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White Nationalist 'Active Clubs' Movement Growing in U.S.

A subgroup of the white nationalist movement that has grown in recent years is known as “active clubs,” a decentralized type of organization that takes inspiration from Europe. They emphasize mixed martial arts training to be prepared for violence against their perceived enemies, NPR reports. In the U.S., these kinds of groups have been active in Arizona, California, the Pacific Northwest, Tennessee and more. "They are really focused on a couple of things," said Stephen Piggott, a researcher with the Western States Center who has focused on the Pacific Northwest. "One is centering, organizing and trying to recruit people through combat sports ... but also, preparing for political and racially motivated violence."

The growth of the active club movement has been largely attributed to Robert Rundo, a self-proclaimed fascist and white nationalist who was recently arrested in Romania. A court ordered him to be extradited to face charges in California. "What Rundo did was take a model of European far-right extremism: decentralized, [and] quite honestly, borrowing — if not stealing from — far-right football hooligan subcultures, right down to aesthetics and plopping that down into an American context as something new and innovative," said Michael Colborne, who works at the investigative journalism website Bellingcat. Colborne said he spotted Rundo at events hosted by ultranationalists in Budapest, Hungary, and Sofia, Bulgaria, in early 2020. Active clubs in the U.S. have allied with other white nationalist organizations at anti-LGBTQ+ gatherings in the last two months. White Lives Matter groups have also reportedly attended "fight nights" hosted by active clubs in San Diego and in Washington state. "These clubs are decentralized and they're forming on their own," said Morgan Moon, an investigative researcher at the Anti-Defamation League, which estimates there are active clubs now in at least 30 states. "We're starting to see [the active club model] pop up in Europe as well as Canada now."


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