Update below: William Scott Planer, who was accused online of violent activity and affiliating with white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups in the Capitol Hill neighborhood late last year, has been arrested in Colorado Springs. He was initially charged with a misdemeanor for placing an anti-Semitic sticker on the door of a synagogue, but he is currently being held on a $500,000 bond related to a felony charge in California, where he allegedly attacked a protester during a white supremacist rally last year.
This past December, reports of white supremacist activity in the Capitol Hill area were on the rise, as we documented in our post "Six Examples of Hate Crimes in Denver Since the Presidential Election." Swastikas and other racist graffiti was found in multiple locations and even on vehicles, raising concerns about a growing wave of intolerance in the age of President Donald Trump.
Around that same time, the blogspot for Rocky Mountain Antifa (slogan: "Never Give Fascists the Streets") warned about the residents of a house on the 1400 block of Ogden.
An introductory section focusing on "a neo-nazi nest of sloppy drunks who regularly harass, intimidate and sometimes attack people walking by" included the following Facebook item:
The blogspot went on to state that Planer and a second man, Shane "Choppy" McCampbell, "have been confirmed as the attackers described in this post."
Neither man was charged with the crime, and McCampbell refuted the assertions via an interview with Out Front magazine. In a story headlined "An Evening With Ogden Street's Alleged Neo-Nazis," he insisted that no one at the Ogden house was part of any Nazi group. Instead, he said they identified with the "Skinhead and Oi! subcultures of punk music." He also denied taking part in any violence, saying, "I don’t talk about my politics or religion. But that also means that I don’t try to push it on other people. I sure as hell don’t attack people because they believe differently than me."
Moreover, McCampbell portrayed himself and his brethren as victims of discrimination simply because of their differences. "I was expecting something like that because I don’t follow the politically correct guidelines put out through the punk scene,” he told Out Front — and he claimed to have lost his job at a shop in Wheat Ridge because of the story.
Planer wasn't mentioned by name in the Out Front story, which quoted a Denver Police Department representative confirming that "no reports of criminal activity" had been made in association with the Ogden house. Likewise, no direct reference to him was made in an earlier CBS4 report about fliers warning Capitol Hill residents about white supremacists in the neighborhood. However, Out Front reproduced one of the fliers, which pictured Planer with McCampbell — and he was cited several times in the comment section.
The next mainstream-media pieces in which Planer appeared didn't sport his name, either, but only because he hadn't been identified yet. Early on the morning of June 10, a security camera captured video of two individuals affixing stickers reading "Fight Terror, Nuke Israel" to the door of the Chabad Lubavitch Jewish Center in Colorado Springs. The clip was subsequently released to news agencies such as KRDO-TV, and the publicity was likely key to the vandalism arrest of Planer on July 14.
In its own blog post about this development, Denver's branch of the Anti-Defamation League (which also took part in the aforementioned CBS4 package) provided more background on Planer's California troubles — he faces an assault-with-a-deadly-weapon beef for a June 2016 clash in Sacramento — and his allegedly radical activities.
"Originally from Sacramento, Planer has been on the ADL’s Center on Extremism’s radar for a number of years," the item states. "He is associated with at least two known white supremacist groups, including the Golden State Skinheads (GSS), a California-based racist skinhead crew founded in 2003, and the Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP), a white supremacist group led by Matthew Heimbach and Matt Parrott.... Planer also traveled to Pikeville, Kentucky, to attend an April 29, 2017, white supremacist rally organized by the TWP and the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement. During the gathering, Planer, wearing a shirt bearing the TWP emblem, repeatedly gave the Nazi salute."
On top of that, the ADL alleges that Planer "was in Boulder, Colorado, rallying with the Proud Boys, an alt lite group that embraces misogyny and xenophobia and abhors 'political correctness' and the left. During the event, he wore a T-shirt adorned with a neo-Nazi Totenkopf symbol and the words, 'Proud to be fascist, anti-Antifa.' A week later, Planer, wearing a Traditionalist Worker Party T-shirt, attended an anti-Muslim 'March Against Sharia' event in Denver, Colorado, organized by the anti-Muslim group ACT for America."
There's nothing illegal about such appearances, and Jeremy Shaver, associate regional director for the ADL, stresses that "we live in an open society where we value free speech." However, he adds, "when somebody crosses the line from expressing their opinion to harming someone else or harming a house of worship, we shouldn't tolerate that — and I hope this arrest sends the message that we need to push back at the increase of hate in Colorado."
The ADL has been documenting this rise, Shaver points out. "When we look at anti-Semitic incidents in Colorado, we had nineteen in 2015, and in 2016, we had 45. This year to date, we're probably at about the thirty mark — so we're on track to potentially reach sixty incidents by the end of the year and exceed the 2016 number. And that's only counting anti-Semitic incidents. When you look at Muslims, immigrants, refugees, LGBTQ folks, there have certainly been many, many more."
Shaver acknowledges that "the incident at the Chabad center was a lower-level incident. But in talking about hate crimes, one thing that's important to know is that it's absolutely critical to look at lower-level activity and the pyramid of violence. It could be a flier or vandalizing a synagogue today. But tomorrow, it could lead to assaulting someone on the street. These things can escalate if they're not checked along the way."
Just as folks who raised alarms on Capitol Hill last December feared all along.
Update: After the publication of this post, we received a message from Proud Boys Colorado revealing that the group disavowed William Scott Planer's participation in its recent event. The organization also pointed out that the Anti Defamation League didn't refer to the Proud Boys as "alt-right." The ADL post uses the phrase "alt lite." We've corrected this reference and regret the error.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.