October 23, 2017

Oregon Synagogue Attacker Out of Prison, Hopes to Rebuild American Front

You know how conservatives talk of terrorists getting out of Gitmo and going right back on the battlefield? Let's see them talk of this one!

Jacob Laskey
Jacob Laskey

Jacob Albert Laskey, the ringleader of a 2002 neo-Nazi attack against the Temple Beth Israel synagogue in Eugene, Oregon, has been released from federal prison and has promptly returned to white power organizing on the outside.
In particular, Laskey is trying to rebuild the American Front, a bonehead (racist “skinhead”) organization that has fallen into disarray in recent years. Laskey states that he was released from prison on October 13, 2015. Soon afterward, Laskey established a major online presence and began to network with other neo-Nazis. On November 28, Laskey stated on Twitter that he had been on “GPS home confinement”–instead of living at a halfway house–since the day before. (Laskey still appears on the Bureau of Prisons inmate locator, with a release date of January 12, 2016–presumably when Laskey is no longer under reentry program supervision.) Laskey gives his current location as Medford, Oregon.Disturbingly, one of the people Laskey is now in networking with is Christopher Vertrice Lord. Lord, who currently lives in Idaho and plays in the racist musical project Beer Hall Putsch, was convicted of an earlier 1994 rifle attack on Temple Beth Israel while Lord was living in Oregon and affiliated with the American Front.

The 2002 Temple Beth Israel Attack and Laskey’s Time in Volksfront

On October 25, 2002, Jacob Laskey, his younger brother Gabriel Doyle Laskey, plus Gerald Anthony Poundstone, Jesse Lee Baker and Jereomy Allan Baker threw rocks etched with swastikas at Temple Beth Israel, breaking the Temple’s stained glass. Approximately 80 people were inside Temple Beth Israel at the time, attending a religious service. The neo-Nazi attackers were arrested only after a lengthy investigation, with Jacob Laskey charged in 2005. Laskey was eventually sentenced in 2007, not only for civil rights charges related to the rock-throwing against the synagogue, but for being a felon in possession of a firearm and for charges from his attempts to obstruct the federal case against him. Laskey had solicited the murder of a witness and also solicited a bomb threat against the courthouse where the grand jury was being held. Before this federal case, Laskey had a criminal record in Florida and Oregon for violent acts against perceived racial and political opponents.

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Jacob Laskey, at the time of his membership in Volksfront
​At the time of the attack against Temple Beth Israel, Jacob Laskey was a member of Volksfront, which was then the most influential neo-Nazi bonehead organization in Oregon. (In 2002, Volksfront chapters only existed on the US West Coast; this changed the following year with national and international expansion.) Laskey served as Volksfront’s prisoner affairs coordinator, supporting white racists and neo-Nazis who were in the prison system. Volksfront’s website circa 2002 shows that Volksfront prioritized support for Kenneth Mieske, one of the killers of Ethiopian immigrant Mulugeta Seraw in Portland, 1988. As Volksfront’s prisoner coordinator, Laskey was doubtless involved in supporting Mieske.As VF prisoner affairs coordinator, Laskey also heard from Kurtis Monschke, who had been a probationary Volksfront member in Washington. Monschke sent letters while awaiting trial for the murder of Randall Mark Townsend, a homeless man who Monschke and other boneheads battered to death in Tacoma, 2003. Surprisingly, Volksfront turned its back on Monschke and even called for the death penalty in that case–a decision that seems based in fear that Volksfront could be held liable for Townsend’s death. This decision from Volksfront was the exception to the organization’s typical support for imprisoned violent white supremacists.

Jacob Laskey not only supported racist prisoners in the name of Volksfront, but also received support from Volksfront when he faced his own (pre-synagogue attack) legal problems. On January 25, 2003 Volksfront held a “Rock Against Communism” show in the greater Portland metro region. (We have written elsewhere about the racist assault in Vancouver, Washington which took place before this concert.) The Volksfront benefit concert raised funds for Laskey’s defense when he and another bonehead faced charges for an assault against someone Laskey described as a “Jew SHARP [Skinhead Against Racial Prejudice]” and who Volksfront called an “ARA (Anti-Racist Action) terrorist.”

Laskey did more than just prisoner support for Volksfront. In 2004, Laskey was one of the organizers for the Volksfront “Aryan Fest” in Phoenix, Arizona. In one of his writings from prison that has been posted online, Laskey claims that he “personally invited” Richard Butler, then the head of Aryan Nations, to speak at Aryan Fest. Laskey helped Butler to “come to the [Aryan Fest] show with his Security Guard, which was his [Butler’s] last public speech before his death.” It appears that at this time Laskey subscribed to Christian Identity, the belief system also preached by “Pastor” Butler within the Aryan Nations. Christian Identity proclaims that white people are God’s true chosen people; that people of color are inferior; and that Jewish people are imposters and literally of Satanic descent.

Laskey’s Changing Affiliations and the American Front

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Laskey’s current Twitter account, displaying the American Front logo
​ By the time Laskey was sentenced in 2007, he referred to his Volksfront involvement in the past tense. Laskey eventually changed allegiance to the American Front (AF), one of the oldest far-Right bonehead groups in the US. The exact date of Laskey changing allegiance is unknown. One letter from Laskey composed shortly after his 2007 sentencing lists a number of organizational affiliations, such as being “part of White Revolution, and religiously associated with the [Christian Identity] Christian Separatist Church Society.” American Front is not mentioned in the letter, suggesting that Laskey either became an AF member later while in federal prison, or that Laskey was at the time keeping quiet about this particular group affiliation. By at least 2010, Laskey was openly describing himself as an American Front member. Interestingly, while in prison Laskey also appears to have changed religious affiliation—Laskey adopted racially-changed Odinist beliefs and abandoned Identity. (Volksfront, which Laskey had been involved in, was known for having both Identity and racist pagan adherents within its ranks.)The American Front was founded in the mid-1980s by Robert Heick in the California Bay Area, making the American Front one of the earlier and longer-lasting bonehead organizations in the US (although the organization has had long periods of hibernation.) The American Front is known for its introduction of “Third Position” politics within the United States white power scene. Briefly, Third Positionism is an attempt to merge some “left-wing” concerns as well as a pro-worker orientation with more generic fascist or neo-Nazi politics.

In early 1990s, the American Front moved its headquarters to Portland, Oregon, where it was for a while one of the more visible neo-Nazi groups in the city. (See the report “The Northwest Imperative: Documenting a Decade of Hate” here for information about the American Front in early-1990s Oregon.) The American Front changed leadership from Heick to James Porrazzo in the mid-1990s, with new leader Porrazzo leading the organization away from the bonehead subculture and more deeply into “Third Position” and “National Revolutionary” political territory. The organization declined during this period from a mixture of infighting, Porrazzo’s increasingly arcane politics, and his alienating AF’s on-the-ground bonehead support. However, in places such as Florida and California clusters of American Front boneheads continued, maintaining an orientation closer to the first generation American Front.

In a piece of prison writing, Laskey states: “A few years later [than a 2002 Hammerskin event Laskey wrote about] after I parted ways with Volksfront (who I always will have a lot of love and respect for), knowing that good comrades like Roy [from the white power music act Final War] was American Front and true National Socialist, I heeded the call and accepted membership into AF (Also Dave, Rob, Rabbitt, Chris, Big Bryan, and others were influential in my decision).” It is clear from this account that Laskey was more drawn towards the bonehead part of the American Front, with its links to the white power rock scene. Laskey would have encountered bonehead American Front from the West Coast white power circuit, and perhaps even earlier from when Laskey was in Florida with the Navy.

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American Front tattoo on back of Laskey’s neck
PrisonWhile serving his federal prison sentence, Jake Laskey appears to have spent his time writing, organizing on the inside, and getting tattooed. Laskey’s writings are available on a number of websites, several of them signed as “American Front Political Prisoner Jake Laskey.” One source for Laskey’s writings is a blog titled “Letters from Jake,” the postings appearing in 2000 and 2011.  Most of these writings are reminisces about Laskey’s life as a violence-prone bonehead, and about the various white power festivals he attended before his incarceration. Laskey also writes about Odinist mysticism, which he claimed to be “our racial religion”–this shows Laskey’s change in religious affiliation.

The “Letters from Jake” blog also features an “Aryan Resistance Manifesto” written under Laskey’s name. In the Manifesto, Laskey writes that “The Race War is fought between the oppressed Aryan Race and an alien, degenerate, unwanted system under the control of Zionists [clearly meaning Jews], who are destroying our land and our rights.” Laskey outlines his plan to “make America ungovernable” for the “Zionist Occupational Government” by organizing a paramilitary force divided into secretive cells. The manifesto then fills pages with Laskey’s fantasies about assassination and bombing campaigns before concluding “Hail the Aryan Revolutionary Movement! White Power!”

It appears as though Laskey organized within an “Aryan Resistance Movement” on the inside. In an article titled “The Movement Inside” on yet another blog, Laskey discusses the Aryan Resistance Movement and provides a (real or imagined) genealogy connecting it to the white power terrorist organization The Order/Brüder Schweigen of the 1980s. (The Order did briefly refer to itself as the “Aryan Resistance Movement.”) The current “ARM” within the prison system does not seem to solely be a figment of Laskey’s imagination, since a Department of Justice press release from 2013 discusses an assault by someone else affiliated with the “Aryan Resistance Movement, a violent white supremacist prison gang.”

Laskey connected with Edgar Steele while in the federal prison system, when Laskey was transferred to the same prison as Steele in 2013. Steele was once a major figure on the white nationalist scene, having served as the lawyer for the Aryan Nations. (Steele was also the main speaker at the Volksfront “AryanFest” in 2005, held at Cascade Locks, Oregon.) In 2011, the 66-year-old Steele was sentenced to fifty years for a murder-for-hire plot against his wife. Some far-Right activists (and even Steele’s own wife) proclaimed Steele’s arrest and sentencing to be a giant frame-up, the result of a nefarious conspiracy to silence Steele.

Laskey interviewed Edgar Steele from prison in 2014, this text being placed online by long-running white supremacist Harold Covington of the Northwest Front. In the interview, Steele claimed that he was being looked after in prison by “members of ARM, which is the Aryan Resistance Movement.” Later in 2014, Steele died in prison after weeks of declining health. In another message to Harold Covington circulated online, Laskey claimed that “It was obvious […] that Edgar was drugged” prior to his death–this has predictably given rise to further conspiracy theories regarding Steele, transforming Steele in some quarters into a sort of white nationalist martyr.

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Laskey, post-release photo
​ Besides his writing and white power organizing on the inside, Laskey appears to have spent a lot of his time getting tattooed. A photo of Laskey while he was active with Volksfront before prison shows some tattoos, including “skin head” written in runes on his knuckles. Laskey has now emerged from the prison system with much more ink. Photos on his Twitter account show the phrases “white power” and “blood & honor” on Laskey’s jawline, “2yt4u [too white for you]” on his front neck, as well the “rolling sevens” of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement by each ear. A large American Front logo is on the back of Laskey’s neck, visibly displaying his current affiliation.The American Front During Laskey’s Imprisonment

The American Front went through something of a rebirth–followed by another collapse–while Laskey was serving his prison sentence. The rebuilding of the American Front began before Laskey was even arrested. David Lynch led this American Front resurgence. Originally active as an American Front leader on the East Coast a decade earlier, by 2002 Lynch was based in Northern California and took over what remained of the American Front after the Porrazzo years. Rebirth and expansion followed. Lynch dropped Porrazzo’s more esoteric Third Position politics, returning the American Front to more typical bonehead activities, such as white power music festivals and rallies. Lynch was also heavily involved with the Sacto Skins–another white power group–and built alliances between the revived American Front and other white supremacist organizations, such as Volksfront and Blood & Honour American Division (one of the groups competing for the “Blood & Honour” Nazi music franchise in the US at the time.)

Lynch’s leadership of the American Front came to an abrupt end in March 2011 when he was shot to death in his home. Although another bonehead was arrested as a person of interest, murder charges were never brought against this individual. The murder has not been solved. It was however likely the result of conflict within the bonehead milieu. After Lynch’s murder, he became thought of by true believers as another white power martyr. The American Front was however left without a leader.

James Porrazzo briefly made a bid for the leadership of the American Front after Lynch’s death, taking over the American Front website. By the end of the year Porrazzo had given up this effort, declared the American Front dissolved, and was focusing on his “New Resistance” project which even further delved into obscure political territory (this time with an emphasis on the thought of Aleksandr Dugin.)

The following year, fourteen American Front members were arrested in Florida, where an AF presence had remained and indeed resisted Porrazzo’s attempted power grab. Those arrested in Florida faced a large number of charges stemming from their preparations for cataclysmic race war. Included in this sweep was Marcus Faella, an American Front militant whose political history included working alongside David Lynch in the 1990s. While the case against Faella and others largely fell apart–Faella was convicted of lesser charges and two others took pleas, all rest having their charges dropped—the 2012 arrests are still credited with having “destroyed the American Front in Florida,” its other stronghold.

Small clusters of American Front activists still exist. For example, the West Coast bonehead musical project Ironwill incorporated an American Front symbol into an early version of its logo. However the American Front is currently without clear leadership to unite any remaining activists. It is this situation, it seems, that Jacob Laskey wishes to remedy.

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Logo for West Coast racist rock group Ironwill, incorporating American Front symbol
Laskey’s Current White Power Networking
Since being released from prison, Laskey has been extremely active on online social networking and Twitter. Some of Laskey’s Facebook contacts include former Volksfront members Nick Scheel and Brandon Vespermann; Northwestern Hammerskins leader Matthew Schmoyer in Washington; as well as Pam Bailey, who was involved in a bizarre assault/kidnapping case stemming from a failed 2001 neo-Nazi attack on patrons at a Portland bar.

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Laskey Twitter post of November 2, 2015
​ On Twitter, Laskey’s account has an American Front logo as its masthead and Laskey is clear about his hopes to revive the American Front (perhaps similarly as the AF was revived by Lynch over a decade earlier.) Laskey for example on November 2 announced that he was “in touch with a sister,” a statement he combined with a photo of a female bonehead wearing an AF t-shirt and with an AF neck tattoo. On December 7, Laskey announced that “American Front is officially coming back! America for true Americans!” These repeated mentions of the American Front indicate that helping to rebuild the AF is one of Laskey’s networking priorities. It is also clear, however, that any reborn American Front would be closer to the more traditional bonehead organizing of Lynch than Porrazzo’s esoteric Third Positionism. Two major themes on Laskey’s Twitter–beyond explicitly white supremacist propaganda–are Islamophobic messages and support for Donald Trump. (Trump is beloved by sections of the white power movement, and Trump’s candidacy has led to increased outreach by white nationalists. This is not to say that Trump is a fascist, but Trump has certainly energized white nationalists.) The Islamophobic and pro-Trump messages circulated by Laskey fit more comfortably with the generic bonehead approach of the American Front under Lynch, than they would with versions of Third Positionism that may for example argue for white power/political Islamist alliances.

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Laskey Twitter post of December 7, 2015
One recent online contact of Laskey’s is especially ominous. On Facebook, Laskey is connected to Christopher Vertrice Lord. Lord shot at Temple Beth Israel in 1994–the same Eugene, Oregon place of worship attacked by Laskey and his associates in 2002. At the time of Lord’s drive-by shooting against Temple Beth Israel, Chris Lord was active in the American Front. Lord is now living in Idaho and sings for the Hammerskin Nation-affiliated racist rock band Beer Hall Putsch. It is disconcerting that Laskey would–while networking to get more white power activism going–quickly establish contact with another person who targeted Temple Beth Israel, and thus was a forerunner of Laskey’s own attack. While there is no indication that Laskey is trying to recruit Lord for a revived AF–Lord presently appears to be a Hammerskin prospect, and Laskey wants good relations with the Hammerskins–it is clear that people with similarly violent histories would make up the ranks of any reborn American Front.

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Christopher Lord (as “Chris Laird”) on Facebook–Jake Laskey “likes” photo
​ConclusionIt remains to be seen whether Laskey will meet with any success in reviving the American Front. Laskey appears to be somewhat of a fantasist, and his neo-Nazi ambitions may far exceed what he will ever be able to follow through on. Laskey is however dedicated, and as outlined above he has a long history of involvement in the white power scene to draw on. As Laskey’s release conditions are lifted, we expect his white power involvement will center less and less on the internet connections, instead taking place in the offline world. Anti-fascists must be prepared for neo-Nazi scenes on the outside to regain participants, as prisoners who have spent years in prison strengthening their convictions get released.

If you have information about Laskey and his circles that you would like to share, please contact us.

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