On the afternoon of June 17th Dylann Roof set out for the Emanuel African Methodist Evangelical Church in Charleston, North Carolina where he would sit down for Bible study for over an hour and then proceed to commit the racially motivated murder of nine of the ten African Americans who he had joined in the church- leaving one alive to spread his message of racial terror. Before he set out, he posted a manifesto on the internet explaining the ideology that motivated him kill. In this screed he referenced some of the key precepts of an organization known as the Northwest Front.
Eighteen days earlier around 20 Nazi skinheads and racist supporters had come to Olympia, Washington eager to come to blows with #blacklivesmatter protesters who had taken to the streets in response to the shooting of two young black men days before. The Nazis were met by hundreds of anti-racist activists who drove them out of town under a reign of blows and a barrage of pepper spray, rocks, and bottles. Before the Nazis left home to come to Olympia on the 30th of May they had issued an appeal for support to that same organization, the Northwest Front.
Roof was critical of the key plank of the Northwest Front’s ideology, the idea that White supremacists should relocate to the Pacific Northwest with the goal of creating an ethnically cleansed white homeland. He couldn’t see the point of leaving the South and chose to engage in his own racist struggles close to home.
The racist skinheads who came to Olympia were disappointed by Northwest Front. After the fighting on the 30th one quipped, “Northwest Front thanks for your non support (sic) and ignoring the call of racialists when the enemy marched 300 through Olympia! 20 skins took up the fight, while you day (sic) idly behind your computer.”
Both Roof and the Nazis who came to Olympia expressed issues with the Northwest Front. At the same time both were familiar with the organization. Neither appear to have gotten any direct support from the group, but they were undoubtedly aware of and influenced by the particular approach to racism espoused by its founder, Harold Covington. With that in mind it is worth looking at the background of Covington and the ideology he is promoting through the Northwest Front.
Harold Armstead Covington (sometimes referred to as HAC by his supporters) was born in Burlington, North Carolina in 1953. He became involved with neo-Nazi politics while in the Army in 1972. After being discharged due to a diagnosis of paranoid personality disorder just prior to deployment to Vietnam, he moved to South Africa and then Rhodesia, which was at the time involved in a guerrilla war against communist backed African nationalists trying to overthrow white rule. While there Covington established the Rhodesian White People’s Party. He was kicked out of the country in 1976 for sending threatening letters to a Jewish synagogue.
Upon his return to the United States Covington joined the Nationalist Socialist Party of America (this organization was the inspiration for the Illinois Nazis spoofed in the original Blues Brothers film). In 1979 members of the North Carolina unit Covington led killed five left-wing anti-Klan protesters in Greensboro, NC. Covington was never indicted for involvement, but he would be named in a civil suit seeking damages for the killings and would later brag about his people “greasing communists” in Greensboro. It has been suggested that Covington, in fact, served as an informant for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms during this period in order to set up rivals for prosecution and stay out of jail. By 1980 he had risen to be the party’s national leader.
Covington would end up leaving the NSPA and settling in Europe. In 1992 he was involved in the formation of the neo-Nazi terror group Combat 18. Combat 18 was behind numerous threats against immigrants, ethnic minorities, and leftists. It also put out a magazine called Redwatch, which published photos, names, and addresses of political opponents. The group would later splinter off several more radical and violent offshoots including the White Wolves and Racial Volunteer Force and set up U.S. chapters in Illinois, Florida, and Texas. Covington was not well regarded by many UK racists, who felt that his virulent attacks on other White supremacist leaders suggested he was a provocateur.
In 1994 Covington was back in the U.S. He set up the National Socialist White People’s Party, which was very active for a time. He left that organization and began promoting his particular line of hate online, creating one of the first neo-Nazi sites on the internet.
Starting in the early 2000s he self-published a series of novels called the Northwest series. The series is very much in the spirit of William Luther Pierce’s The Turner Diaries, the fictional novel about a white revolutionary vanguard, which is said to have inspired Timothy McVeigh to bomb the Murrow Federal Building. The Northwest series tells the story of “domestic terrorist type guys” organized into a guerrilla brigade not unlike the IRA, which fights a campaign to liberate the Pacific Northwest in order to create a white nation. This is done through bombings, the deployment of specialty sniper teams to target interracial couples, and other terror tactics. One character is Conrad Baumgarten who comes from Germany with his SS officer grandfather’s scoped ’98 Mauser rifle to hunt Jews.
The central idea of the series is the Northwest Imperative. This concept was first propagated by Richard Butler of the Aryan Nations and was an important goal of the Silent Brotherhood/Order terrorist network during their campaign of armored car robberies and assassinations in the early eighties. It proposes that White nationalists should concentrate in the Northwest and then attempt to form an independent ethnically cleansed white homeland in the region.
Covington has said he intended his novels to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. With that in mind he worked to turn his fictional Northwest Front into a real organization capable of realizing these goals in late-2008 early 2009 (it is rumored that Covington lived in Olympia for a time during this period). Today the Front operates a web site and Covington does regular podcasts. The web site purports that they also operate a growing white supremacist enclave outside of Seattle.
Covington appears to be viewed with suspicion by many other prominent white supremacist leaders, who often refer to him as “Weird Harold.” That said, his novels have been influential with many neo-Nazis and he continues to enjoy influence and a following as witnessed by Roof’s familiarity with his thinking and the Nazi skinhead appeal to the Northwest Front for assistance prior to their recent Olympia incursion.
Covington himself condemned Roof’s lone wolf attack on tactical grounds, but at the same time he seems to approve of the result. In a screed on a podcast right after the Charleston shooting that should serve as a warning to those who believe the best policy is to ignore the neo-Nazi/white supremacist threat in the hope that it will go away on its own, Covington said liberals had been given a “preview of coming attractions” by what happened in Charleston-
“They [white liberals] have been given a vision of a time in some imagined but possibly not too-far distant future when all of a sudden, on the street or in their office, or in some trendy fern bar, or Starbucks, or wine-and-cheese boutique on the Upper East Side or in San Francisco, they will look up, possibly from the laptop, where they are typing up their day’s quota of leftwing, liberal horseshit, and they will see a young white man like Dylann Roof standing in front of them with no steroid-pumped policemen in blue to protect their liberal candy asses from the consequences of years of their own behavior,” he said. “They will see in that young white man’s eyes, that he recognizes them. That he is now beyond deception or bullying or browbeating or Twitter-shaming or intimidation that he knows them for what they are. And they will look down and see that he has something in his hand.”
An overview of Covington’s career suggests that he is a clinically paranoid wingnut at the margins of the neo-Nazi movement. He has also proved to be an articulate propagandist with a head full of dangerous ideas. He has played a role in the development of multiple influential white supremacist organizations and has apparently helped inspire more than one violent extremist to act out on the twisted ideology he promotes and kill.
Covington and the Northwest Front remain active in our region. It appears that the Nazis that came to Olympia on May 30th are coming to share the contempt many other white racists have for Covington, but that does not mean we can ignore Harold Covington or the Front. What happened in Charleston shows how racist ideology can spread like a virus with devastating consequences if allowed to go unchecked. Our struggles may seem small and isolated to our communities, but the ideological connection between Dylann Roof and the Nazis that came to Olympia highlights how all of our struggles against racism and white supremacy are connected. Cancers like Covington and the Northwest Front here in our backyard can play a part in tragedies that take the world stage thousands of miles away. Wherever virulent racism rears its ugly head we must all be prepared to react with a diversity of tactics aimed at eradicating the disease before it can grow or spread. Otherwise, the consequences may be more than we can bear.
Olydocuments is always interested in information regarding racist, fascist, neo-Nazi, or violent police activity in the Olympia area and throughout the Pacific Northwest. If you have any such information please contact us by email at olydocuments[at]gmail.com.