GREENVILLE, N.C. – On Monday TWH reported in Pagan Community Notes, an incident that took place over the weekend at The Sojourner Whole Earth Provisions, a store that caters to a diverse group of magical practitioners and seekers, as well as the LGBTQIA community.
On Sunday morning when store manager, Courtney Varnadoe arrived for work, she found a bogus “ANTIFA Hunting Permit” sign had been applied to the front door of the store.
The sign was placed on the door shortly after the store had closed, and the owner and employees had left on Saturday evening.
Incidents like this may be on an upward trend, targeting businesses that support diversity, and social movements like Black Lives Matter. Last month an extremist in Florida who identified himself as an “Antifa Hunter” was sentenced to over three years for his threats and online harassment of a Black Lives Matter supporter who was running for public office.
A brief history of anti-fascism
According to the U.S. government’s FBI director, Chris Wray, Antifa is an ideology, not an organization with actual members. Antifa has been characterized incorrectly as promoting terrorism and violence.
Antifa is shorthand for anti-fascist, and those who identify as such oppose authoritarianism, oppression, and all forms of discrimination.
Anti-fascism traces its roots back to WWII and the Antifaschistische Aktion, a group created by the Communist Party of Germany 1932 to combat fascism and oppose Hitler.
In 1936 London, a large group of activists and members of the Jewish faith came together to prevent a march through the heavily Jewish East End neighborhood by the British Union of Fascists, which had a significant amount of political clout.
More modern use of the term, Antifa, saw a reprisal in the 1980s in Germany and the U.K. as a response to neo-Nazi ideology began to circulate within the punk rock community. As a rise in skinhead and neo-Nazi activity rose again within the punk rock scene beginning in the 2000s, and again in 2010s, so did groups opposing them who began using the term anti-fascist, and eventually Antifa.
More recently, Antifa has entered the mainstream because as an ideological force opposing white nationalism.
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Heron Michelle, the owner of The Sojourner Whole Earth Provisions issued a public statement regarding the sign:
On Saturday, September 19th at 6:59pm, The Sojourner Whole Earth Provisions of 414 Evans Street, Greenville, NC, was vandalized by two people who placed a large, yellow sticker simulating an “ANTIFA Hunting Permit” on the front door.
The crime, the two people placing the sign, their faces, and the make/model/plates of their car, were all captured on surveillance video. The sign and video are now being investigated by the Greenville Police as a form of hate speech, and communicating a terrorist threat against our shop employees and customers. Case #: 2020-010474
So far, the officers assisting us, and Detective Dawson, have been very conscientious. We look forward to a thorough investigation and swift arrest. We intend to prosecute fully. This sign communicates a threat to us and our customers. Despite the youth of the alleged, even if they considered it a prank, it was not harmless. We assume they mean to identify us as opposing fascism, which is true enough and we’re proud of it. Just like our Grandfathers in the US military and the Allied forces of the world who won WW2, we will also fight fascism, racism, theocracy and religious discrimination of all forms.
This sign was manufactured and sold through a right-wing, Trump merchandise website based in Florida, making this an interstate issue. Their design choice dehumanizes progressive people as animals upon which an open-hunting season has been sanctioned by the US Government. Marking businesses for discrimination is straight out of the Third-Reich play-book, and history has already shown us where this path may lead, if unchecked.
For this reason, I have also reported this case as an act of terrorism to the FBI. I invite you all to check these forms of terrorism wherever they arise. Report them, press charges, speak up, VOTE!
Know that The Sojourner stands firm in our progressive and inclusive convictions, and will not turn away from this challenge. We continue to maintain a sanctuary for all people of good conscience to gather in safety.
The images of the suspects, their vehicle, and license plate number were captured on the city’s surveillance network of cameras. Local law enforcement was also able to retrieve fingerprints from the sign, and have identified at least one of the suspects.
According to Heron Michelle, the detective assigned to the case had spoken with one suspect, who supplied additional information. The names of the suspects in the case are being withheld by police while they complete their investigation. The suspect alleges they were in the store two weeks prior to them placing the sign on the door of The Sojourner. According to their statement, they had asked an employee in the store if they had any Trump 2020 buttons for sale. The employee responded that the store does not carry that type of product.
As of yet, no charges have been filed while law enforcement continues to investigate whether the suspect has any ties to extremist or hate groups, and trying to determine what the motivation for the crime might be.
Heron Michelle said that the police response has been very positive, and the store has received support from all over the USA.
In response to what could be perceived as a hate crime, Heron Michelle said, “No matter what, we are not going to stop what we are doing.”
She explained that The Sojourner is sometimes referred to as a lighthouse, “We keep the beacons burning. It gives an example [to the community] that we are not afraid.” And provides “instant credibility by making representation within the community legit.”
Heron Michelle cited how the store serves a diverse community and offers a place for often vulnerable populations to connect and interact. “We need it to be safer for all of us,” she said.
How the case moves forward will depend on what law enforcement uncovers about the act and the suspects’ motivations in the alleged vandalism.
TWH will continue to follow this story and report on any new developments.