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Photo by Adam Rogan/The Journal Times via The Associated Press / Kyle Rittenhouse, at left in backwards cap, walks along Sheridan Road in Kenosha, Wisconsin, at around 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, with another armed civilian Tuesday night. Less than an hour later Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois, is accused of shooting three other people, killing two of them, with at least two of the shootings captured on video by onlookers showing Rittenhouse as the shooter.

Picture a huge auditorium with a color guard holding American flags and an immense portrait of George Washington. Hear the crowd sing "The Star-Spangled Banner." Listen to the speaker say, "We, with American ideals, demand that our government shall be returned to the American people who founded it ... we're actively fighting for a socially just, white United States free from Jewish domination." The 20,000 enthusiastic attendees wave posters that decry any Communist influence on the U.S. and any interference with Christian America.

When a protester charges the stage, the police and vigilantes in the audience come together to tackle him and beat him up. The police arrest him, but the streets are packed with protesters. A record number of officers are deployed to surround the site "to stop a revolution." Some police respond to the protesters with violent attacks, but the vigilantes are not only spared, but considered associates.

Now, where are you? You might say Kenosha, Portland or Milwaukee, or any American city experiencing racial clashes these days. And hearing the speaker say, "The spirit which opened the West and built our country is the spirit of the militant white man," you might assume that the vigilantes were Bugaloo Boys or Proud Boys. It sounds logical, but you'd be wrong.

The place was New York City's Madison Square Garden and the year was 1939. It was a "Pro-American" rally of the German American Bund, an organization that supported Hitler's fascism and held Nazi-like summer camps recruiting young white followers. The audience sported swastika arm bands and the organizations' vigilantes wore uniforms echoing those of Nazi Germany's storm troopers. Protesters saw the danger, but couldn't defeat it, yet.

The vigilante theme is today in the spotlight. Calls went out over social media for armed "patriots" to travel to Kenosha to support law enforcement after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in the back multiple times. InfoWars, a multimedia site founded by Alex Jones, amplified the call to arms. Jones is known for conspiracies including how the 9/11 attack was staged by our government as part of a global conspiracy to disarm and enslave Americans. His version of patriotism attracts white supremacist leaders and media like The Daily Stormer.

The FBI is investigating Missouri "patriots" headed for Kenosha with an Armory AR-15 rifle, a Mossberg 500 AB 12-Gauge shotgun, two handguns, body armor, a drone and a twisted cable survival saw. Answering the call from Illinois, 17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse's mother drove him and enabled his murder of two people while supposedly protecting stores from rioters and looters, although his victims were apparently neither. As horrific as the murders were, Rittenhouse was able to walk by police while armed and return home before finally being arrested.

Many have denounced Rittenhouse, but President Trump has not. His supporters, including Jones who claims a close friendship with Trump, wouldn't tolerate that as our cultural divide nationwide deepens. White supremacists now urge rejection of the term "vigilante' in favor of "militia" and call the accused a hero, an American patriot. We're told to applaud, not vilify. Their influence has resulted in almost $1 million being raised for Rittenhouse by a Christian crowdfunding site. And Nazi symbols like swastikas are now common place at white supremacist rallies.

In 1939, Nazi supremacists filled Madison Square Garden. In 1959, George Rockwell founded the American Nazi Party. In 2020, a new generation's version is powerful and dangerous. Will the country recognize the peril and defeat it? And when?

Contact Deborah Levine, an author, trainer/coach and editor of the American Diversity Report, at deborah @diversityreport.com.

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Deborah Levine / Staff file photo by C.B. Schmelter
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