In November, seven trials and 48 detentions have been carried out against extremists. The most relevant trial of the month has been the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse in the United States, which ended with the acquittal of all charges and turned the accused into an icon to the extreme-right. Moreover, an extremist group composed of military was disbanded in France. In the ideological sense, Neo-Nazism was again the most prevalent and frequent ideology this year, and the most relevant for quantifying the far-right phenomenon.
In Europe, 14 incidents are exposed with a total number of 48 detainees. The most relevant arrest is the seizure of several hundreds of ammunitions in Austria, showing a recurring trend this year: the detention of extremists in Europe with arms and ammunition that unfolds two characteristics. In the first place, and more recurrently, extremists have been found to have armament and means to finance themselves, which increases the threat posed by such groups. On the other hand, the efforts of some States to fight right-wing extremism can be drawn, especially in conducting high-level sensitive operations. In this sense, Germany constitutes one of the most active countries in fighting extremist groups.
Similarly, marches have become a common feature in the violent extremism landscape. Throughout November, several extremist demonstrations took place across Europe, particularly in Poland, where such events have been classified as highly dangerous and expose the worrisome situation of extremism in Eastern European countries.
In Bulgaria, a presidential candidate was charged with three alleged attacks against an LGBTQ centre in the capital. In the course of the investigation, the Bulgarian presidential candidate Boyan Rasate was arrested and detained on hooliganism charges. The police report exposes that the candidate alongside more people entered on October 30 the Rainbow Hub, a centre for multiple LGTBQ organizations that promote the protection of human rights, and ransacked the place, injuring the foundation coordinator. The general prosecutor confirmed the arrest once the legal immunity of the candidate was waived. The self-proclaimed national socialist candidate has been notorious for his extremist rhetoric and narrative, particularly anti-LGBTQ. Several embassies and European institutions exposed their condemnation of these acts.
Similarly to Bulgaria, the situation in Poland is daunting. Several demonstrations took place in the capital as the Polish border crisis worsened. An illustrative example occurred when thousands of people attended rallies for the Independence Day led by far-right extremists. During the marches, several antisemitic and xenophobic chants were heard. Most notably, the march has a deep nationalist purpose, as the march leader claimed that “there was an attack on the Polish border and… Today it is the duty of every Polish patriot to support the state.” This march is not the first of its kind. In 2017, thousands of white nationalists and neo-Nazis paraded through the capital and clashed with the police, and the President and Prime Minister marched alongside far-right groups the following year. The number of attendees of such parades has been high during the past years: in 2018, over 200.000 people joined to participate in the marches, while during the present year the estimated number was over 60.000 people. In response, in this report it is argued that this day has become a relevant gathering of extreme-right groups in Poland.
Likewise, the support from the government to far-right parties is evident as it is also involved in discussions with the EU over the judicial changes towards certain collectives such as the LGBTQ community and the immigrants. As a consequence, the EU recovery funds have been used to leverage the Polish government from the EU, as the polish government has been accused of politicizing the courts, including the tribunal.
This event occurs while the immigration situation worsens up to the point to be considered a humanitarian crisis. In contrast, the Polish government has instituted a state of emergency on the border, with asylum requests thus not allowed, permitting the immediate expulsion of migrants under this formula. The situation with Belarus is similarly critical, as several threats, including the cut of gas deliveries, have been conducted by the Lukashenko government. In this context, the European Union is accusing Belarus of enabling the transit of thousands of migrants towards EU borders as a retaliatory measure for the sanctions imposed. Additionally, other States bordering Belarus have exposed this situation leading to conflict, and the defence ministers of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have called it “the most complex security crisis for our region”.
In this scenario the situation becomes worrisome, since the ruling government is being isolated within the EU and under threats by Belarus, which Russia indirectly supports, creating a perfect scenario for the proliferation of extreme-right movements. As the winter approaches, the situation is expected to get worse.
2.3. United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, two events related to domestic extremism are reported. The first one is the arrest of an 18-year-old boy who was planning a terrorist attack, accused of preparing an attack against the police, the LGBTQ and the Muslim communities. The police report showed that the detainee had written a manifesto and searched for explosive ingredients on the Internet, explicitly targeting people and locations for the attack. These trends highlight the importance of implementing preventive programs for adolescents and a series of other mechanisms for combating radicalization at such an early age. Nevertheless, the measures from the police have been exemplary, as this is not the first case of an arrest previous to an attack: in September, a similar case occurred.
The second event is related to the trial of Ben Raymond, the co-founder of the proscribed extremist group National Action. During the trial, a link between National Action and the Atomwaffen Division was exposed. The defendant faces seven terror offences, including the continuation of the membership to a proscribed group. A particularly concerning element of this trial is that the co-founder met a member of the neo-Nazi organization Atomwaffen Division, thus exposing extremist groups’ international cooperation and networking.
In Spain, there have been a total of five events related to violent extremism. The most relevant one is the arrest of several members of an extremist group in Catalonia. In the course of an operation against a neo-Nazi group called “The Last Bastion” (El último bastión), 14 extremists were detained. This group had links with the criminal organization Boixos Nois. Seven of the arrested individuals were immediately imprisoned, while the others were released. In addition to belonging to an extremist organization, the group also dealt with drug trafficking and sexual exploitation.
The elements of the detention are yet to be detailed by the police, as the investigation is still undergoing. However, it is relevant to expose that they are being detained for other charges than being part of a neo-Nazi group. Several weapons, drugs, and most remarkably, over 300.000 euros in cash were seized during the raids. This element remarks the link between extremist and criminal groups, often complementing each other. The relation between extremism and organized crime brings a preoccupying scenario, as these groups get funding for their activities which could be either violent extremist actions or conducting criminal acts. Additionally, this dual relation exposes a degree of organization with a clear hierarchy and line of command: while this particular group was more focused on criminal activities rather than extremist actions, the possibility of transforming this phenomenon in a symbiotic and widespread reality remains troubling.
The second event presented is an extremist march that took place in Valencia. The organizers of the event are being investigated by the autonomic government to figure out whether it constitutes an exaltation of the fascist regime. The march was organized by the extremist party España 2000. The case of Valencia is particular as it has been reported extremist rallies on several occasions, all of them organized by the abovementioned political party. The particularity relies on the permission for these marches; therefore it is argued that they should not be permitted.
The third event reported is related to the November 20th marches, commemorating the death of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. On the eve of the anniversary, several falangist and fascist groups reunited to march, singing fascist chants and exposing their discontent with the Democratic Memory draft bill, which will investigate crimes committed during the dictator’s regime. Moreover, they held a mass offering to Franco, attended by the leader of the opposition. Because of these marches, an antifascist demonstration was also held in the city. A singularity of these marches is that several other extreme-right groups from other countries were summoned. In this sense, it is important to highlight that exaltation of the fascist regime is not a crime in Spain. It can be penalized in some communities, but it is not typified as such. Particularly in Madrid, it is neither penalized nor classified as a crime.
Contrasting with these events, the fourth event is the denouncement of a hate crime from the prosecutor office towards Isabel Peralta, the youth leader of the neo-Nazi group Bastión Frontal, on grounds of violence execution against the Muslim community, particularly from Moroccan origin. The denunciation quotes expressions of this leader such as “death to the invader”, in reference to the Moroccan immigrants during a march taking place in May. This denouncement might start a trend in the future to prosecute extremists who openly use hate speech in their narratives and discourses.
Finally, the last event revolves around the detention of a neo-Nazi individual for attacking the offices of a leftist political party in Leon province last year. The extremist had previously been detained for the attack to another leftist office in Cartagena. However, he was released despite of the substantial evidence found against him. The detention comes after the investigation showed he was responsible for both attacks.
In early November, the Swedish police arrested a man for plotting “devastation”, but the police has not released more information as the investigation is under course. Compared to other Nordic countries, Sweden has a longer track record of right-wing terrorism and militancy. According to Aasland, a top scholar in the study of the extreme right, the main reason behind this reality is the different experience of Sweden in the wake of the World War II. The situation with the extreme-right in the Nordic countries had its highest point in the 1990s. However, most of the movements collapsed during the early 2000s, being replaced by more moderated, democratic groups. In Sweden, however, this did not occur. It is exposed that in the early 1990s, Nazi organizations such as Nordiska Rikspartiet (the Nordic National Party), Nysvenska Rörelsen (the New Swedish Movement), and Sveriges Nationella Förbund (Sweden’s Nationalist Federation) disbanded and were replaced by underground skinhead groups and networks such as Vitt Arisk Motstånd (White Aryan Resistance), Nationella Alliansen (Nationalist Alliance), Ariska Brödraskapet (Aryan Brotherhood), the Swedish Combat 18 and Blood and Honour Scandinavia (BHS). The use of violence was characteristic of these groups, especially from BHS, and they were roughly organized. However, they soon disbanded due to internal issues. In this extremist landscape, it is not unusual to notice that Sweden has a stronger and more resilient extreme-right movement.
One of the most recent events regarding the extreme right in Sweden is the participation of several individuals of Swedish origin in Eastern Ukraine on the pro-Kyiv militias since 2014. Over 30 nationals are believed to have fought in Ukraine as foreign fighters, and Sweden also hosts the Nordic Resistance Movement, the largest and most active militant organization in the Nordic countries with divisions in Norway, Finland and Denmark. The Swedish branch, the most active among them, has been able to assemble its members.
In Germany, 24 people were arrested by the police after an anti-covid demonstration for carrying prohibited objects. The demonstration took place in Leipzig, where over 1.000 people marched against governmental measures regarding covid-19.
German intelligence has exposed that covid deniers are increasingly radicalizing. Moreover, a study from the Research Institute for Social Cohesion argues that there is a link between the far-right and high covid rates in Germany, defending that there exists a correlation between the radicalization among the adherents to this belief and the far-right. The study shows that the increase in the covid incidence rate is directly correlated to the increase of voters of the political party Alternative for Germany.
The relationship between far-right groups and anti-covid demonstrators has been thoroughly reported over the former months in this Observatory. The main reason behind this relationship is that both blame the current governments for the measures taken to fight the current pandemic. However, when such narrative and rhetoric involve more extremist conspiracy theories, it is argued that they become extreme, especially when the narrative involves a supranational group of elites trying to control societies, and even more when this group is believed to be a group of the Jewish community.
In the case of Austria, the police seized an arsenal of over 50 weapons and over 1.000 kilograms of ammunition alongside Nazi paraphernalia during a raid in the city of Baden. A particularity of this case is the type of weapons the police found: submachine guns and pump-action rifles were seized. The house where the arms were found belonged to a 53-year-old man who is currently under investigation.
The former case is not the first time the police has found many weapons in Austria. This July, the police seized automatic weapons and grenades from biker gangs related to extremist groups. It is relevant to state that support for Nazism is prohibited and is considered a criminal offence in Austria, whereas Austrian Neo-Nazi groups are not few and are closely related with their German counterparts.
During November, two arrests were carried out with a total of 15 detainees in France. The first arrest was conducted against two extremists by police officers as an anti-terrorism probe. Both detainees are being investigated for issuing a call for violence through the online platform Telegram. In the course of the investigation, guns were found at the house of one of the suspects, alongside material to create explosives.
The second raid resulted in the arrest of 13 members, 12 men and one woman, from the extremist group French Recolonization (Recolonisation France). Several arms, protective gear, and over 1.500 ammunition were also confiscated during the arrests. This group is convinced of the proximity of a civil war in France because of the migratory pressure and appeals to its members to organize and create armed groups. A preoccupying particularity is that soldiers and former soldiers led this group, manifesting their high level of structure and organization. Another characteristic is the age range of the arrested, the youngest being 21 and the oldest 52, in an organization expected to be composed of over a hundred men spread across France.
This event underlays the high threat the extreme right poses in France. While no attack has taken place for the time being, the fact that several raids and weapon seizures have occurred this year emphasizes two elements. The first is the degree of organization and structure some extremist groups have, frequently possessing military training in some of the cases and thus increasing the threat to a higher level. The second element relates to the efforts of some governments, particularly in France, to fight extremism in their police and military corps, which proves the anticipatory behaviour to prevent the situation to escalate into conflict.
As exposed last month, the situation in France is worrisome. In the current year, several incidents have been reported in France related to the extreme right. The political polarization has turned into a trend in French society, and extremist rhetoric and narratives in the mainstream expose the high degree of extremization the country currently suffers. In this context, the next elections will be a turning point for the country, more importantly to the extent that the results will affect the European Union in the wake of the French presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2022.
Contrasting to the European situation of arrest and marches, seven of the eight events reported in the United States are trials towards extremists or related to the extreme right, the last event being the resurrection of the extremist group Atomwaffen division. The most relevant case among the trials is the judgment finding Kyle Rittenhouse “not guilty” of all the charges. Such a verdict has been highly praised by the far-right and the extreme-right, and it is argued that extremists will use his figure as a hero. The events took place on August 25th, 2020, when the then 17-years-old Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot two protesters and injured another person in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The shooting occurred during the civil unrest caused by the shooting of a black man by the police. During the protests, Kyle, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, came to the scene to “protect” businesses and people from the protesters. The accused was indicted on two counts of first-degree murder and a third charge on attempted homicide, and he used the self-defence argument which finally resulted in the acquittal of all charges. Because of this verdict, several far-right politicians celebrated the judgment, alongside extremists, now claiming Rittenhouse is a hero of the white people. This event exposes the highly preoccupying situation in the United States, as both academics and other institutions have highly criticized the verdict, manifesting the current lack of punishment against crimes related to the rise of the extreme right.
While the accused was not a white supremacist or white nationalist, this trial is relevant because the lack of perceived punishment towards a group of people highly increases polarization and gives a sentiment of empowerment to white extremists, as they see their actions unpunished, or in this scenario acquitted of all charges. As exposed in previous reports, this type of incident increases the probability of both left-wing extremism and right-wing extremism because the first considers the institutions and government are biased. In this scenario, political polarization is expected, which can lead to radicalization towards violence in some groups and individuals. In contrast, from the extreme-right, individuals and groups will feel legitimized to act upon their beliefs as their actions are perceived to go unpunished and, in some events, praised.
In similar terms, the Qanon Shaman Jacob Chansley who participated on the riots against the Capitol in early 2021 was sentenced to prison, being the longest sentence given to those who participated in the riots. Chansley received sentence of 41 months’ imprisonment and was convicted to pay 100 dollars as restitution.
In contrast to this trial, two trials in Texas dealing with young extremists occurred. In the first scenario, the judgment dealt with a 20-year-old who distributed bomb-making instructions through extremist channels. The accused was into conversations with undercover FBI agents and shared knowledge on how to create and get the material for different explosive devices. This event highlights the importance of many elements, specifically in preventing youth violent extremism programs and countering violent extremism measures. In a similar scenario, an 18-years-old college student from Texas is facing charges for allegedly setting fire to a synagogue. During the detention, several objects with Nazi images and writings depicting his hateful view were found alongside plans to commit the act.
Regarding the trials to extremists belonging to “The Base”, the present document reports that the three different trials found guilty all members involved, each one of them for their particular criminal charges. The judgments, interrelated to one another, were related to the same plot that targeted a black activist couple. Moreover, the first accused was also found guilty of conspiring to arson synagogues. This 20-year-old extremist joined a chat online with other members and encouraged them to destroy properties affiliated with Jewish Americans and African Americans, nicknaming the attack as “Kristallnacht” or “Night of Broken Glass”, which refers to the attacks against Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues in Germany during 1938.
In comparison, the other two members had different judgements. Luke Austin, 23, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and received the sentence of six years in prison. In contrast, Michael Helterbrand, 27-years-old, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The men planned to ambush the activist couple in their home and set it ablaze to cover the crime. It is relevant to expose that the three accused were charged for this plot, being detained in January 2020. While these trials constitute the fifth time members of The Base are being prosecuted, the group leader, Rinaldo Nazzaro, remains active and leads the organization from Russia.
The main element that stands out in these trials, except for the Qanon Shaman, is the age: all of the accused individuals are less than 30 years old, with a median age of 21. This urges the need to deploy preventive measures on youth radicalization, as the young age of the extremists has become a trend in the past year, particularly in the UK and the US.
Finally, the last event reported is the apparent resurrection of the extremist group Atomwaffen Division, which had been disbanded and proscribed previously. Under a different leadership, the group has changed its name to National Socialist Order, although the post claims that they are two separate organizations. The announcement was sent across Telegram channels and was shared by The Base leader, which adds legitimacy to the declaration.
 This attendance attracted significant media attention, and up to the date it is unknown whether the opposition leader actually knew there was a mass offering to Franco.