The words “vegan cupcakes” and “neo-Nazis” would appear to be worlds apart. So it’s weird that a group of anti-fascists are boycotting a vegan cupcake shop in Camden over the alleged associations of its owner and an employee with a group of Italian fascists.
The shop is Cakes ‘N’ Treats, part of a transnational vegan culinary empire owned by 29-year-old high profile vegan Sarah Kalkowski (known as Kim). Recently, Kim felt moved to deny accusations made by London anti-fascists as “complete nonsense” and a “huge mistake”. She told London's Ham & High local paper that she wasn’t even in the country at the time a photograph – which looks like her out drinking with some neo-Nazis – was taken.
The allegations are the basis for the boycott of the shop. Kim has made a point of distancing herself from right-wing views, telling a reporter from the paper, “I’m not a fascist, I’m not a racist and I’m not a homophobe.”
She’s worried the accusations will lead to a repeat of what happened to her in Germany in 2012, when similar allegations were made. She received abusive phone calls and her shop windows were smashed. An investigation by German anti-fascists accused Kim of having links to the far right through her boyfriend David Lavezzoli, who now works at Cakes ‘N’ Treats. She claimed the investigation was made-up by a jilted ex-lover and brushed it off in a statement released on social media.
I’ve spent some time investigating the alleged connection and have gained a fascinating insight into a group of Italian fascists who seem to be spending a lot of time in London.
The fresh allegations of Kim hanging around with fascists centre on the above selfie, taken at a bus stop by London-based Italian fascist, Elia Cristiano. It comes from an album of pictures taken on a trip to the city in June this year by Italian neo-Nazis Elia Rizzo and Alessandro Graia. On the left is Rizzo, who has the Nazi SS tattooed on his chest. Behind them all is Kim's boyfriend, David. The face in the right corner looks a bit like Kim, but obviously it’s pretty blurry.
I talked to her on the phone and she told me the image had been photoshopped. She’s adamant it’s not her. She also said as much to the Ham and High, adding, “If I was a neo-Nazi, why would I want to live in one of the most multicultural boroughs in one of the most multicultural cities in the world?”
Meanwhile, there’s plenty of photographic evidence that Kim’s boyfriend and colleague David definitely has been hanging out with some people with far-right views. The photograph above is from the same album and shows David in the centre, with his arms crossed and wearing a T-shirt that says “Anti-Antifa Pure Hate”, flanked by Italian fascists.
I got in touch with an expert on Italian fascism, Dr John Pollard from Cambridge University, to ask him about the T-shirt, which also has the slogan “Good Night Left Side” printed on the back. That slogan “is the classic fascist rejection of the left, i.e. communism,” he said. This could just mean David hates anti-fascists, and given the grief they caused him and Kim back in Germany, that wouldn't be too surprising.
In the picture, David is flanked from left to right by Elia Cristiano, Elia Rizzo, Alessandro Graia and tattooist Luca Scuro.
Rizzo, Graia and Scuro are are all young neo-Nazis from a gang called Pavia Skins, named after the university town in the Italian region of Lombardy. The group was set up in 2001 as the Pavia branch of far-right party Forza Nuova, led by millionaire Roberto Fiore. Fiore is an occasional Camden resident himself, having fled to London in the 1980s after being accused of involvement in the Bologna massacre. But the group apparently felt Forza Nuova was too soft for them so they left to establish Pavia Skins, led by boxer Marco Rossella (another former London resident).
By 2003, the group had grown in size and were able to launch an assault on a self-managed “centro sociale” or social centre, a building taken over by left-wing activists to hold events and meetings. A firecracker was detonated to distract the police while 30 to 40 of them charged the gates. They were prevented from entering by leftists who fought back, and then came into contact with some police officers standing outside. Unable to access the building, they came across the car of a prominent local communist called Mauro Vanetti – which they attacked, attempting to drag his female passenger from the vehicle.
I got in touch with Mauro and asked him about the attack. He told me, “The [left-wing] comrades [who were] besieged sent an alert via text messages and phone calls, I came there by car with another comrade. She was just 20 and from Austria. They recognised me, attacked my car, broke its windows by kicking at it and even tried to pull the young woman who was with me out of the car through the broken window. The police slowly intervened to stop them and forced us to leave the scene.”
Among those involved in the attack was a neo-Nazi skinhead called Luigi Scuro – the brother of the aforementioned Luca Scuro, and another who was in London at the same time as Rizzo and Graia. Luigi has a large tattoo of fascist dictator Mussolini on his back and has frequently been involved in violent attacks against leftists. Mauro says that to this day he carries pepper spray with him because he fears the town's fascists.
Like his elder brother, Luca has a violent past, although he seems to be a bit more tame. He faced trial, alongside Alessandro Graia, for being part of a group that attacked some young leftists in 2009, leaving one with a facial injury. Graia was acquitted but Luca was convicted for the assault and given a suspended prison sentence of up to a year.
At one point these various Italian neo-Nazis met up in London; everybody got together to take advantage of London's diverse culture and go out for some Mexican food. In the photograph above, you will see from, left to right, Luigi Scuro, Luca Scuro, David (Kim's boyfriend), Elia Rizzo and Alessandro Graia.
In the bottom left-hand corner of the photograph you can see the right leg of the person taking the photograph. On her thigh is a tattoo. Kim has a pretty unique tattoo on her right thigh and they look alike. But Kim insists she wasn’t in the country at the time.
Another person David has posed for photos with is a London-based Italian Nazi punk who goes by the name “Maury White”. He wears swastika T-shirts, seig heils for photos and posts pictures of Hitler on his Facebook wall. He is another of the fascists linked to Kim and David by the 2012 German anti-fascist investigation, having met them both at a "Monsters of Oi!" gig in London.
Every couple of months or so, a photo appears on Facebook of him out drinking with David and Luca Scuro, normally in Camden. The most recent appears to be taken in April this year.
Like “Maury”, David appears to enjoy right-wing punk music. In May this year he was photographed outside a gig in Margate. The headling act were Flathead FH:33. The band are the latest musical project of Mark “Frenchie” French, former bassist of infamous Nazi punk band, Skrewdriver. While they claim not to be as explicitly political as Skrewdriver, they cover Skrewdriver tracks “but leave the later, more political stuff alone”, they told the Rock Against Communism blog. The drummer appears to have advertised a gig on the white supremacist bulletin board, Stormfront.
Also present was a guy named John “Slaz” Henderson, now lead singer of Oi! band Last Orders who are seen as non-political but have fans who make Nazi salutes at their gigs. Many years ago he was backing vocalist for an explicitly far-right band called Blackshirts. They were regulars at the secretive Blood and Honour gigs which once acted as a money-making machine for Nazi terror group Combat 18. Tracks by the band include “Hail C18” and “White Power Skinheads”.
Andrea Palmeri (left)
David’s home town of Lucca has a conservative political culture and a history of fascist violence. Despite this, an Italian anti-fascist who claims to know David's history told me that he actually used to frequent a left-wing bar in the town and even got involved in left-wing activism, before later deciding he was “apolitical” – only years later hanging out with fascists.
David has recently interacted with a social media profile of prominent Lucca fascist Andrea Palmeri, who has repeatedly been charged with taking part in fascist violence. Palmeri caused a diplomatic incident in 2008 when he was filmed doing Nazi salutes and burning the Bulgarian flag during an Italy-Bulgaria football match. His exact whereabouts are currently unknown after he skipped town, with local media guessing he's somewhere in Eastern Europe.
A photograph recently posted on social media shows him posing with an assault rifle, with a child who appears to be holding a shotgun. Palmeri had been under curfew and supervision after assaulting a left-wing activist with knuckle dusters and threatening him with a knife. When not attacking his political opponents, he has also been known to assault members of the public. He once punched a 40-year-old woman in the face after she asked him to keep better control of his dog. Another attack saw him go after a social worker for working in the social care sector and having opinions that he deemed to be too left-wing.
Palmeri is leader of the Bulldog ultras, a Lucca football hooligan group whose members are known to be close to the far right. After a major police operation in September 2007, several of the group – including Palmeri himself – were sentenced after police seized a significant cache of arms, knives, Nazi flags and documents promoting racial supremacy. The group have been involved in several politically motivated acts of violence, such as surrounding a supporter and beating him on the terraces for displaying a Che Guevara flag. More recently, in 2010, a 38-year-old factory worker lost his left eye after Bulldog members threw a broken glass at head-height into a group of people drinking outside a bar.
Overall, it’s not totally clear if Kim's boyfriend David Lavezzoli has far-right views, or just hangs out with some horrible people.
It’s an uncertainty that seems to be summed up by the above picture, taken on a trip to London in November 2013. David can be seen posing with Elia Rizzo – the guy with the SS tattoo – who is wearing a Blood and Honour T-shirt. David’s T-shirt features what Dr Pollard tells me is “a fairly minimalist version of the fasces, the ultimate symbol of Italian fascism”.
I asked him to tell me if we could draw any conclusions about David's politics from his T-shirts – the one above and the “anti-Antifa” one. He told me, “I think that it would be entirely understandable if someone seeing these T-shirts came to the conclusion that the wearer was a fascist sympathiser or fellow traveller. But you may find, depending on the age of the person involved, that their connection to fascist groups was a very loose one indeed.”
Could the association be so loose that David hangs out with these people without sharing their politics? Can you attend a right-wing punk gig just for the music and not the lyrics? According to Kim, you can. "He's not a fascist, he's not a racist, he's not into a fascist movement, he's not in the right-side movement," she told me.
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