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18-year-old arrested for Austin synagogue arson after weeks of antisemitic harassment in Texas

Journalist Nate Thayer identified Sechriest as a member of the Goyim Defense League, a California-based neo-Nazi group whose members have been cruising central Texas in latest weeks spreading propaganda—together with dropping freeway banners with antisemitic slogans, posting antisemitic fliers round communities, and dropping them in plastic baggage on folks’s lawns in native neighborhoods, including in San Marcos. Nevertheless, authorities haven’t confirmed that connection, and GDL’s chief denies any affiliation with him.

Franklin Barrett Sechriest’s mug shot after his arrest in a latest synagogue arson in Austin.

In response to the affidavit, investigators have been in a position to determine Sechriest after reviewing a number of movies from surveillance cameras within the space of the synagogue. They confirmed a masked man in a black T-shirt who parked a Jeep in its parking zone and acquired out with a inexperienced gasoline canister strolling towards the world the place the fireplace began; then, as flames escape, he might be seen working again to the SUV and fleeing.

Additional video from three nights beforehand confirmed the identical SUV surveilling the synagogue, with the suspect shining a lightweight into its Baby Improvement heart after he hit a curb. These photographs clearly present his license plate—a car registered to Sechriest.

The synagogue fire was rapidly extinguished, and its members expressed reduction that the hurt had been minimal, inflicting some $25,000 in harm. The following day, community leaders organized a rally denouncing the assault, that includes two dozen religion leaders and clergy members from throughout Austin.

“Hateful acts of intimidation to incite violence is unacceptable, and we won’t be silent,” Simone Talma Flowers, the chief director of Interfaith Motion of Central Texas, stated at a press convention. “We stand united with our Jewish group as they’re focused and victimized by acts of antisemitism.”

The arson assault was probably the most violent of a string of antisemitic hate incidents that had beset central Texas in latest months, a lot of it the work of the Goyim Protection League. The latter had organized a banner drop on Oct. 23 in Austin, when a couple of dozen folks displayed a banner focusing on Jewish folks at an overpass on North MoPac Expressway that featured the URL to the group’s web site.

The fliers selling a neo-Nazi group, distributed in San Marcos, Texas.

The identical group additionally scattered fliers across the Willow Creek neighborhood in San Marcos in plastic baggage weighed down with gravel. Melanie Liddle instructed the Texas Tribune that she found one among them in her driveway, and stated the fliers had appeared in each driveway on her avenue. She stated a police officer instructed her that greater than 200 such flyers had been collected.

“I name this hate speech,” Liddle added. “To me, that is threatening our Jewish neighbors.”

Jewish leaders in San Marcos were concerned. “Somebody known as me and left me a voicemail. They have been fairly upset. They lived within the neighborhood the place she herself acquired the flier, a member of the Jewish group,” stated Rabbi Ari Weingarten, Director of Rohr Chabad. “Then [the messages] didn’t cease coming. One other e-mail someone stated that their stepson acquired the flier from this particular person. So, I heard about it [Saturday] and it was fairly irritating and upsetting, disturbing.”

GDL additionally organized a crudely antisemitic protest exterior of a fundraiser for Israel held in San Antonio, and the subsequent door organized an analogous protest exterior the Jewish group heart there. Two neighborhoods in that metropolis additionally have been hit with antisemitic GDL fliers left on lawns.

On Oct. 22, someone painted swastikas and homophobic slurs within the parking zone at Austin’s Anderson Excessive College. It’s unclear if that incident was related to any organized group.

The Anti-Defamation League explains that the GDL is a really small group of intensely devoted neo-Nazis from across the nation who manage attention-grabbing stunts and submit them on-line, incomes them 1000’s of followers. Its main organizer is a Petaluma, California, man named Jon Minadeo II, who created his personal video and media platform, GoyimTV, after he was booted from YouTube.

Along with peddling antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories, the GDL engages in a variety of antisemitic stunts to troll or in any other case harass Jews, and to attract consideration to themselves. GDL funds these actions via on-line solicitations and by promoting merchandise of their on-line retailer. The positioning contains pro-GDL and GoyimTV hats and clothes, in addition to t-shirts and stickers bearing antisemitic, anti-Israel, anti-left and homophobic messaging.

GoyimTV options virtually completely antisemitic and different neo-Nazi content material, together with livestreams and podcasts. Minadeo and his cohorts proudly posted their antics in Texas all through their tour there, together with video of the boys lighting a swastika on the bottom the identical evening because the synagogue fireplace and saluting it, uttering numerous neo-Nazi slogans.

Thayer identified a type of males across the burning swastika as Sechriest. Nevertheless, that particular person’s face was masked, though the shirt he’s carrying could also be a match for the one worn by the arsonist and captured in surveillance video. Investigators are being mum about Sechriest’s background, nonetheless.

Minadeo, in the meantime, vehemently denied to The Daily Beast that Sechriest was related to GDL. In a tense telephone dialog, he claimed the group doesn’t condone violence: “We’ve by no means, ever accomplished something violent in the direction of Jews,” Minadeo stated, insisting that the flaming swastika they saluted the identical evening was simply “burning the flag of what we consider is the synagogue of Devil.”

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