from local media outlets due to the actual dangers of dealing with mentally ill racists. Therefore, I would like to thank the Anti Racist Action Harrisonburg group for their efforts but encourage them to hire a lawyer before they do this type of thing in the future. Proactive respect for the law will garner higher support from our community than retroactive legal counsel for crimes committed.

  20. zen says:

    Well said David.
    A free and open society should have room for unwelcomed opinions. But at the same time disagreement with dangerous and threatening entities should be exposed, or at least confronted, in a more meaningful way. And by meaningful I suppose I mean in a way that will leverage more acceptability to the public. Masked vigilantes just come across as a bit more than dubious and unconvincing.

  21. Bubby says:

    Roanoke has their own version of this cancer. Some yankee troublemaker named Bill White showed up a few years ago and attached himself to the Star City because he thought it might be fertile ground for racism. He likes to post the names and addresses of people he disagrees with: like the Jena Six schoolkids. He put that up on his website “overthrow.com” under the byline “Lynch the Jena Six” That got his site disconnected but its back up – hosted by some Nazi up in New Jersey. Most of the links have quit working and we can only hope he returns to the hell he breached.
    http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/133574

    White said he looked forward to further killings of Jews and their sympathizers. He said he did not encourage violence, but that violence by white supremacists is justified because they are being persecuted for their views.

    http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/xp-19514

  22. finnegan says:

    Anyone hear about this?

    Dozens of neo-Nazis clashed with thousands of anti-fascists at the border of Prague’s Jewish Quarter yesterday on the anniversary of Krystalnacht, the 1938 Nazi attack on Jews and Jewish property in Germany.

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