Close Close Comment Creative Commons Donate Email Add Email Facebook Instagram Facebook Messenger Mobile Nav Menu Podcast Print RSS Search Secure Twitter WhatsApp YouTube

Marines Move to Tackle Racial Extremists in the Corps

An updated order emphasizes that participating in white supremacist groups is prohibited and calls on service members to report those who violate the policy.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

This story was co-published with Frontline.

The United States Marine Corps has taken steps to combat racial extremists in its ranks, issuing an updated order emphasizing that participation in white supremacist and other groups is prohibited and encouraging service members to report fellow Marines involved with such groups.

The actions come after an active-duty Marine was documented taking part in last year’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and two others were arrested after hanging a racist banner off a building in North Carolina.

“The order reaffirms the Marine Corps’ commitment to maintaining a culture of dignity, respect and trust in which all members of the organization are afforded equal opportunity to achieve their full potential based solely upon individual merit, fitness, intellect and ability,” Maj. Brian Block, a Marine spokesman, said.

A ProPublica and Frontline investigation this year revealed that Vasillios G. Pistolis, a Marine based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, had engaged in a series of assaults during the Charlottesville rally. Pistolis, who had been a member of the white extremist group known as Atomwaffen Division, was subsequently subjected to a court-martial and forced from the Corps. Pistolis told ProPublica and Frontline that he had left the racist group and that he had not been present in Charlottesville. However, there are photographs, video and text messages that make clear he was indeed there.

Last year, the Marine Corps Times reported that Staff Sgt. Joseph Manning and Sgt. Michael Chesny pleaded guilty to trespassing charges for hanging a banner with a white power slogan from a building in Graham, North Carolina, in May 2017. The two Marines have since been “administratively separated” from the organization, Block confirmed.

Like every branch of service, the Marine Corps has regulations that bar its members from participating in racial extremist groups, but the updated policy clarifies language on prohibited conduct, chiefly by explicitly identifying “supremacist” activity as forbidden. It also consolidates many previous orders, a large number of which haven’t been updated in years, and aims to tighten accountability when rules of conduct are violated. The updated policy encourages service members who see their peers engaging in prohibited behavior to report them through various channels.

Pete Simi, co-author of the book “American Swastika” and an associate professor at Chapman University in California who has studied extremist groups for the last 20 years, said, “The order is significant only if there is a plan to both root out and prevent folks from taking part in extremist activity.”

The amended order isn’t part of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the federal law that defines criminal offenses under the U.S. military’s legal system.

“As an order, violation of the prohibited activities and conduct is punishable under the UCMJ, but this is not in and of itself a change to the UCMJ,” Block said.

Filed under:

Protect Independent Journalism

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that produces nonpartisan, evidence-based journalism to expose injustice, corruption and wrongdoing. We were founded ten years ago to fill a growing hole in journalism: newsrooms were (and still are) shrinking, and legacy funding models failing. Deep-dive reporting like ours is slow and expensive, and investigative journalism is a luxury in many newsrooms today — but it remains as critical as ever to democracy and our civic life. A decade (and five Pulitzer Prizes) later, ProPublica has built the largest investigative newsroom in the country. Our work has spurred reform through legislation, at the voting booth, and inside our nation’s most important institutions.

This story you’ve just finished was funded by our readers and we hope it inspires you to make a gift to ProPublica so that we can publish more investigations like this one that holds people in power to account and produces real change.

Your donation will help us ensure that we can continue this critical work. From the Trump Administration, criminal justice, health care, immigration and so much more, we are busier than ever covering stories you won’t see anywhere else. Make your gift of any amount today and join the tens of thousands of ProPublicans across the country, standing up for the power of independent journalism to produce real, lasting change. Thank you.

Donate Now

Portrait of Rahima Nasa

Rahima Nasa

Rahima Nasa is a reporting fellow for ProPublica’s Documenting Hate project.

Latest Stories from ProPublica

Current site Current page