A group of Jewish lawyers in San Francisco has discovered a clever new way to fight white supremacy: adoption.
Of course, the Jewish Bar Association isn’t actually encouraging anyone to adopt or sponsor white supremacists. Instead, the group is asking the public to donate to its “Adopt-a-Nazi (Not Really)” GoFundMe campaign, which is being used to raise funds for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit legal advocacy organization that monitors hate groups across the country and litigates on behalf of marginalized groups. So far, the campaign has raised more than $92,000—far beyond its original goal of $10,000.
The strategy is simple: according to the GoFundMe page, donors are encouraged to give some amount of money for each of the 300 expected attendees at an upcoming “free speech” rally put on by the right-wing Patriot Prayer group at Crissy Field on August 26. Many of the attendees will likely be white nationalists or members of similar hate groups.
According to the Adopt-a-Nazi campaign, no donation is too small.
“Two cents per attendee is a $6 donation,” organizers wrote. “A dime is $30. Why not a quarter? That’s only $75.”
Campaign organizer and JBASF boardmember Cody Harris told NBC Bay Area that he was inspired by the German town of Wunsiedel, which in 2014 organized a “Nazis against Nazis” walk meant to fundraise for an anti-white supremacist organization; there, donors pledged to give €10 for every meter neo-Nazi marchers walked on their annual pilgrimage to the former burial grounds of Hitler’s deputy führer, Rudolf Hess.
“The townspeople [in Wunsiedel] turned a Nazi march into a charity walk to combat Naziism,” Harris wrote on the campaign’s GoFundMe page. “We can do the same right here in our city.”
Speaking with NBC Bay Area, Harris added, “These extremist groups are spoiling for a fight. They are basically trolls – they want a reaction, they want violence in the streets. It serves their purposes. … We instead must channel our anguish and anger towards something positive. This campaign is an easy way to do that.”
As the growing totals show, the public has responded positively.
“The overall response has exceeded our wildest expectations,” Harris told ThinkProgress in an email, noting that the campaign had to raise its goal after the first day—and then several times after that—to make room for the donations that began pouring in. “Many donors leave comments along with their donations. Some express defiance, others make jokes, still others tell personal stories about why they’ve chosen to donate. But they all express thanks for having a non-violent, productive way to combat extremism. We’ve had a few trollish comments on our social media accounts, but that comes with the territory. The positive response has far outweighed any negativity.”
The Adopt-a-Nazi campaign isn’t the only one that’s sprung up ahead of the planned Patriot Prayer gathering. According to SFGate, one Facebook event is encouraging people to not clean up after their pets in the days leading up to the rally, in order to turn the park into “a minefield of dog poop.”
“Leave a gift for our Alt-Right friends,” the event description reads. “Take your dog to Crissy Field and let them do their business and be sure not to clean it up!”
The right-wing Patriot Prayer rally follows closely on the heels of several clashes in other cities, including a neo-Nazi/white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that left one woman dead and a similar “free speech” rally in Boston that was quickly dwarfed by counter-protesters. Although Patriot Prayer organizer Joey Gibson claims that the San Francisco gathering is not a white supremacist or white nationalist rally, lawmakers at the local, state, and national level are still concerned that things could spiral out of control.
“Patriot Prayer attracts white nationalists and other hate groups to its rallies,” wrote Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), in a letter to the Park Service. “Given this track record, there is a very real potential that Patriot Prayer will use its permit to demonstrate at Crissy Field as a free pass to incite violence.”
This article has been updated to include additional comments from JBASF board member Cody Harris.