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Operation Kristallnacht: Oak Creek man accused of defacing synagogue with Neo-Nazi symbols, group also targeted African Americans

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//June 30, 2023//

Operation Kristallnacht: Oak Creek man accused of defacing synagogue with Neo-Nazi symbols, group also targeted African Americans

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//June 30, 2023//

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By Steve Schuster
[email protected]

Yousef Barasneh, of Oak Creek, allegedly defaced a Michigan Jewish house of worship Temple Jacob with swastikas and symbols associated with The Base, a multi-state, white supremacist group, according to court documents obtained by The Wisconsin Law Journal.

Barasneh also spray-painted anti-Semitic symbols and language on the building of Beth Israel Sinai Congregation, a Jewish synagogue, in Racine in 2019, according to the indictment.

Officials in the U.S. Attorneys office tell the Wisconsin Law Journal Friday that Barasneh was charged and is out of custody awaiting sentencing.

Nathan Weeden, 23, of Houghton, Michigan, knowingly and willfully conspired and agreed with Barasneh and other persons, known and unknown to the grand jury, to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate non-white and Jewish citizens of the United States, including members and guests of the Temple Jacob Synagogue, in the free exercise and enjoyment of the right, secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, to hold (i.e., to use) real and personal property in the same manner as that right is enjoyed by white citizens, as guaranteed by Title 42, United States Code, Section 1982, the indictment states.

Weeden and co-conspirators Richard Tobin, of New Jersey, and Barasneh defaced Temple Jacob with swastikas and symbols associated with The Base, Justice Department Officials said.

In September 2019, Weeden, Tobin, and Barasneh – all members of The Base – allegedly used an encrypted messaging platform to discuss vandalizing property associated with African Americans and Jewish Americans.

“Antisemitism always starts with the Jews, but never ends with the Jews,” an ADL staff member said.

Newly released supplemental data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows that reported hate crime incidents in 2021 rose to 10,840 incidents, the highest level recorded in more than two decades.

According to the ADL, the Base is a small militant neo-Nazi organization that emerged mid-2018 and is primarily active in the U.S. The Base is a small militant neo-Nazi organization that emerged mid-2018 and is primarily active in the U.S.

Weeden and his co-conspirators dubbed their plan “Operation Kristallnacht,” which in German means “Night of Broken Glass” and is in reference to the events that took place on Nov. 9-10, 1938, in which Nazis murdered Jewish people and burned and destroyed their homes, synagogues, schools and places of business.

Weeden allegedly carried out this plan on Sept. 21, 2019, when he spray-painted swastikas and symbols associated with The Base on the outside walls of Temple Jacob.

Weeden is charged with one count of conspiracy against rights and one count of damage to religious property. Weeden faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine and Barasneh faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Weeden was arrested on June 29.

In August 2020, Justice Department officials released a statement about Barasneh stating that United States Attorney Matthew Krueger of the Eastern District of Wisconsin announced that on Aug. 12, 2020, Barasneh (age 22) of Oak Creek, pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate citizens’ rights to use property free from threats and intimidation, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241.

According to court documents, from Sept. 13, 2019, through Sept. 21, 2019, Barasneh participated in online group chats with other Base members in which they agreed to threaten and intimidate African-Americans and Jewish-Americans, who they viewed as enemies of the white race.

The Base operates a local chapter in Southeastern Wisconsin called “The Great lakes cell” or “North Central Region.”

The white supremacist group placed recruitment flyers at Marquette University back in 2019, according to a copy of the criminal complaint obtained by The Wisconsin Law Journal. The group also held armed training sessions in Wood County, Wis., the compliant states.

Kevin Conway, Associate Director of University Communication told the Wisconsin Law Journal Friday that since then the school has not encountered similar issues “lately.”

“We don’t really allow outside groups to recruit on campus without going through the process of asking permission,” Conway said, noting that “not just any group can come on campus and do their thing, since we are not a public intuition.”

According to Conway, “All of our campus buildings are private, people can’t post flyers without permission.”

Although Conway could not speak specifically about the white supremacist recruitment flyers placed on campus in 2019, he said, “my guess is just someone placed them there before we could remove them.”

According to the FBI’s statements in the compliant a co-conspirator directed members of the group white supremacist group to “tag the sh*t” out of synagogues.

In November, FBI agents obtained a search warrant for one of the co-conspirators residence and electronic devices. Investigators found evidence showing multiple google searches for “Kristallnacht.” An FBI employee went under cover and gained access to a member only chat room. One member of the white supremacist group said in the chatroom, “imagine if across the country on local news everyone is reporting a new nazi presence.”

On the evening of Sept. 21, 2019, Barasneh went to the Beth Israel Sinai Congregation in Racine and spray-painted anti-Semitic words and phrases, as well as a swastika and the symbol for “The Base,” on various parts of the synagogue building.

“Violence and intimidation motivated by white supremacist ideology are abhorrent and have no place in this country. The Justice Department is commitment to prosecution such civil rights violations aggressively,” stated Krueger in 2020.

The 2019/2020 case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Eastern District of Wisconsin’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Benjamin Proctor and Adam Ptashkin.

The new 2023 case has been investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Hancock Police Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler for the Western District of Michigan and Trial Attorney Eric Peffley of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section are prosecuting the latest case.


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