Facebook took down hundreds of pages yesterday in a crackdown on “movements and organizations tied to violence.” Among them was a right-wing militia that rapidly rose to prominence this summer: the New Mexico Civil Guard. Like militias across the country, the group got attention by showing up to protests against police brutality and racism wearing camouflage and carrying rifles to, in their words, protect private property, while claiming to stand against racism as well.
As journalists and activists documented various members’ white supremacist tattoos and participation in one organization the Southern Poverty Law Center designates as a hate group, the militia’s founder Bryce Provance sought to distance them from racism and violence in statements to the media.
But court records and interviews with Provance and others show his record in this regard is more extensive than has been previously reported: He spent most of his adult life as a violent and committed neo-Nazi skinhead. Provance said he left the group a few weeks ago, after a lawsuit was filed against the group by Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez, alleging they were illegally usurping law enforcement duties and fostering violence. But he appears to continue to control the group’s email list and a PayPal account that collects donations on a New Mexico Civil Guard website that remains online.
That website says they do not tolerate “Racism of any kind,” but the policy its current leadership describes is more like “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“I can’t for sure say someone would be exorcised from the unit for past beliefs or current beliefs as long as they keep them to themselves” said one of the NMCG’s current leaders, John Burks. “Nobody needs to know about it; Keep it to yourself.”
The New Mexico Civil Guard launched a Facebook page in March the day after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic.