Why Does Contra Costa County Have So Many Nazis?
GUEST POST BY ABRAHAM WOODLIFF FOUNDER OF BAY AREA MEMES
Contra Costa County has always been one of the hardest counties in the Bay Area to define. Some define it by its largest city, Concord – known for its direct view of Mt Diablo, thriving Latinx community, and multiple stops on the BART line. Others think of old, industrial Contra Costa – the part of the county stretching from San Pablo Bay in Richmond to the Carquinez Strait in Martinez – with its shoreline, military history and the majority of the Bay’s refineries.
However, there is another element that has also found a home in Contra Costa County and that’s a group that either symbolically or literally adheres to the politics of Adolf Hitler. Yes, I’m saying Contra Costa County has a disproportionate amount of Nazis compared to the other counties in the Bay Area.
Contra Costa County’s concentration of Nazi sympathizers has led to multiple incidents that made local, and in some cases, national news.
The most severe being the murder of Richmond musician, William Sims in an El Sobrante bar. Sims, according to news reports, was targeted by Neo Nazis simply for the fact that he was a black man. Luckily, not all of Contra Costa’s Nazi-related stories are as tragic as the death of William Sims. Most of the incidents are just stupid and annoying, but others are truly horrifying.
An example of stupid and annoying is Steve Johnson, an El Sobrante homeowner who thought it would be a swell idea to build a giant swastika to decorate his front yard. Yes, we’re saying someone built an big-ass swastika in their front yard just 22 miles from San Francisco and only 12 miles from America’s most politically liberal college town, Berkeley. The man claimed that it was a Tibetan symbol and at one point asked a reporter for KPIX “What is a Swastika?” and when asked if he was of Tibetan heritage, he replied “I could be.” Despite the fact that he looks like he is directly out of central casting for a racist biker in a bad “Sons of Anarchy” clone.
There’s also his Facebook activity where he reposts antisemitic memes and says Sieg Hiel. The post is now deleted, but here’s a screenshot:
Looks pretty fuckin’ Tibetan to me.
An example of the truly horrifying is Ross Farca, a Concord man who bragged about his ability to assemble assault weapons and told online friends of his intent to commit a mass shooting at a synagogue. He was arrested by the FBI and Concord Police. He’s currently out on bail.
The Nazi element in Contra Costa isn’t just limited to random barroom murders, mass murder plots and poorly disguised public symbols of racism. It has an element of organization on a street level. “Peckerwood” gangs have operated in Contra Costa County since the 1980s, mainly profiting off the methamphetamine trade, which has been a source of misery for many working class white communities across the nation for years.
Nazi street gang activity is so prominent in Contra Costa County that when you look up the term “Peckerwood Gangs,” on wikipedia Contra Costa County has an entire subsection:
“The Contra Costa County Boys (also known as CoCo County Boys or Co Co Boyz) is a peckerwood street gang in the general Contra Costa County area. The Family Affiliated Irish Mafia (FAIM) is a predominantly Irish-American peckerwood gang based in Rodeo, California, which was formerly used by the Aryan Brotherhood to organize street-level transactions throughout low income white neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area, spreading from Rodeo, the gang formed strongholds in Antioch, Crockett, El Sobrante, Martinez and Pittsburg during the mid-1990s.Coby Phillips was one of the four men who founded FAIM in the mid 90s, as a response to what he saw as a death of good role models in the “white pride” movement. Later, while in prison and awaiting trial for the murder of fellow Aryan Brotherhood member Daryll Grockett, Philips read about Auschwitz in Elie Wiesel‘s Night and discussed Nazism with a Holocaust survivor. After this, his opinion changed, and he no longer condones the use of Nazi symbols”
The question that persists is how does a county in the Bay Area, the most politically progressive region in the nation, have such a high amount of Nazis? I’m not entirely sure I have the answer, but it reminds us that is America as a whole, including the “progressive” Bay Area, isn’t immune to rise of far-right extremism and we have a long way to go before we can truly call ourselves enlightened and inclusive.