UPDATE (6:30 p.m.): Jordan Jereb seems to have backtracked on his initial claim to the ADL that Nikolas Cruz was involved with Republic of Florida, saying it was a “misunderstanding” since ROF has multiple members named Nicholas and that he was confused by conflicting information. Earlier in the day, local law enforcement said they have not yet discovered any links between Cruz and ROF.
The white supremacist group claiming Parkland shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz as a member, Republic of Florida (ROF), glorified mass shootings, consumed far-right propaganda, and included “lone wolf activists” in their organizational chart.
Early on Thursday, Jordan Jereb, leader of ROF, told the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) that Cruz had participated in several training exercises with the ROF, a claim that was later backed up by Cruz’s classmates. Jereb then told The Daily Beast that Cruz likely used the training with the ROF to carry out his mass shooting, where 17 people died.
“Nobody I know told him to do that, he just freaked out,” Jereb said. “ROF had not ordered or wanted Cruz to do anything like the school shooting.”
Despite Jereb’s protestation of innocence, an examination of Jereb’s account on Gab, a social that caters to white nationalists, shows it as a group where an alienated young man like Cruz could easily be inspired to commit a mass shooting. On the group’s organizational chart, there is a section emphasizing “lone wolf activists”.
Jereb had also used his Gab account to praise Anders Behring, Breivik, the far-right Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people, mostly children, in Norway in 2011.
ROF’s website also has a number of tropes commonly seen in the far-right online, including a section on “Alpha Males vs Beta Males” and a page dedicated to memes to use against liberals in debates.
Ethno-states and neo-Nazi links
The ROF had a relatively anodyne name for a group that, through both its social media feeds and membership ranks, has explicitly pushed for the creation of a white ethno-state in Florida.
While the group remains relatively small, at least in relation to other white ethno-state secessionist groups, it has made its presence known across the state over the past few years. For instance, in 2017 a report from Tallahassee’s WTXL noted that the group “hails itself as a white nationalist group that encourages militia training,” adding that the ROF was “asking residents to… push for secession and return to a white ‘ethno-state.’”
Nor is the group shy about its ultimate aims: the secession of the state of Florida, in the pursuit of a whites-only enclave. As the ROF’s website read, the ROF is “fighting for… the ultimate creation of a white ethnostate [sic] so we can be free from anti-white policies and have policies that reflect our values as white westerners.”
The group has even held public rallies advocating for secession. In a series of videos removed from the ROF’s website, clips showed public protests with a large sign exhorting supporters to “SECEDE.”
A PRO-WHITE ETHNO-STATE RALLY FEATURED ON REPUBLIC OF FLORIDA’S WEBSITE – AND REMOVED ON THURSDAY AFTERNOON. (CREDIT: YOUTUBE)
One YouTube account affiliated with the group also said the ROF was “Setting the standard for Floridian Secession.”
A shot of the header photo affiliated with one of Republic of Florida’s YouTube accounts. (CREDIT: YOUTUBE)
While the group’s ranks remain small — even among groups advocating for a white ethno-state, the ROF was relatively obscure — it nonetheless boasted ties with other, more prominent groups pushing similar goals. For instance, in 2015 the ROF joined up with the League of the South, a neo-Confederate white supremacist organization, to protest the burning of a Confederate flag. (In retaliation, Jereb opted to burn a Soviet flag.)
However, despite the group’s relatively small-scale status, a post from Jereb’s account on Gab from earlier this week points to a potentially far more concerning element of the ROF’s links with Cruz. In the photo, Jereb shares a shot of his tactical gear — with a patch that calls for people to “READ SIEGE.”
The patch appears to be a reference a book called Siege, written by James Mason, a one-time member of the American Nazi Party. The book was hailed by Nicholas Giampa, a teenager recently accused of killing his girlfriends’ parents after they criticized his white supremacist views. It’s also closely affiliated with the Atomwaffen Division, described by the New York Times as a “small extremist group that hopes to use terroristic violence to bring about the collapse of… the government and other institutions that organize society.” Per the Times, the Atomwaffen Division – believed to have cells in Florida — has already been tied to a pair of handful of murders over the past year.
While a number of questions continue to circle on Cruz’s relationship with the ROF — and the ROF’s role in this week’s shooting — others in the white nationalist movement said they wouldn’t be surprised to find further ties to the James Mason and his Siege fans emerge. As a leader of a separate white ethno-state movement told ThinkProgress, the ROF “recently fell into the James Mason ‘Siege’ stuff like Atomwaffen Division has. That’s the place to look.”