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Far right network orchestrated synagogue attacks, FBI says

Jason Wilson
Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Federal authorities allege that a member of a far right network orchestrated the vandalism of synagogues in Michigan and Wisconsin last September.

Richard Tobin, 18, of Brooklawn, New Jersey, allegedly led other members of the group to paint the synagogues with neo-Nazi slogans and insignia as part of what he called “Operation Kristallnacht”, in reference to the Nazi pogrom in Germany in 1938.

In a criminal complaint filed in Camden, New Jersey, last Tuesday, and unsealed Wednesday, an FBI agent stated that Tobin, from his home in New Jersey, directed members of the group’s “Great Lakes Cell”, hundreds of miles away, to deface synagogues with fascist and antisemitic propaganda.

A synagogue in Hancock, Michigan, was daubed with swastikas and SS symbols on 21 September. The next day, a synagogue in Racine, Wisconsin, was defaced with an antisemitic slogan and the runic insignia associated with a network known as The Base, which reproduces symbolism “adopted by Nazis after 1923 to memorialize members who died in Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch”, according to the complaint.

The complaint further alleges that through “online platforms and encrypted online messaging applications and chat rooms”, the group had discussed “the recruitment of prospective members, the creation of a white ethno-state, acts of violence against minorities (including African-Americans and Jewish-Americans) … military training camps, and ways to make improvised explosive devices (‘IED’)”.

According to the complaint, under questioning Tobin admitted that he had organized the vandalism, his membership of the group, claimed that he had considered “suicide-by-cop” and suicide bombings, and had said that it would be “pretty straightforward” to carry out a bombing like Timothy McVeigh’s in Oklahoma City in 1995.

He also said that his antipathy to black people he saw in a mall had made him want to “let loose” with a machete. The complaint details Tobin’s alleged online interchanges with alleged co-conspirators in the midwest without naming them.

In the complaint, the organization is referred to only as “Group 1”, and described as “training to resist ‘our People’s extinction’, or the extinction of the white race”.

But the insignia and activities described identify it as The Base, a reportedly internationally networked extremist group which is recruiting and training, it says, to ultimately capitalize on, and even accelerate, an outbreak of a civil war.

For at least a year, The Base has been organizing principally online, recruiting members, and developing propaganda.

The group, founded by a man who goes by the alias “Norman Spear”, has also held paramilitary trainings in advance of what it believes will be a race war. According to reporting in Vice, by last year The Base had already attracted recruits from other far right and neo-Nazi organizations like Atomwaffen (AWD) and the Eco-fascist order.

The indictment of Tobin comes as activists, and federal and local authorities exert more pressure on The Base and kindred “accelerationist” groups like AWD.

Tobin’s prosecution is ongoing; he remains in custody in New Jersey awaiting a mental health evaluation, according to court documents.