Controversial Neo-Nationalist Meeting in Washington raise protests



Bret Stephens continued his criticism of Steve Bannon, President –elect Trump’s strategic counselor and adviser,  in his column in today’s Wall Street Journal (WSJ), “Trump’s neo-Nationalists.”  This followed  Bannon’s interview in the Weekend Edition of the WSJ published on November 18-19th, 2016, “Steve Bannon on Politics as War”.  Bannon dismissed the characterizations of him as a white supremacist, anti-Semitic as “just nonsense.”  On that score Stephens cautiously agreed, as the evidence exists to contradict left media like the Huffington Post  and  advocacy groups like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and  Southern Poverty  Law Center  concerning t their more salacious accusations about Bannon and his espousal of the alt-right neo-nationalism. 

Stephens is concerned instead about the firebrand Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute (NPI).  Spencer caused a firestorm of protests at a gathering of the ethno-political, white supremacist and anti-Semitic  group last Saturday  at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC. There was a  subsequent incident at a local Italian restaurant  objected to by human rights groups on the alt-left.  Videos showed  Spencer hailing Trump’s electoral triumph to the assembled with Hitler type salutes . The accelerant of a video of a woman making a Heil Hitler salute made the event go viral on social media.  The Reuters report , “US Holocaust Museum  ‘alarmed’ over hateful speech by  White nationalists “ reported what happened:

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum expressed alarm on Monday over “hateful speech” at a white nationalist meeting over the weekend, and a restaurant apologized for hosting the group after a woman tweeted a picture of herself making a Nazi salute.

The National Policy Institute, a think tank that is part of the alt-right movement that includes neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites, held a gathering at the federally owned Ronald Reagan Building on Saturday.

The alt-right movement came to the fore during the U.S. presidential election. President-elect Donald Trump has drawn criticism for naming Steve Bannon, former head of a website linked to the alt-right, as his chief White House strategist.

Trump’s transition team issued a statement on Monday saying Trump has continued to denounce racism, CNN reported.

“President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he was elected because he will be a leader for every American,” Trump-Pence Transition spokesman Bryan Lanza said in a statement.

The gathering on Saturday drew scores of protesters who blocked traffic around the building to express their outrage over the meeting.

A video by The Atlantic taken inside the conference showed Richard Spencer, leader of the National Policy Institute, shouting, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” as some of the people in attendance lifted their hands in a Nazi salute.

“The Holocaust did not begin with killings: it began with words,” the Holocaust Memorial Museum said in a statement. “The museum calls on all American citizens, our religious and civic leaders and the leadership of all branches of the government to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech.”

Some of those who attended the nationalist meeting later gathered for a banquet at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant in northwest Washington. Protesters converged on the site and prompted the restaurant to close to protect the safety of staff and guests, the management said in an apology on Facebook.

The restaurant said the booking was a last-minute affair made under a different name, so staff was unaware that the National Policy Institute was dining there and did not know what the group represented.

“After the event, an attendee sent a tweet in which she made a ‘Sieg Heil salute’ in support of Hitler and white supremacy. This expression of support of Hitler is extremely offensive to us, as our restaurant is home to teammates and guests of every race, religion and cultural background,” the Facebook post said.

The restaurant apologized to the surrounding neighborhood and said it was donating the profits from its sales on Friday, $10,000, to the Washington office of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group.

The Ronald Reagan Building, the biggest structure in the U.S. capital city, is federally owned, but run by Trade Center Management Associates, a unit of Drew Co., a Boston real estate development company.

The firm defended allowing the nationalist group to use the venue. It said in a statement that its contract mandates that unless there is a security threat by an organization or person who asks for meeting space, the building is available for rental.

The agenda of the National Policy Institute’s Saturday meeting included a breakdown of the 2016 election and plans for the growth of the alt-right.

The nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, described Spencer as an “academic racist” who backs creation of an Aryan homeland.

Twitter Inc suspended several accounts linked to the alt-right last week, including Spencer’s.

The move followed the micro blogging service’s announcement that it would upgrade some features to better combat cyber-bullying.

Let’s return to what Stephens’ WSJ column  discussed , before we address the remarks of the rental group that made the space available for Spencer and his NPI adherents.

Stephens noted this about Spencer and Bannon:

As my colleague Bari Weiss pointed out in a recent article in Tablet, the foremost figure of today’s alt-right, Richard Spencer, dreams of “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans. It would be a new society based on very different ideals than, say, the Declaration of Independence.” Mr. Spencer’s vision may not be Mr. Bannon’s. But the newfound political power of the latter will inevitably open channels for the former.

As to the matter of why the rental agent gave the space to Spencer and his NPI crew, look no further than the 1969 Supreme Court ruling in the case involving Brandenburg v. Ohio that defined protected speech under the First Amendment. Brandenburg,   lest we forget was a KKK leader who was prosecuted for “hate speech “under a state statute.  The US Supreme Court ruled in Brandenburg’s favor. “The Court’s Per Curiam opinion held that the Ohio law violated Brandenburg’s right to free speech. The Court used a two-pronged test to evaluate speech acts: (1) speech can be prohibited if it is “directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and (2) it is “likely to incite or produce such action.”  The language used by the rental agent at the Ronald Reagan Building in DC is virtually lifted from the Supreme Court ruling, to wit, “that unless there is a security threat by an organization or person who asks for meeting space, the building is available for rental.” 

We learned about the Brandenburg protected speech principle first hand. That was during a meeting  in 2010 at the US Department of Justice with a senior lawyer in the Civil Rights Division.  This writer together with  members of  the  board Former Muslims United who  were threatened by  death fatwa  emails from would be jihadists.  We received an an education about  the very limited  limited response by the Obama Department of Justice  to such threats  giving little comfort  to apostates facing death fatwas.  Protected speech under the Brandenburg doctrine we were told made any federal assistance to protect  Muslim apostates facing  Shari’a death threats virtually impossible.


Charlie Chaplin as Adnoid Hynkel and Jack Oakie as Benzino Napaloni in The Great Dictator

So what to do?  Spencer and the neo-nationalists need to be mocked and ridiculed.  Watch this clip of the spaghetti food fight between Charlie Chaplin as Jewish barber look alike  of  Hitler parody  Adnoid Hynkel and  comedian Jack Oakey as  Benzino Napaloni , the  Mussolini equivalent in  the  The Great Dictator.

 Either way the message gets back to Spencer and his neo-nationalists, White Supremacists and anti-Semites  that they will be subject to withering ridicule for espousing hate.  Bye the way did you notice that the young woman  at the NPI function in Washington, DC who tweeted the Nazi salute misspelled it as  “Seig Heil”.