Alt-right members preparing to enter Emancipation Park holding Nazi, Confederate Battle, Gadsden "Don't Tread on Me," League of the South, and Thor's Hammer flags.

What is “RWDS”: The Symbols and Strategy of Neo-Nazism 

On May 6, a man committed mass murder in Texas while wearing a “RWDS” patch and sporting a swastika tattoo. It is only the latest act of mass violence committed by an individual who considers himself a neo-Nazi. Today, we discuss efforts to combat the rising threat of neo-Nazism, a force that the federal government’s prosecution of January 6 insurrectionists has unsurprisingly failed to address. It has always been oppressed communities, not the injustice system or Nazi-sympathizing cops (The Guardian), who have been at the forefront of anti-fascist defense. 


Familiarize yourself with and remain alert for white supremacist symbols to report or cover-up. Watch out for people in your networks engaging with far-right propaganda. Disrupt it with true information.

• Support the One People’s Project and the Torch Network.

• Learn more by following @FFRAFAction@DLamontJenkins@AlyssaAzar@stevanzetti@socialistdogmom, and @AntifaGarfield.

What is a neo-Nazi? 

Neo-Nazis are fans of Nazism after World War II. Neo-Nazis aren’t in a single organization, but they all believe in Adolf Hitler, anti-semitism, fascism, and white supremacy. They want to overthrow the government and create a new white “ethno-state” through ethnic cleansing. 

And neo-Nazis are making more frequent public appearances. On April 29, neo-Nazis protested a drag brunch with a swastika flag and chanted “under the Aryan sun” in Columbus, Ohio (Columbus Dispatch). Neo-Nazis targeted other drag shows across the country, including in Grand Prairie, Texas (Dallas Morning News), Wadsworth, Ohio (Truthout), Lakeland, Florida (ABC Action News), and Cookeville, Tennessee (WPLN). Their chants include “there will be blood” and threats to lynch gender non-conforming people (Newsweek). In all parts of the United States, neo-Nazis are organizing young white men, sometimes in the dark corners of the Internet, other times in plain sight. 

Neo-Nazi groups often collaborate with other far-right militants, like the Proud Boys or the Oathkeepers, and neo-Confederate groups, like the Ku Klux Klan (Sydney Morning Herald).  

What does RWDS mean? 

RWDS stands for “right-wing death squads,” used by very-online “far-right edgelords” as a winking reference to the Chilean dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Other slogans include “Pinochet did nothing wrong” and mentions of “free helicopter rides.” Sponsored by the U.S., Pinochet overthrew the elected socialist government and ruled for decades with death squads to “disappearing” political opponents: torturing them, gutting them, and throwing them out of helicopters over the Pacific Ocean (Yahoo! NewsForbesThe Intercept). 

What are other Nazi symbols and slogans? 

Here are links to other common neo-Nazi codes and symbols.  

How has the neo-Nazi movement grown in the U.S.?

Neo-Nazis have organized across the United States for decades, growing through prison organizing and infiltrating the originally left-wing and anti-racist skinhead punk scene. Groups like the Aryan Nations tried to create a white ethnostate in the Pacific Northwest. In 1988, Ethiopian immigrant Mulugeta Seraw was beaten to death in Portland, Oregon, by neo-Nazis (PoliticoSPLC). The Order committed a string of armed robberies to fund their race war before murdering Jewish radio host Alan Berg (Britannica). While underground, members hid in Oklahoma’s Elohim City, a white supremacist compound that also sheltered members of the Aryan Republican Army and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (LA Times). 

Today, these people organize online and off to push a white revolution. They organize around concepts like “accelerationism” and “leaderless resistance,” trying to destabilize the system in order to institute white supremacist fascism. The recent shooting is an example (SPLC). When given the opportunity, neo-Nazis organize to commit violence today and conduct ethnic cleansing tomorrow. This is why de-platforming neo-Nazis and white supremacist rhetoric is so important. We must refuse to cede public space to these people and ideals so that they cannot grow. 

How did things get so bad?

Liberal and conservative commentators counter that de-platforming violates freedom of expression, implying that anti-fascist organizing to prevent racist assassinations is just as objectionable as neo-Nazism (Reuters). Antifascism, or antifa, organizing includes online detective work to uncover fascist organizations, communal art to counter white-supremacist propaganda, and face-to-face community organizing in white communities targeted for neo-Nazi recruitment. It has always been a diverse, multiracial movement of autonomous organizations and individuals, though conservatives paint “ANTIFA” as a shadowy, centralized, international terrorist conspiracy (OPB). 

What can we do? 

Using “Hitler” or “Nazi” as all-purpose insults for undemocratic or overbearing opponents makes it harder to talk about the real threat of actual neo-Nazis. We should be clear that literal neo-Nazism is a rising threat we must actively confront. 

We need to remain alert to counter neo-Nazi propaganda and prevent neo-Nazis from being able to organize hate. We can’t wait for the government to combat white supremacist organizations given a long history of documented collusion between them (The GuardianHistoryThe Nation). Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice organized to push white supremacists out of the subculture. Some were murdered as a result (LA TimesAll That’s InterestingSPLC). The repeated de-platforming of neo-Nazi Richard Spencer effectively ended his public career (Yahoo! News). A drag brunch in Texas proceeded because community members stood outside to guard it against anti-trans protestors, one of whom carried a razor wire-wrapped baseball bat (The Guardian). Jewish antifascists in New York protected a Drag Story Hour from opponents, including open neo-Nazis (JTA). 

“If it hadn’t been for the anti-fascists protecting us from the neo-fascists, we would have been crushed like cockroaches,” said Cornel West of the Unite the Right melee in Charlottesville, since the “police didn’t do anything in terms of protecting the people of the community, the clergy” (Baltimore Sun). Protest, support, and refusal to tolerate the spread of neo-Nazi ideals constitute an “everyday antifascism” in which we must all take part (ROAR). 


• Texas murderer Mauricio Garcia had a swastika tattoo and a patch referencing Chilean death squads.

• Neo-Nazism has a long history in the United States, but there is an equally long history of counter-organizing and community defense. 

• Antifascism, or antifa, includes more than physical confrontations. Participating in antifascist organizing is something we all should do. 

1358 1018 Andrew Lee

Andrew Lee

Andrew Lee is a writer and organizer plotting a better world in Philadelphia. His work has previously appeared in Notes From Below, Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, Plan A Magazine, ROAR Magazine, and Teen Vogue.

All stories by : Andrew Lee
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