Why Does Contra Costa County Have So Many Nazis?

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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.

contra costa

Photo from NY Daily News

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 a 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. [1]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.[4][16][1]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.

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Abraham Woodliff - Bay Area Memelord

Abraham Woodliff - Bay Area Memelord

Abraham Woodliff is a San Francisco-based writer, editor and digital content creator known for Bay Area Memes, a local meme page that has amassed nearly 200k followers. His work has appeared in SFGATE, The Bold Italic and of course, His book of short stories, personal essays and poetry entitled Don't Drown on Dry Ground is available now!


  1. This really where I get my new
    April 20, 2020 at 7:22 am

    Wow! I can’t imagine why hate is living in our community. It then reminds me that in my local city of Bay Point there is a swastika Nazi symbol engraved in cement. I pass by it everyday. It sits under the freeway tunnel by Bailey Road. Anyways, Yes our county is pretty poor and under privileged, but it’s not dangerous nor racist. Yes you see drug addicts filling up in local community parks and BART stations here in there, but racism is that last thing we expect. Despite, the founder of the Aryan Brother Hood, Barry Mills, being from our county of Contra Costa I never think associating hate with our hometown. In the end, we just got to understand that are there are racist everywhere. Fortunately, They only represent a very small minority. To illustrate, they roughly represent about 6% or lower of our community. As long as we don’t tolerate their hate were going to be okay. Lets face reality, our county is still very,very, and very progressive. It also very, very, and very diverse. I found it very shocking, but in the end of the day that’s what its suppose to be, shocking and odd.

  2. Medalcollector
    April 20, 2020 at 7:22 am

    I am surprise that there are many poor white neighborhoods in Contra Costa considering the fact that it is a very affluent, expensive place to live.

  3. BethAnn3
    April 20, 2020 at 7:22 am

    So many (educated, hip, if not necessarily well-off) progressives are so disdainful of working class small-town, suburban whites and their subset of bad, racist people. They act like the whole town is responsible for these people, or just bad people themselves for living near these people, By the way, did you know that Rodeo is a very diverse community with a substantial black population from all income levels, as well as Latin(x), Asians, Pacific Islanders, Muslims, Sikhs, etc, who probably live in as much peace as in San Francisco or anywhere more “hip”?

    But how often do these (usually white) progessives hang out in poor minority urban neighborhoods, other than when they choose to gentrify them?

    • 4Baccurate
      April 20, 2020 at 7:24 am

      I had the fortunate-misfortune of having lived for a time in “small” mostly white towns in both northern and southern California, and found there people so ignorant and prejudiced that they constitute a potential threat to civilized society. So the “disdain” that “progressives” have for them is closer to fear because these descendants of trashy settlers from the Old World are easily manipulated toward neo-nazi sympathy. These are the descendants of outcasts and ne’er-do-wells that immigrated to this country, where, once arrived, many among them constituted the racist land-grabbing mass that enslaved, raped and killed native people. .So if you’re thinking of living in a slow little town and are non-white “Christian,” you should think better of it if you don’t want to be mistreated like a specimen in a zoo.

    • Medalcollector
      April 20, 2020 at 7:24 am

      You can say that about the conservatives well off white folks who are disdainful of the working class and the poor minority and white neighborhoods and don’t want to hang out with them. A long time ago, many affluent white people came to Contra Costa because they did not want to be neighbors with the rest of the people in Alameda Country particularly Oakland. BTW, why would anyone be friends with bad, racist people unless you are a racist yourself.

  4. lorrwill
    April 20, 2020 at 7:22 am

    Thanks for taking a crack at this Stuart. I have been asking myself this same question for over 10 years.

  5. Angie Angel
    April 20, 2020 at 7:22 am

    Because gentrification pushes us into the suburbs and racist white people don’t like us moving into their grandpa’s neighborhood.
    It’s not about a “few bad eggs” or ex-cons or even being progressive vs conservative etc. It’s a social problem. It’s structural. It’s the economy, stupid.

    • 4Baccurate
      April 20, 2020 at 7:24 am

      and historical, and all of the above. Another thing I’ve come to realize, which is partly what you are pointing out…is that prestigious academic attainment or amassment of money, do not of themselves make a person a decent, honorable, or kind human being…. Often, in fact, we find people with a great deal of money and/or prestigious academic attainments, to be the absolute worst among humans

  6. Holdin27
    April 20, 2020 at 7:22 am

    Because the county includes a lot of areas with poverty where ex prisoners can do their methy deeds.

  7. Allen
    April 20, 2020 at 7:22 am

    While West County is highly progressive in terms of policy, the citizens are a large swath of both sides of the spectrum. Unfortunately, you have this type of gang activity and movement spreading as a direct result of ignorance. These people are born into poverty, raised by bad choices and influenced by xenophobia and hate. Eventually they grow up and start recruiting other ignorant souls for their campaign.

    While Rodeo is generally seen as a nicer part of CCC, every town (except Hercules) has it’s poor/run down areas, where Nazism, gang violence, drug abuse, etc. is free to grow unhindered.

    • dummypants
      April 20, 2020 at 7:24 am

      Rodeo considered a nicer part of CCC? Says who?

      • Allen
        April 20, 2020 at 10:43 am

        says me. I grew up in Rodeo for 17 years, and currently work anywhere from Richmond up to Crockett 5-6 days a week. If you keep the location to West County only, Rodeo sits pretty much in the middle as far as nicer/less nice neighborhoods. Downtown Richmond/San Pablo are the worst, El Sob has some pretty junky areas whereas the nicer spots were annexed to Richmond a while back, Pinole and Crockett are a close 50/50, but better than Rodeo, with Hercules at the top.