A young man from Kalispell has quit his ROTC program at Montana State University in Bozeman amid an investigation by the United States military into allegations of his potential connections to a white nationalist organization known as Identity Evropa.
Officials are investigating claims made by an Oregon-based anti-fascist group that Cadet Jay C. Harrison, 20, participated in online chat-room conversations with other white supremacists where he made hateful remarks against African Americans and Jewish people. They are also looking into allegations that Harrison distributed white supremacist posters and possibly other paraphernalia on Montana State University’s campus in the fall of 2018.
According to Maj. Robert Carter, chief of public affairs for the U.S. Army Cadet Command, the investigation is ongoing despite Harrison’s voluntary departure from the program, which occurred shortly after the investigation began earlier this month.
Army Regulation 600-20 prohibits service-member participation in extremist organizations and activities. Any findings from the investigation will be reported to the Montana National Guard.
“We take matters of this nature very seriously,” Carter said. “The United States Army Cadet Command is committed to excellence through diversity and will not allow behavior of this type to exist in our organization.”
The Daily Inter Lake was unable to reach Harrison directly for comment.
However, according to a statement from Kalispell attorney Brian Tanko, Harrison claims to not be associated with Identity Evropa [Eur-oh-pa]. Tanko said he helped Harrison with a statement, but does not represent him as his attorney.
Harrison was one of seven individuals in the U.S. armed forces alleged to have ties to Identity Evropa. That’s according to a March 17 investigation by the Huffington Post looking into the online chat-room conversations leaked by an independent media collective called Unicorn Riot. According to the article, the anti-fascist group out of Eugene had identified Harrison as going by the pseudonym “Lawrence of Eurabia” in the conversation threads.
The group said the Lawrence of Eurabia user mentioned in chat-room logs that he attended Montana State University, is a Kalispell native and provided a description that closely matched that of Harrison’s Flathead High School wrestling records — connections currently being investigated by the U.S. military.
Harrison was one of two cadets identified in the article, the other being 23-year-old Cadet Christopher Hodgeman of Bethesda, Maryland. Carter said Hodgeman has been cited for violating town code for placing fliers on public structures, but investigations of that activity are still under investigation as well.
Identity Evropa is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-defamation League. However, Identity Evropa maintains they are “identitarians” interested in preserving Western culture, not a hate group.
Southern Poverty Law Center, which keeps a running list of organizations they designate as hate groups, said “Identity Evropa is at the forefront of the racist ‘alt-right’s’ effort to recruit white, college-aged men and transform them into the fashionable new face of white nationalism.”
According to images from the chat room, a small group of Identity Evropa activists visited multiple locations in Flathead County in January. They held a banner that read “Defend the Rockies End Immigration” at the Flathead County Courthouse, Depot Park and Conrad Mansion, all in Kalispell.
Identity Evropa is also known for its distribution of fliers at college campuses — a recruiting tactic that has popped up on college campuses all over the U.S. In 2018, the group swept through Montana, placing white nationalist fliers around campuses in Billings and Missoula.
Director of Montana State University’s News Service Michael Becker said the university rejects “the hateful statements and ideologies of supremacist groups like Identity Evropa.” He went on to cite three principles the university considers paramount when addressing these situations.
“The first one is that, under the First Amendment and Montana law, political speech is protected. The second is that the privacy of all our students will be safeguarded and protected,” Becker said.
“Finally, while we respect the rights of individuals to express their ideas, this respect for the freedom of expression does not in any way constitute support for or endorsement of the ideas expressed by those individuals.”
Reporter Kianna Gardner can be reached at 758-4439 or email@example.com