The Current

'Not too surprising' that Canadian ex-military member allegedly involved in U.S. neo-Nazi group: reporter

Former Manitoba reservist Patrik Mathews' alleged involvement in a U.S. neo-Nazi group is "not entirely shocking," according to an investigative reporter who tracks far-right movements.

Fears of violence at upcoming pro-gun group rally in Virginia

Former army reservist Master Cpl. Patrik Mathews in a 2015 photo. (Courtney Rutherford/CBC)
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Former Manitoba reservist Patrik Mathews' alleged involvement in a U.S. neo-Nazi group is "not entirely shocking," according to an investigative reporter who tracks far-right movements.

"White supremacist groups often target the military and active service members to try to build out their ranks with people like Mathews, who is reported to have had experience with explosives and combat engineering," Jared Holt, an investigative reporter for the non-profit publication Right Wing Watch, told The Current's host Matt Galloway.

The FBI arrested Mathews and two other alleged members of the neo-Nazi group The Base in Delaware on Thursday on firearm-related charges. 

According to experts who track far-right movements, The Base is an extremist group that hopes to start a race war, and believes in a philosophy called accelerationism. 

"This is the idea that in order to evoke their agenda of a white ethno-state in the United States, or Canada — or whatever country they belong to — that the fastest path to that is to destabilize society through acts of mass chaos, including terrorism," said Holt.

According to the New York Times, the three men had also talked online about attending a pro-gun rally in Richmond, Va., on Monday.

The arrests came a day after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in Richmond ahead of the rally, saying that law enforcement believed there was a "credible" threat of violence.

Tensions in the state are running high, with some recalling the violence of the deadly "Unite the Right" rally in Charlotesville, Va., in 2017, Holt said.

"Charlottesville is still very fresh in the minds of Virginians. And I don't think anybody wants to see a repeat."

Holt spoke to The Current about The Base, and Mathews' alleged links.

How surprising is it to you that a former member of the Canadian military is allegedly involved with this U.S. neo-Nazi group?

Unfortunately, it's not too surprising. These white supremacist groups are always in search of foot soldiers for their movement. And there is perhaps no better foot soldier than a trained soldier. 

White supremacist groups often target the military and active service members to try to build out their ranks with people like Mathews, who is reported to have had experience with explosives and combat engineering. 

A poster for The Base photographed in Winnipeg. (Facebook/FF1)

So unfortunately, I wish it was more surprising, but it's not entirely shocking.

And so what does that say to you ... about his significance to The Base?

For the agenda that The Base is trying to implement, he becomes a very high value figure in the organization, because he's able to bring a type of knowledge base and experience and share it with others that enables the potential harm and violence of the group to skyrocket exponentially.

The fact that these arrests took place — what does that tell you about the work that U.S. law enforcement is doing to try and find elements of the far right who might be planning acts like the ones that they say The Base was was plotting?

I think this is undeniably a win for U.S. law enforcement. I would like to imagine that through these arrests, U.S. law enforcement potentially saved dozens, if not more lives.

What else do we know about the rally? This is happening on Monday, which happens to be Martin Luther King Day in the United States.

So this is a rally hosted by Virginia Citizens Defence League. It's a pro-Second Amendment, pro-gun group in the state of Virginia that's existed for some time.

But with the various gun control laws passing through the Virginia legislature, there was an increased emphasis on this year's event. 

And it's also drawn the attention of militia groups and far-right groups in the U.S. who hope to view this event as some sort of flash point or turning point, where you can stand up against the government, or perhaps kick off the mass unrest that a group like The Base is seeking to be responsible for.

Susan Bro urges those gathered at her daughter’s memorial service in Charlottesille, Va., and around the world, to build on Heather Heyer’s legacy of taking on injustice 1:03

It's planned for happening in Virginia, in the capital, not so far away from Charlottesville, where three years ago there was a rally that spiralled out of control and became a national incident. 

Are the two connected?

There is some fear that some of the groups and individuals that were participating in Charlottesville are going to make another appearance at this rally on Monday. 

And that's certainly a fear that the state of Virginia and Gov. Ralph Northam are very fearful of and are taking precautions to try to prevent. 

Charlottesville is still very fresh in the minds of Virginians. And I don't think anybody wants to see a repeat.


Written by Allie Jaynes. Produced by Alison Masemann.

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