Southern Poverty Law Center lists 2 LI-based groups as anti-government

Two Long Island groups have been identified as anti-government organizations by a nonprofit that tracks racism, xenophobia and far-right militias in the United States.

Long Island Mutual Assistance Group, based in Nassau, and Long Island Loud Majority, based in Suffolk, were among 488 “extreme anti-government groups” active in 2021, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Alabama. The legal center has published an annual report on hate and anti-government groups since the 1990s, based on group publications, citizen and news reports, law enforcement agencies, sources in the field and publications on the Internet.

Leaders of the groups disputed descriptions of the legal center of their organizations. L’Assistance Mutuelle describes its members as “service-minded citizens”; Loud Majority supporters are patriots “tired of seeing their freedoms eroded by an ever-expanding government,” according to its website.

The list does not imply that the groups engage in criminal activity, but is intended to draw public attention to groups whose activities the legal center says are undemocratic.

What there is to know

  • Two groups from Long Island have been named to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual list of anti-government organizations. The nonprofit watchdog said the groups were peddling conspiracies and believed the federal government was tyrannical.
  • Group leaders rejected the anti-government label. They defend their activities as legal and patriotic.
  • A leader for one of the groups, Long Island Loud Majority said it helps secure votes for GOP candidates, including Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Rep. Lee Zeldin.

The legal center classifies anti-government groups separately from hate groups. Anti-government groups tend to be motivated by the belief that the government is tyrannical and can peddle conspiracy theories, the center said. Hate groups target people based on characteristics such as race, religion and gender identity.

The number of anti-government groups peaked in the 2010s, but “a conspiratorial and permanently questionable view of government was pervasive” last year, according to the legal center report. An FBI spokesperson did not comment specifically on the groups, but said in an email that the agency does not initiate investigations based on the exercise of First Amendment rights.

Co-founder of Loud Majority: “We are not anarchists”

Loud Majority is “more political in its interests and involvement,” said Rachel Carroll Rivas, a researcher at the law center.

He made “what we would call threats of political violence around issues of vaccines, masking, COVID restrictions,” she said. There are “also anti-LGBTQ activities and targeting students and schools around issues of education and inclusive communities.” These concerns reflect what the legal center said was a widespread shift from similar groups after the Jan. 6 uprising in Washington, D.C., to local politics focused on COVID-19 protocols and school curricula.

Loud Majority co-founder Shawn Farash, 31, of West Babylon, took issue with the legal center’s characterization of his organization: “We are not anarchists, we are not revolutionaries, we are certainly not violent, he told Newsday.

In an email, Suffolk Police said the department was aware of 18 events held by the group since September 2020, with no reported criminal activity.

Loud Majority was formed in 2020, the year Farash used Facebook to organize a Copiague-Shirley convoy in support of then-President Donald Trump.

The group then mobilized parents around the problems of school masking. “Because we stayed vocal…they chose to capitulate to us,” he said in a podcast last June after the state lifted an order requiring masking in schools.

Asked about the group’s membership numbers, Farash recited social media stats. His social media presence includes a TikTok account where his 285,000 followers can watch his impressions of Trump and a Twitter account with 84,000 followers. On this platform, he compared the behavior of the superintendent of Smithtown schools to that of Stalin, reflected on the ‘tyranny’ of hidden mandates and made repeated false claims that the 2020 election was ‘stolen’. . In recent weeks, he has tweeted about the “sex hoax”, calling several prominent transgender women “always men”.

During a podcast following a school board meeting in Manhasset earlier this year, Farash called an all-gender restroom sign he saw at one of the district’s schools “horrifying and “disgusting… Your country’s life is at stake.”

Farash said he believed there were similarities between the Manhasset School District’s gender equity forum and steps taken in “Soviet Communist Russia” to undermine nuclear families. He didn’t know “if there were any real card-carrying communists pulling the strings” in the schools, he said, but “I do know a communist was in charge of the CIA.” He said he was referring to former CIA Director John Brennan. PolitiFact, an independent fact-checking website, assessed this claim in 2018 and found it to be false.

Farash’s politics and business are intertwined. He makes a living as a “content creator,” he said, and sells sound clips of himself impersonating Trump, as well as pro-Trump and anti-Biden merchandise, including mugs. and sweatshirts on his website. Loud Majority US is a limited liability company registered at his address, but Farash said his income — from merchandise sold on the Loud Majority website, podcast sponsorships and donations — goes to operations and is not income. personal income.

Self-described as part of a “militia coalition”

Mutual Assistance, which was also on last year’s list of anti-government groups, was formed in 2018 or earlier, Rivas said. The group maintains a website on which it describes itself as part of a “militia coalition” ready to respond in the event of “conflict” or “disaster” if the authorities were overwhelmed.

Rivas said some of the 24 to 36 members of the group had expressed an interest in self-defense patrols on the US border with Mexico several years ago.

Band member Andrew Poliakoff did not agree to an interview with Newsday, but wrote to Newsday in an email from a mutual assistance account that “although members are free to have their own feelings, the group is not anti-government or its members.We are a constitutional group that believes in civil rights and individual liberty.

The Mutual Assistance website describes its membership as including military, law enforcement, fire/EMS, nurses, and teachers.

“These groups deliberately recruit from people who are in leadership positions, and that lends credibility to their extremist ideas,” Rivas said.

Poliakoff also wrote in an e-mail: “We are a relatively small local group, which, as I said, does not contain a hierarchical structure, whose members are ready to help other members and the community during “an emergency, such as a natural disaster. The group is not involved in politics and has never had any of its members arrested for any illegal or anti-government activity.”

Suffolk Police had no interaction with Mutual Assistance, the department said. Nassau police did not respond to a request for comment.

Divided opinions on groups

State Senator Anna M. Kaplan (D-North Hills), who criticized Farash’s podcast comments earlier this year, said in an email that she welcomes Loud Majority’s listing.

“Extremist groups thrive when they can spout their hatred and conspiracy theories unchecked by those who fear confrontation, or those who cowardly align themselves with these groups for political gain,” she wrote. Groups as such “cynically claim to defend freedom and our Constitution while dishonoring our American values ​​and undermining our democratic institutions.”

In September, Loud Majority organized a protest against Stony Brook University’s vaccine mandate with the conservative group Turning Point USA. Photographs on the group’s Twitter feed show the group’s founders at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Loud Majority uses these events to network and access “a unique demographic that has rallied around patriotic ideals on the college campus,” Farash said. “What they’re getting from us is access to New York, which everyone thought was a lost cause.”

Loud Majority endorsed Smithtown School and Library Board nominees Nassau County Supervisor Bruce Blakeman and Rep. Lee Zeldin, both Republicans, and posted photos on its Facebook account of the men smiling alongside of Farash and others wearing Loud Majority sweatshirts. State Republicans named Zeldin their gubernatorial representative.

Rivas said Loud Majority members are “getting closer to politicians to show power and look bigger. We, however, are concerned about the group’s growth over the past year and hope that New – Yorkers will carefully consider what they are being asked to support and get involved in this group.”

Zeldin (R-Shirley), in an email, said, “These reports are intended to serve the biased political agenda of the SPLC and should not be taken seriously. Confusing someone who is pro-freedom and pro-freedom with the title of anti-government is…dangerously un-American.”

A spokesperson for Blakeman did not respond to a request for comment.

About Marjorie C. Hudson

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