Missoula police are not investigating as a crime Easter eggs containing antisemitic propaganda left around midtown last week advertising the Nazi terrorist group Atomwaffen, which is linked to five murders in the past year.
Missoula Police Department public information officer Travis Welsh said Thursday afternoon that police don’t know who left Easter eggs containing candy, trinkets and folded Nazi propaganda pamphlets in mailboxes on Kent Street near Brooks on Tuesday and Wednesday.
But Har Shalom synagogue spiritual leader Laurie Franklin told the Indy the department told her Thursday morning that police are pretty sure they know who did it, but won’t be releasing the perpetrator’s name, as there are no charges to bring. Missoula police are cooperating with a parallel FBI investigation. Franklin says she’s been assured the suspect is an out-of-towner and no immediate threat to the community.
Franklin has developed a rapport with local law enforcement since instances of antisemitic activity increased after the Trump election. She says what was once alarming is now routine.
“I’m not walking scared,” Franklin says.
Atomwaffen is a particularly militant neo-Nazi movement organized as a network of leaderless cells. Beyond worshipping Hitler and the traditional American Nazi pantheon, Atomwaffen promotes the Helter Skelter-style apocalyptic race war of Charles Manson, whose acolyte James Nolan Mason wrote the foundational texts of Atomwaffen.
In the past year, Atomwaffen members have traveled to areas of high-profile anti-racist protest to shoot propaganda videos, including Evergreen State College and the University of Washington. It is possible Atomwaffen may have been attracted to Missoula by the ongoing lawsuit against neo-Nazi blogger Andrew Anglin, though police have no confirmation of that. A Jewish realtor from Whitefish sued Anglin after his blog, the Daily Stormer, subjected her family to an antisemitic trollstorm, including death threats, after Anglin accused the woman of extorting the mother of prominent Montana white nationalist Richard Spencer.
The imagery on the pamphlets found in Missoula, at Evergreen and UW is all available on the propaganda archive on Atomwaffen’s website. The posters also refer to ironmarch.org, a Nazi forum that has been offline since September, with threads related to topics such as Anglin’s legal defense fund and the Azov Battalion, a Nazi militia fighting separatists in Eastern Ukraine that was armed and trained by the Pentagon from 2014 until Congress banned further support last month.
Antisemitic propaganda has been on the rise in Montana since late 2016, when fliers for the American Nazi Party began appearing in town, white nationalist group Identity Europa began advertising with with posters at the University of Montana, and Montana Republicans supported Flathead white nationalist Taylor Rose’s failed state legislative campaign.
This January, an Atomwaffen member in California was charged with stabbing a gay Jewish teenager to death and burying his body in an Orange County park. Another Atomwaffen member in Virginia is charged with murdering his girlfriend’s parents after they tried to break up their relationship because of his Nazism. In Florida, a former member said he shot and killed his two Nazi roommates after converting to Islam, an act Atomwaffen commemorated with a poster featuring his face and stating, “race traitors get the fucking knife.” A fourth Nazi roommate (and National Guardsman) was arrested at the murder scene for possession of explosives.
While the Daily Stormer is typically careful to ensure its broadcasts of genocidal ideology don’t contain threats specific enough to draw legal attention, Atomwaffen takes a different approach, with members in one video shouting “gas the kikes, race war now” and firing assault rifles.
YouTube belatedly banned the group’s account after initially defending the videos as within YouTube’s terms of service, and the group’s other social media profiles have been likewise purged. Atomwaffen’s propaganda videos are still available through the peer-to-peer video streaming site BitChute, whose decentralized structure and anti-censorship stance have made it a haven for the far-right provocateurs and conspiracy theorists.