BLM activists shouldn't ignore Gendron’s ideology link with Ukraine's neo-Nazi military group
Published: May 17, 2022 05:59 PM Updated: May 17, 2022 05:54 PM
Police speak to bystanders while investigating at a scene where an 18-year-old white man shot dead 10 people in a black neighborhood in what authorities are calling a racially motivated attack in the city of Buffalo on May 14, 2022. Photo: VCG
Police speak to bystanders while investigating at a scene where an 18-year-old white man shot dead 10 people in a black neighborhood in what authorities are calling a racially motivated attack in the city of Buffalo on May 14, 2022. Photo: VCG

In the afternoon of May 14 local time, a shocking, racially motivated terrorist attack occurred in Buffalo, the US state of New York. Eighteen-year-old white gunman Payton Gendron broke into a mall located in a predominantly black neighborhood. He brutally slaughtered at least 10 people, mainly African Americans, while cold-bloodedly live-streaming the massacre.

So far, much evidence has now proven that Gendron is a neo-Nazi who believes in white supremacy. The gun he used had a racial slur on its barrel and the number 14, a white supremacist slogan. Besides, many US netizens also noticed that the Black Sun symbol used in the manifesto Gendron issued before the shooting is often used by neo-Nazis.

Brenton Tarrant, a white Australian who carried out a terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, also had a Black Sun symbol emblazoned on his rucksack. Gendron claimed in his manifesto that he was inspired by Tarrant.

But who inspired Tarrant? Although as of now all US mainstream media are avoiding this question, they nonetheless discussed it back in 2019, long before the war between Russia and Ukraine. At that time, they mentioned the possible links between Tarrant and the Azov Battalion, a far-right military organization in Ukraine. These media outlets also reported in detail about the Azov Battalion and how it gave military training to white terrorists from the West.

However, since the Russia-Ukraine war broke out, the US media has been avoiding the issue of the Azov Battalion so that they won't be regarded as "pro-Russian," "pro-Putin" or "Russian propaganda." However, the Azov Battalion, a far-right military organization, has become part of the Ukrainian National Guard, a normal military organization. Even NATO's tweet about the Ukrainian army had shown a Ukrainian soldier wearing the Black Sun neo-Nazi symbol.

US politicians are also well aware of the Azov Battalion's problems. Back in 2018, the US government spending bill banned US arms from going to this controversial ultranationalist militia in Ukraine that has openly accepted neo-Nazis into its ranks. But since the Russia-Ukraine conflict, as one of the reasons listed by Russia for the military operation is "denazification" of Ukraine, these US politicians, who are afraid of being regarded as "pro-Russian," no longer dare to mention the Azov Battalion issue.

Not only that, but some US media and politicians even began to whitewash the Azov Battalion, saying that the organization has been divided into a military and a political wings, with only the latter still promoting neo-Nazis while the former following the command of the Ukrainian military. But if that's the case, why do these soldiers continue to wear the Black Sun patch?

Whatever the nature of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, it should affect neither the definition of the Azov Battalion as a far-right neo-Nazi organization, nor the discussion of the dangers of this organization as well as its connection to Gendron. The two things should be separate and distinct.

Unfortunately, the US mainstream media and politicians are now indeed conflating these two things, because what they really care about is neither the facts nor the black people who were slaughtered, but more the political correctness of not being seen as a helper for Russian propaganda which is their most direct interest at stake, "political fame."

But BLM activists who really care about civil rights for black Americans and about racism in America shouldn't be confused. They can certainly continue to tweet about their support for Ukraine in hashtags and express their displeasure with Russia and Putin, they are free to do so. However, the Ukraine they support should not include the Azov Battalion that influenced and incited Gendron. They should rather question and pursue Gendron's connection to the Azov Battalion, a far-right neo-Nazi military organization, and then demand that the US and Ukraine must legislate to ensure that weapons and military materials do not fall into the hands of the Azov Battalion.

After the Muslims in New Zealand, black Americans have become the target of outright massacres by white terrorists. If they too are frightened by the cheap "political correctness" and choose to remain silent, then the Azov Battalion, strengthened during the war and under the protection of Western "political correctness," will only further inspire white neo-Nazis like Gendron and Tarrant who will create the next massacre sooner or later. Who will be the next victim then? Asians, Latinos, or the LGBTQ community?

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn