An image of Chris Pohlhaus and a lumberjack monument in Bangor, Maine. (Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images)
A neo-Nazi and ex-Marine who coordinated a national counterprotest on the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, is making plans to turn Maine into an all-white ethnostate.VICE News obtained private chat logs dated to mid-February 2021 between Chris Pohlhaus—a 34-year-old man behind a popular far-right social media network with thousands of followers—and a loyal band of online neo-Nazis. The text exchanges center on what they portray as concrete plans for white men and women to move to Maine and make a “white future” for themselves. According to the transcripts, provided by the Counter Extremism Project, Pohlhaus (who says he lives in Texas) and his followers see Maine as a perfect spot: already one of the whitest places in America, with favorable gun laws allowing them to arm up and prepare for the collapse of society.
Inside a private chat room on Telegram—an app combining a secure messaging function and a publishing capability that allows it to work as a sort of Twitter knockoff, and is popular among the far-right—Pohlhaus and several others (under aliases) have discussed the merits of moving to one of America’s remotest states, and singled out specific areas of Maine for future settlement.“We had a guy in here [chat room] living in Maine already saying north or east of Bangor would be best,” said Pohlhaus under his pseudonym ‘The Hammer’, pointing to a city in the New England state with a giant statue of folkloric lumberjack Paul Bunyan. Another user suggested that there is really cheap and nearly “free land in north Aroostook,” a county that backs onto the U.S.-Canada border and is nearly 95 percent white, as per the latest available census data.“It’s alright,” says one user and prospective mover about Aroostook County. “Allagash is where I hope to end up. All the way up and nice forests [with] lots of deer. Only loggers around.”Pohlhaus was cryptic when asked about his plans to make Maine a white ethnostate.“Only thing I'm trying to build is a community of family men,” he said in a text exchange on Telegram, confirming that he and the others have guns because: “Who isn’t armed? I wouldn’t recommend anyone wait for a collapse to be armed [...] An unarmed man sacrifices his family to the unpredictably of chaos.
“We are white nationalist preppers.”
The former Marine offered up a litany of apocalyptic statements in the form of questions to VICE News, centering on the far-right belief that society is on the brink of destruction and the U.S. government is near its demise, which, in their minds, will spawn an armed conflict and a race war for the fate of the country.“I’m not doing anything illegal,” he said. “I want to be in the coldest, [furthest], whitest area I can be.”Cathy Conlow, the city manager for Bangor, said she and other city officials had never heard of Pohlhaus or his bigoted project.“I am certainly surprised to hear that they have targeted Maine generally and Bangor in particular,” she said in an emailed statement to VICE News adding that “any organization or individual that espouses/ supports violence, hatred and racism is of grave concern” to her city. “Bangor has prided itself on being an open and engaged community dedicated to supporting residents of all ages, races, religions, and economic status including members of the LGBTQ community.”Though some of Pohlhaus’ followers in the private chat room indicated they were already in Maine, several others discussed serious ambitions to move there. One said they specifically have been looking for buildings to purchase for private schools, while others exchanged realty listings, apartment rentals, and ads for rural homesteads. Another user suggested a “Nazi home owners association” in between asks about tax lien details for buying property in Maine.
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“I don't see Maine ever getting below 75% white ever,” another user confidently predicted. “Maybe with our efforts we can raise it higher than it is now.”Pohlhaus explained to the others that strategically, for neo-Nazis and white supremacists alike, there is “a lot of cheap land in Maine,” which is far “from the Mexican border,” and from any larger communities with people of color. (He was not accounting for Native American reservations in the state, including one close to Bangor).Antifascist activists reported a livestream from early May in which Polhaus bragged about his connections to National Socialist Club (NSC), a New England-based and underground neo-Nazi network led by a former member of domestic terror group The Base. In it he said he was excited “to be connected to [NSC] because of the plan for me and a lot of my friends to move up to the northeast and we’re happy to see people doing stuff up there.” (Pohlhaus didn’t deny the connection to NSC, but did stipulate “I am my own man.”)
Pohlhaus is a known quantity in the far-right online ecosystem. He has often posted opaque threats, promising on one occasion that “race traitors will get no human rights” in an impending “war”—a reference to the Second Civil War the far right often dreams of. In recent days, he posted celebratory messages of the 20-year old Canadian man who mowed down a Muslim family of five (killing four of them) with his truck in what has been described as a Islamophobic terror attack in London, Ontario.
The Bellingcat independent research collective recently published a report on Riley June Williams, 22, the woman who is in court on multiple charges connected to the Capitol Hill mob attack and is suspected of stealing Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi’s laptop and wanting to sell it to Russian intelligence. The report alleges that in a personal video she made before January 6, she gave the “Heil Hitler” salute while wearing hate symbols linked to a paramilitary brand of neo-Nazism, then gave a nod to Pohlhaus.“The Hammer was right all along,” Belingcat quoted Williams as saying in the video. Williams is currently awaiting trial and is on partial house arrest. (On any links to Williams, Pohlhaus told VICE News “I think she's just a fan.”) Despite his often militant rhetoric and his having posted an image of himself in formal Marine regalia, the Marine Corps pointed out that though Pohlhaus was a Marine from May 2005 to May 2009, but never deployed to a war zone or into combat. He told VICE News he left the service on his own volition because President Barack Obama was elected and he didn’t want to serve under a Black commander and chief.
“The Marine Corps is clear on this: There is no place for extremism in the Marine Corps,” said a spokesperson. “We are proud of the fact that Marines come from every race, creed, cultural background and walk of life. We expect every Marine to treat their fellow Marines with dignity and respect. Those who can't value the contributions of others, regardless of background, are destructive to our culture, our warfighting ability, and have no place in our ranks.”Pohlhaus’ ambitious and far-fetched idea to turn Maine into an exclusively white settlement is part of a tradition among militant neo-Nazis and fringe right who have increasingly advocated for building racist communities or compounds. In January 2020, the leader of The Base at the time discussed the creation of a whites-only, heavily armed compound in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which he believed the group could use to launch a race war. The group valued that area, also near the Canadian border, for being predominantly white and remote.“We are buying houses and land and fortifying them,” said Justen Watkins, a Michigan native and former leader of the domestic terror group, under an alias on the encrypted chat app Wire. Watkins was picked up months later by the FBI and state police and never managed to fully create his compound. But he was living with other members of the Base in a well-armed farmhouse that they used for paramilitary training when he was arrested. In the past, a mercurial white nationalist terror group called the Aryan Republican Army, which has suspicious links to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, helped create a fully white and heavily fortified enclave in Elohim City, Oklahoma. The private town has a few dozen families and continues to exist to this day.Follow Ben Makuch on Twitter.