NEW YORK - The day after Nikolas Cruz opened fire in a Florida school, Jordan Jereb, the leader of the Republic of Florida, a white supremacist group, told the Anti-Defamation League that Cruz was a member of their organization. An inspection of their online activity reveals calls to kill Jews and indicates a close connection to another supremacist group, the neo-Nazi Attomwaffen Division, whose members are reportedly connected to the murder of Jewish-American student Blaze Bernstein, as well as four other killings across the U.S.
Jereb told the ADL that Cruz was associated with group and even trained with their ROF Militia in the Tallahassee area, carpooling with other members from south Florida. Local law enforcement denied any confirmed connection between the two. However, the ROF's possible ties with other groups on the so-called alt-right reveal a consistent ideology and rhetoric of violence.
Even if it is revealed that Cruz and the ROF have no ties, just the fact that Jereb claimed the suspected shooter was a member warrants further investigation into their activities.
According to ADL, the ROF can be considered an alt-right-style white nationalist group, and “borrows paramilitary concepts from the anti-government extremist militia.” It openly aligns itself with the identitarian movement, which preaches white supremacy, and seeks to create a “white ethnostate” in Florida. The ADL report published earlier on Thursday also notes that members of the Republic of Florida have connections to other extremist organizations, including Vinlanders Social Club, the League of the South and the Atomwaffen. However, the report did not supply further details on these ties.
An inspection of ROF activity online conducted by Haaretz shows more troubling details of the Flordia group's possible ties to the wider web of hate groups that populate the American alt-right and which hint that the ROF and the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen are linked to one another: The ROF and Attomwaffen both share a similar ideology, alongside an admiration of serial killer Charles Manson; the ROF has even begun to wear the skull masks usually worn by Atomwaffen Division members.
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Atomwaffen Division members see themselves as soldiers in an upcoming race war, and base their ideology on the book “Siege” by James Mason, an American neo-Nazi and another Manson fan. "Siege" is referenced consistently throughout their Twitter and YouTube channel and the website that publishes Attomwaffen propaganda materials.
In possibly the clearest example of the ideological ties between the two, "Siege" also appears to be the main inspiration for a YouTube channel that seems linked to ROF leader, Jordan Jereb, who identified the Florida shooter as a member. The channel, called SiegeWave, predominantly publishes ROF propaganda.
SiegeWave contains videos of Jereb explaining the inner workings of the Republic of Florida, as well as musing about his personal past. One of the videos is a copy of an interview Jareb gave to the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper. Another, uploaded in November, is a recording of Jareb talking about new membership fees ($20). “We understand that we are meeting working class kids on the street that don’t come from rich backgrounds, but if you are not dedicated enough to scrap 20 bucks then I don’t need you,” he says.
The online channel also has videos of men in Atomwaffen-like masks calling to kill Jews. Out of the 13 videos on the YouTube channel, four show people wearing the masks. In one video uploaded only a week ago, a man in such a mask dons a helmet with the initials of the Republic of Florida and shouts: “Gas the kikes, race war now." In two others, masked men, one with a skull mask and another with an ROF helmet, call to read the book "Siege" so admired by Attomwaffen.
The tattoos of one of the masked men who reappear throughout the YouTube channel's videos seems consistent with those on Jareb's arm.
Other examples of online ROF activity are violent anti-Semitic messages, and attempts to network with other extremist groups active in the south. A propaganda web site called ROF Militia Music contains white nationalist-themed music peppered with calls to violence like “Kill the children, save the food.”
Another video shows a meeting between Jereb and Matthew Heimbach of the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party discussing ways to unite the “dozens of small organizations on the South.”
In an interview with Haaretz, Joanna Mendelson, a senior researcher at the ADL’s Center of Extremism, says that there are connections between the two groups. She also notes that members of ROF participated in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which she described as a “big tent event” that in addition to bringing visibility to white supremacist groups, also allowed white nationalists from different parts of the U.S. to form connections.
She also notes the similarity in their ideology: “Their communality is their fascination with death and destruction, fueled by an ideology that points to us versus them. They have an obsession with guns and violence, the danger is when their twisted violent fantasies are turned into a devastating reality."
According to an ADL report from January, white supremacist murders more than doubled in 2017: In December, Willian Atchison, a 21-year-old who fantasized about school shootings for years, killed two students in a shooting spree at Aztec High School in New Mexico. Atchison had previously engaged with anti-Semitic material online, including a video game where he would shoot Jews. “Within the last two months, we have seen individuals who have acted out in violent real-world action,” says Mendelson.
"When you glorify individuals as heinous as Breivik [both Atomwaffen and Jareb have expressed their admiration for Anders Breivik, who shot dead 69 children in a Oslo summer camp for immigrants], with a deep-seated white supremacy ideology, it's only a small step to a translate the hate into reality,” says Mendelson.
“Individuals, fixated on violence, who act on it, can forever impact our country," she adds. "Unfortunately there has been a dark side of the Sunshine State that has historically lurked in the shadows.”