The disc jockey had spent Saturday night spinning Phil Collins records and R&B inside the Rec Room Bar and Grill, a low-key tavern with two pool tables and a wall full of dartboards in a strip mall about 20 miles north of Seattle. Then, a group sauntered in after midnight and demanded that he play the “hard stuff,” the Seattle Times reported.
The DJ queued up some Black Sabbath. But when the song didn’t immediately play, the group of white men surrounded the booth. The DJ, a 37-year-old black man, suddenly noticed their tattoos: “Devil” was stenciled across one man’s shaved head, and swastikas were inked on other men’s arms. When they attacked, the DJ told the Times, they called him the “n-word” and promised, “We will find you, and we will kill you.”
Police say the men were sworn members of a neo-Nazi group that had traveled to Washington to celebrate an infamous white supremacist leader who led audacious bank robberies and masterminded the assassination of a Jewish radio host before dying in a shootout with the FBI in the mid-'80s.
Seven men and one woman were arrested early Sunday in a hate-crime investigation, and the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office is now partnering with the FBI. The arrests have raised fears about a resurgent white nationalist movement, and the Southern Poverty Law Center identified one man arrested in the melee as a marcher at last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. The people arrested were sworn members of the Aryan Brotherhood, according to court documents reviewed by the Associated Press.
“The violent behavior directed at members of our community over the weekend simply because of their race is disgusting,” Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary said in a statement. “The Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the FBI in hopes of getting the strongest sentencing possible for these hate crimes.”
Police say the attack at the Seattle-area bar started with a group trip to remember a hate-mongering leader who died on an island just across the pristine water of Puget Sound.
Robert Jay Mathews rose to infamy after founding a group in rural Washington called the Order in 1983 aimed at violently overthrowing the U.S. government. Mathews modeled his group on a fictional terrorist band in “The Turner Diaries,” the seminal right-wing extremist novel, according to HistoryLink, a Washington-based online history resource, and, as in the novel, decided to fund his operation with robberies.
Over the next year, the Order stole millions in armored truck robberies and also started counterfeiting money, according to HistoryLink. In one heist, they made off with $3.6 million from a Brink’s truck. They planted a bomb at a synagogue in Boise, Idaho, that failed to do serious damage. But then their work turned deadly on June 18, 1984, when a hit team cornered Alan Berg, an outspoken, liberal Jewish radio host, in his Denver driveway and fatally shot him 12 times with a .45 caliber MAC-10.
Mathews’s reign of terror ended almost six months later, when a tipster told the FBI that he was hiding on Whidbey Island, a rural preserve just north of Seattle. The feds dispatched 150 agents to Whidbey, where they surrounded Mathews’s cabin. On Dec. 8, 1984, after a 35-hour standoff, they fired flares at the house as Mathews fired back with a submachine gun. The house caught fire, and Mathews’s remains were later found inside.
White supremacists adopted Mathews as a martyr, and, according to SPLC, hate groups began making pilgrimages to the island on the date of his death to pay their respects. That’s exactly why a group traveled to Seattle last weekend, police say, from as far afield as Illinois, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
By the time they found their way to the Rec Room for a late-night drink, the weekend had taken on even more significance for white supremacists. The previous day, a jury had convicted James Alex Fields Jr. of first-degree murder and other charges for ramming his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville last year and killing Heather Heyer.
At least one member of the group had also marched in Charlottesville: Travis David Condor, a former soldier who now runs a hate-music record label called American Defense Records, the SPLC reports, and plays in a white supremacist band called Birthrite. Condor had previously been sentenced in 2011 to 90 days in prison for beating a homeless man with a baseball bat.
Police say Condor and the others attacked the DJ around 12:40 a.m. on Sunday while hurling racial slurs. The group damaged his equipment and also injured a bar patron who tried to intervene, police say. The DJ, who asked the Seattle Times not to be identified out of fears of reprisal, wasn’t seriously hurt.
Snohomish County sheriffs officers quickly found a white pickup with six of the suspects, including Condor, 34, inside, and located two other suspects in another car. In all, seven men and one woman were arrested in the assault and hate crime case, Prosecutors have until Wednesday to formally file charges, the AP reported.
Condor didn’t respond to a message from the AP, and it’s not clear if he has an attorney. A manager at the Rec Room declined to speak with The Washington Post on Tuesday morning.
After the attack, the DJ told the Seattle Times that he had no doubt that his race motivated the attack.
“I wasn’t going to say it at first. I’m gonna say it now,” he told the Times. “I was the only black person there.”