On June 21st Philly Antifa and others organized a last-minute protest against a KKK rally in the Tacony section of Phildelphia. After the Klan had come and gone, a contingent of the protest went and held a demonstation outside the home of Patricia and Bryan Vanagaitis, two organizers for Keystone State “Skinheads” (KSS).
KSS released a statement on their blog following the demo, trying very diplomatically to distance themselves from the Klan. They repeatedly state that none of their members or supporters were at the Klan rally that day. They could not, however, bring themselves to say anything negative about the Klan’s 150+ year history of racism, murder, misogyny, rape, and intimidation. Nor did they take that opportunity to apologize for their head and co-founder, Steve Smith, being the in Klan years back. They instead choose to speak about how “outdated” the Klan’s imagery and messaging was.
See, for KSS the only problem with the Klan is they aren’t effective right now. If this country took a bad turn quickly and Klan membership was booming, you can bet these very same KSS boneheads would be marching side by side with them. They were quick to point out that they weren’t rallying with the Klan in front of the Tacony library. Well, they also weren’t out there to show any sort of opposition to them.
Shortly after their statement was released, KSS (under the banner of one of their front groups, the European American Action Coalition or EAAC) participated in a protest against Illegal Immigration in Mossic, PA. The protest was specifically in response to the recent arrival of unaccompanied minors fleeing conditions in their home nations (mostly Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala) directly related to years of hostile American foreign policy and espionage.
As repulsive as the usual arguments against the free movement of people are, they are even more disgusting when directed against children who have traveled thousands of miles in some cases to end up in the hands of the state and as the target of racist vitriol by nationalist schmucks who seem to think that they are dignified for protesting against caring for children who aren’t from around here. I guess it’s no surprise to see Neo-Nazi scumbags like KSS pushing for deportation for the children, seeing as how Pat Rogers was arrested for child endangerment a few months ago so he may have certain distance requirements to maintain when it comes to kids.
Every time they get a chance, KSS harps on how they aren’t your everyday Nazis. They talk about how “Keystone United is a group whose purpose is to enlighten our fellow white men and women while putting them back in touch with their racial identity, which we hope will eventually bring about a much needed unity and sense of common purpose between all white ethnic groups living within this country.” They are quick to talk about how they are against Domestic Violence (like anyone has ever claimed to be for it) and Drug Abuse. What a crock of shit.
This two-faced identity has been part of KSS almost since their inception. KSS was formally created after a a disastrous attempt by a coalition of Neo-Nazis to march through York, PA in 2002. It was in that atmosphere that KSS modeled themselves as a paramilitary organization designed to be an elite squad capable of dealing with Antifascists. They didn’t call marches like York, instead focusing on recruiting young angry fools and trying to assert a street-level presence in their cities. Fighting was fierce in cities all over the state as KSS attempted to take over Punk and Hardcore scenes and were eventually smashed by Antifascists, Punks and Hardcore Kids.
After the decline of the National Alliance caused many Fascists to abandon the cadre structure in favor of a populist approach, as well as soften their National Socialism to “White Nationalism,” KSS began to model themselves as an activist group.
Members of KSS no longer sported inflammatory symbols or attire openly. They appealed to hot issues like immigration and gay marriage to try and win over non-racialist Nationalists and Conservatives. They threw their support behind Ron Paul (many still do) and raised money for his campaigns. They started recruiting Nazis and Racists who weren’t Skinheads and calling their group Keystone United, or KU. They still attempted to have a presence in local music scenes, but (in Philly at least) their past defeats had forced them to accept hiding their affiliations and refraining from open aggression at shows. This was also the period when they began holding their “Leif Ericson Day” celebration in Fairmount Park, an event that has drawn protests most years.
Following the departure of one of their main organizers a few years ago, KSS was inactive in the Philly area for a time. Steve Smith focused on working with the Council of Conservative Citizens and starting EAAC. In the past 3 years, KSS has recently been gyrating back and forth between their two approaches with increasing regularity. Depending on what month it is they might be KSS, EAAC, Keystone United, or one of a number of other front groups. They might be hardcore national socialists or Ron Paul supporters. This is because KSS doesn’t care about integrity or consistency. Their only interest is in trying to gain power or influence over, or acceptance by, their “fellow whites.”
Economics is a red herring. So is immigration, for that matter. What matters to KSS above all is doing anything they can to undermine the fight for race and gender equality.
Philly Antifa is a group whose purpose is to fight for liberation and equality and against Fascism in all its forms. We believe in Solidarity based on shared values and goals, not on constructed notions of whiteness that we should be destroying rather than trying to reinforce.
So, whatever they call themselves, you can bet we will be there to expose, oppose and confront them whenever possible.