tv Breaking Hate MSNBC May 12, 2019 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT
about that. because the more we push the people away, the closer they come to crossing the line. this is an msnbc special series. white lives matter. >> hate is on the rise in america. it's emboldened -- normalized. >> the government is nothing compared to the jewish menace. >> and destroying lives. >> there are people who will say, once a nazi, always a nazi and that you cannot change who you are. >> but i know change is possible. from the age of 14-22, i helped build america's first neo-nazi skin-head organization.
i believed diversity was a coder for white genocide, immigrants were raping our women and i was going to save the world, recruiting vulnerable kids and transforming them in to violent extremists like me. but now, instead of pulling people in to hate, i'm guiding them out. >> that's a pretty scary thing. >> i know how easy it is to get sucked in to the movement. >> i hated people messing with me. before i was just -- i was just gabe, and now i'm gabe the skin head, and everyone respects me and fears me. it happened to me and i'm not willing to let it happen to anyone else. first thing i like to say about the american flag, i don't salute the american flag, two of the states stand for alaska and
hawaii, i stand for my own flag, the banner of the white race. >> with me is chris picciolini, 19 year-old. the director of the northern hammer skin heads. i believe we are warriors today and fighting for a great cause, which is the white race. >> it's painful to admit, but that the me, 22 years ago. today, i see the world very differently. >> joining us now christian picciolini, he is the cofounder of life after hate. >> hello, this is christian. tell me what is going on, man. >> for more than a decade, i maze it my -- i made it my mission to help people disengage from hate groups. before they destroy their lives or others. does he talk about using weapons? there's a resistant to work with someone that was a violent white supremacist. i helped over 100 people disengage. he is preparing for the race war.
there's so many more people who need help. i get calls and e-mails from parents all the time saying they are worried about their son or daughter that they may be violent. ♪ i used to keep up with my photo albums really well. >> and that's? >> yeah. >> gabe. >> yeah. >> okay. lori brown contacted me a year ago, terrified she was losing her 21-year-old son, gabe, to the same skinhead crew i helped lead. the hammer skins. >> when gabe got those tattoo, i thought his life is over. nothing good is ever going to come out of this. >> i remember when you called me. >> yeah. >> and you were devastated by it. it's your baby. >> yep. yep. my beautiful little baby boy. so --
>> what do you think it was that led gabe to go down and search for that kind of acceptance? >> i was having problems with drugs and alcohol. emotionally i was not there. i was there physically, but not emotionally. i had gotten in to the an abusive relationship, i was supposed to stop seeing this guy. and i didn't. so, that's how i initially lost custody. >> it took gabe a long time after his mom contacted me before he would even talk to me. but he finally reached out. gain had told me he attended monthly white power rallies. provoked violent confrontations
and drug his mother's black boyfriend out of a car and beat him up. in a parking lot. we have been working together for eight months and he is making progress, but i'm still worried about him and need to check in. hey, hey. >> what is up. >> what is up, man, how you doing, little brother? >> good. >> good to see you. how's it going in. >> good. >> so tell me what is going on, what is new, i have not talked to you in a couple of months. >> i have a girlfriend now. i want -- i want to know more. where did you meet? >> at work. she is from puerto rico. >> oh, wow. >> so, that is different. >> a little different for you. >> yeah. just a little bit. >> i'm happy to hear it. in the past, you never would have considered even being nice to somebody that was from puerto rico. >> right. >> and here you are, in love with a girl because you see her
and not just her skin. i don't know that anybody grows up to aspire to be a hater. something happens in their life that turns them from a normal every day young person in to someone who wants to scorch the earth. >> first time i heard anybody use the "n" word was my grandmother. i didn't really think too much about it, until i went to a predominantly black middle school. i was always getting messed with. you know, picked on. i looked at myself as garbage really. it's how i saw myself. >> in my work, i call these potholes the small traumas that shatter a person inside and drive them to a community that will accept them. >> i hated people messing with me. that was when i first started to feel the resentment and as i got older, i looked at it as i don't have to take this -- anymore.
you shave your head and put on boots and nobody will mess with you. before that, i was just gabe. just nobody. now, i'm gabe the skinhead and now everyone either respects me or fears me. >> according to the southern poverty raw center there's currently 78 racist skinhead groups in the united states. the hammer skin nation, my old crew, is the oldest and largest and have a reputation for being brutal. a kind of white power special forces unit, eager to engage in a race war. he was a -- he was a prospect for two years. channelling his personal frustrations into the hateful agenda. >> i guess the difference between now and then is that i was trying to change the world to make myself happy in it instead of trying to change myself so i could be happy in the world i have. >> i'm happy for you, man. on i'm proud of you. you made a ton of progress. i have to be honest too, i'm also concerned.
since we started working together, gabe has cut ties with the hammer skins, but he marched in the largest white power rally in more than a decade just a few months ago. on august 11th and 12th, 2017. 500 white supremacists descended. on charlottesville, virginia. calling themselves "unite the right," they claimed they were protesting the city's decision to remove a confederate monument. more than 1,000 counter protesters met them in the streets. police lost control.
and the governor declared a state of emergency. >> it's 2017, how can you hate number that you don't even know? [ screaming and crashing of cars ] >> a lot of people got hit. a lot of people got hit. >> at 1:40 p.m. nazi sympathizer rammed his dodge challenger in to a crowd of peaceful counter protesters. >> this is why we didn't want them here! this is why we did not want them here! >> when it was all over, 19 people were injured and a 32-year-old woman named heather hyre was dead. >> what were you thinking, you were making the progress and then i'm going to go to the rally that ended up being a tragic event?
>> i still hadn't fully separated myself, i guess, from the ideology, there's a lot that i struggle with as far as a mind-set. i'm still in the nationalist mind-set way of thinking. >> for most of his young life, gabe has had this identity as a neo-nazi skinhead. it's hard to leave what he left. sometimes, if things go bad, it's easier to go back. and the last thing that i want him to do is go back.
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>> the 80s and 90s, i was pushing propaganda when i could. i have not born a racist and i was not raised one. my earliest memories were being in chicago surrounded by family that adored me. my parents were italian immigrants pursuing the american dream. they worked 14 hour days. i was on my own as they worked. the weird foreign kid that spoke italian at home and english at school. i was lonely and bullied by the all american kids who refused to welcome me. i felt abandoned and worthless. i felt like an outsider and i was angry. i spent a lot of time walking the alleys. one day at 14 years old, when i was my angriest, i was standing here and smoking a joint. when a car came roaring down the alley and a man got out, and he had a shaved head and boots and
he walked over to me and he smacked me in the head and pull today joint from my mouth and then he looked me in the eyes and he said, that's what the communists and the jews want you to do to keep you docile. he saw in me somebody that wanted to belong, somebody that was looking for a family and could be easily molded in to something that he wanted. >> this is it. white power. >> 14 years old, i went from a normal kid to somebody who was plotting to hurt other people based on the color of their skin or who they loved or the god that they prayed to. i was a mouth piece for hate, the front man for two american white power bands. today, there's a much more powerful tool for recruitment. the internet. >> the war on whites is real. >> there's countless voices of hate that go through the internet.
>> it's diversity that divided the white people. >> we need to nuke africa and cut off the aid there. >> gassing and lap shading -- >> liberating women is the worst disaster ever. >> it's a show about common sense extremism. >> it's alt-right shock jock. one of the most effective propagandists today. >> we used to think being called a racist is wrong. but now we realize it's normal, and the only reason you have not seen it is because the jews are censoring it. >> today, we are on the opposite sides of thor war. >> christian picciolini, he has nothing to say. if you stop hating, your life will improve. that's not what it's -- about. he was a -- gang member that did not stay in his -- gang. right?
>> i don't think he is even white. okay. i think -- >> he doesn't look like it. >> he looks like muhammad. >> i do not give a damn if they insult me. but i'm worried about the thousands of people that are infected by their poison every day. >> there will be a great deal of pain and suffering as we try to take our place on the earth as rulers of the earth. >> people like gabe. one people, one nation, one leader. >> hm-mm. >> adolf. >> old uncle adolf. >> i have been working with gabe for eight months and thought we were making progress. but it's clear, he is still holding on to some demons. >> what kind of looks good you get when you wore that out? >> not good ones. >> when i worry the shirt was mainly to provoke people. >> were you ever embarrassed to wear it? >> you start to question it more
and more, you do start to feel a sense of embarrassment when it comes to the symbols. >> that embarrassment is empathy. you were worried how it would affect other people. it was not so much your embarrassment of wearing it, i think what you were feeling was how that may affect others as you were changing, you may not even have recognized that. you know, i see a confederate flag hanging on your wall. a lot of people in charlottesville were marching with the confederate flag. pitched it as saving a confederate monument. do you believe that was what it was about? >> i believe that was part of it. they were trying to erase any symbol of white identity or white history. both sides think they were right. both sides had points. valid points that they were trying to make. >> but somebody died because of those actions. and because of that rally and it doesn't matter to me who's side they are on.
innocent people should not die. >> this may come across the wrong way to certain people, i think if we were separated, we would not have these issues. just throwing everyone together and blending them together and saying, hey, get along. obviously that is not working. the people that want to be living together in harm any and unity and whatever should be allowed to do that. but the people who don't, is should be able to do their own thing as well. >> what would you do if given that choice? >> hm-mm. you know, i can't really say. that's something that i would have to really think on. if i had to make a split second decision on it, i would have to go with the separatists. >> gabe can't imagine a world where different races co-exist because he has never allowed himself to be a part of one. to help him escape his twisted world view. i know exactly where i have to go.
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>> what made me turn away from hate. the question i'm asked most often. the answer is complicated and didn't happen all at once. by 1994 i was 21 years old. married with two children. and still a committed nazi skin head. one night as i beat up a black teenager outside of the mcdonalds. his eyes caught me. and it hit me. what the hell am i doing? i couldn't let go. my wife and kids left me when it was clear i chose a violent movement over them. hatred wasn't giving my life meaning anymore. it was destroying it.
before i hit rock bottom ton. i opened a record store so sell white power music. >> are you sick and tired of that alternative grunge crap, that's why i'm here, the supplier of the underground, chaos records. >> to make ends meet, i had to offer other music genres and that meant talking with customers who were black, jewish and gay. i began to realize that i had more in common with the strangers than the skinheads that i surrounded myself with. and that changed the course of my life. what happened to me was a form of immersion and it's now a critical tool in my work. i push people to have an open dialog with the enemy. the people they think they hate. gabe is just like i used to be. living in a white power echo chamber. he marched at charlottesville, convinced his identity and history was being erased.
he had no idea those lies would lead to the death of an innocent 32-year-old woman named heather heyer. and that her death would touch a nerve, not just in charlottesville, but around the world. my own story of transformation has taught me that dialog can lead to understanding and acceptance. the opposite of what the white supremacists are pushing. that's why i want to speak with heather's mother, who has agreed to open a door to a man with my hateful past. >> well, good morning. >> hello, suzanne, how are you? >> fine, i'm going to come out
here, i have a whacky ankle, i'm not wearing shoes today. i want to a hug. >> i would love to give you a hug. i cannot imagine what it's been like for you for the last couple of months? >> i just looked at the salt and pepper shakers in the house, and i said, i guess i don't have to worry about heather inheriting any of those now. come on in. these are baby pictures of heather and pictures of the family. >> this is heather here? >> this is heather. >> happy baby, huh? >> yeah. >> she is giggling with her brother. she is pretty happy kid. but, always opinionated and also had to question everything when she got old enough. she had a strong sense of right and wrong. she was out talking to people always. she was trying to make a difference. >> susan raised heather in a single white trailer in the
hills just outside charlottesville. it was a hard life, but it instilled a passion for social justice in heather. >> no nazis, no kkk, no fascist usa. >> she did not plan on protesting until she saw the cell phone video of the rally. the racist chants at the torch rally. >> i saw videos of heather that day, talking to a young lady from the alt-right asking her why are you here? what are you doing? and the girl kept saying no comment. but i have to hope that somehow the girl went home and thought, geez she, what the hell am i doing here? and maybe she will remember that heather talked to her and have soul searching them from that.
>> oh, my god! >> how did you find out about heather's death? >> her friend justin called me. and he just kept saying, i think she got hit by that car. and i kept saying, what car? i don't know what you are talking about. and he said, the hospital, they need to find the next of kin. i said oh --. so, you called my parents and i said, please pray. when we got to the hospital two ladies grabbed me and walked me up and i walked in the room and the detective looked at me and he said, she was pronounced. and i remember just putting my head down and sobbing so loud.
for the first few weeks i kept thinking, i raised her just to have her go away like this? but the impact that her death has made on so many people, i guess i can bear it for that. maybe the world will be a better place because of it. >> what legacy do you want this to leave? >> i want us to help capture those kids who are vulnerable who are needing friendship, let's preemptively prevent it in had the first place. let's learn to care for one another. >> yeah, i'm working with a you know, a really amazing young guy. his name is gabe. who is really heavily involved in the movement.
and he was actually at the rally here at charlottesville. it's a kid that wants to do good, but he doesn't know how, because he was never set up with the tools to do that. i would really love it if you guys met. would you be open to that? >> i think so. if he is willing to meet me, i would like to talk to him, maybe gain some insight. >> i really appreciate that. and i think what is possible is that we work hard to make sure no other mothers lose their sons or daughters. >> that's my goal, i don't want anybody else to have to be in this club. there shouldn't have to be mothers who lose their children because of hate. >> susan's willingness to meet with gabe is both generous and brave. now i have to convince him to return to charlottesville and confront the truth of what
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with the hours top stories. the "washington post" reports president trump and his allies are working to block more than 20 separate investigations by democrats into his actions as president. his personal administration actions so far the paper calls it the most expansive white house obstruction effort in decade. emergency landing that used rear wheels after the front landing gear failed to deploy. nobody injured. now, back to "breaking hate." ♪ picciolini must die. -- lover, picciolini should be executed. kill yourself. it is the right choice. the white power movement i walked away from now considers
me the ultimate trader. i have always had to look over my shoulder. it not something that i like -- it's not something that i like to do. it not something that i like to put my family through. but i know that when i get the responses, it's touching their nerve. i know that i'm getting to them. and that means that i am on the right track. i was willing to die for something a long time ago that frankly was garbage. if somebody wants to hurt me now for doing the right thing i'm okay with that. but i do take these threats seriously. because white supremacist violence is on the rise. >> arraigned in district court today, 20-year-old james alex fields said he understood the charges against him. second degree murder. malicious wounding. and hit and run. police say fields used his car to intentionally mow down a crowd of anti-hate demonstrators saturday, killing 32-year-old
heather heyer. >> six months after the rally, alt-right websites claimed he is not a murderer, a martyr. forced to flee a crowd of violent protesters. >> the nationalist community defended itself against thugs. >> two self proclaimed white nationalists screamed that police, the media and counter protesters were to blame for saturday's violence. >> it part of a culture of victimhood to justify their anger and actions. the 2017 unite the right rally was just the latest example. >> white people have a right to stand up for themselves. southern people have a right to stand up for themselves. when you try and take down our statues, we are not going just be little -- anymore. >> the architect behind the chaos is himself a charlottesville native and a new comer to white supremacist circles. >> i'm the organizer of the
unite the right rally. the hate that you hear around you that is the anti-white hate. that fueled what happened yesterday. >> the unite the right rally catapulted kessler's status among white nationalists. >> her name was heather, sir! her name was heather, jason! her blood is on your hands. her blood is on your hood. >> jason, what do you think -- >> he now boasts more than 13,000 twitter followers. a dangerous platform to celebrate the tragic outcome of his rally. he is riling people up, making fun of a woman who was murdered. i believe that people need to be held accountable for what they do. i know i can't change jason kessler.
but i can expose him for what he truly is. >> oh, youtube, this is jason kessler, i promised you on twitter and gabbed to have are a debate today. i thought it would be interesting to talk to this guy. his name is christian picciolini. you call yourself a former white power person. so you were in a skinhead gang, right? >> right, how come you put up air quotes? >> because i'm -- we are pro white, not nazi skin heads. i think white people deserve to be represented like other groups are represented. every other racial group, every other identity, whether it's gender, or a sexual orientation identity, they have lobby groups. >> but that's because they are searching for equality, they are not trying wipe out white eye identity. they are trying to be
recognized. >> but i think they hate everything who is white and accomplished something. they want to tear us down. instead of build themselves up. >> do you hold yourself accountable for what happened there? >> those protesters put them in a risky situation. they were defying the state of the emergency order. >> it was an alt-right person that came to the rally who ultimately drove his car in to a group of people. correct? >> that's true, but he has not been found guilty. and -- >> well, he still -- >> i would say there's a lot of reasonable doubt in that. >> how do you justify marching along side swastika flags. you claim you are not a neo-nazi. you claim you are not a white nationalist. >> no one ofs marching besides swastika flag. it was one guy with a flag. >> who was chanting blood and jews will not replace us? >> you was not chanting that. but one of the ideas is skepticism of jewish power.
>> do you had think the holocaust happened? >> i'm not a historian. >> you can sugar coat it all you want. you can claim a public face with a smile on it. i know what you guys are behind closed doors. ir know exactly what you guys are. i have spoken -- >> you don't know who we are. it's not literal. and i can say that there are people -- >> i do. i do. we used to be able to spot a skinhead or a klansman a mile away, and we knew they were dangerous. this new movement may be dressed in pretty clothing that looks like what our doctors or our lawyers or our teachers look like. but, they have an agenda that is sinister, the real danger, are people like jason kessler, who are able to hide who they are. they change to their twisted world view and have no self reflection. those that want to disengage
from white supremacy, i can help, if they have the courage to confront their own hatred. i'm going to charlottesville in two weeks. would you consider going with me? >> for what purpose? >> i'm going to meet heather heyer's mom and i'm going to sit with her. she is going through a lot of pain because of what happened to her daughter. would you consider going with me? >> i would consider it. i can't say yes or no for sure. but i will consider it. >> what are your reservations about it? >> i feel like, whatever she would have to say would be resolved around trying to make me feel guilty, i guess? and -- >> you have not met her though, how can you make that assumption? i can't believe it.
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♪ what is up, super star? >> how are you? >> good. >> six months after-- the deadly unite the right rally, i asked gabe to return to charlottesville. it's time for him to confront the truth of what really happened here. most of the people i work with have never had a meaningful interaction with the people they claim to hate. jews, african-americans, or the counter protesters at the charlottesville rally. what saved me was interacting with the people that i thought were my enemies. usually the only time you meet somebody from the other side is
when you are like out of like a rally, and you are both screaming at each other and ready to fight, i'm willing to talk to might be that is willing to talk to me. >> i cannot promise anything, but i will stick by your side and i promise i won't leave. at my request, gabe has agreed to meet with heather heyer's mother. susan, this is the young man that i told you about, this is gabe. >> hi, gabe, nice to meet you. >> this is susan, this is heather's mother. sit down.
>> have a seat. cold enough for you? >> yeah. pretty chilly out there. >> yeah, a little bit. >> gabe, what are you feeling right now? >> to be honest with you, a bit awkward. >> yeah. >> so, do i. just because we both know that you were here this summer. >> hm-mm. >> gabe, what is it like being here now? what is the feeling of being back in charlottesville? >> just realizing the magnitude of what happened there. because that got like national attention. i was not even expecting that to be honest with you. >> how did you feel when you heard that somebody had been killed? >> really didn't know how to feel. no offense to you, ma'am, at the time, i really didn't care. >> i understand. >> it was someone from the other side. >> i think that is part of the
problem, there's this image of this communist protester, rebel. >> oh, my gosh. so not her. heather came from a broken home. her dad had drug problems. he is clean now. but he was never clean while she was growing up. heather seemed to just take it all in. but i know it damaged her in ways. >> gabe, would you mind sharing your up bringing at all with suzanne? >> i mean, when i was around 7 years old, my mom kind of went off on a bender for a couple of years, drinking and drugging and dating less than desirable men. one of those less than desirable men tried to kill her on christmas eve. >> hm-mm. >> while me and my brother were in the house. that was fun. >> i'm so sorry.
>> yeah, you know we shrug, but it's a lot of pain, you cannot fix it. i get it. >> i appreciate you listening to me, a lot of people that may have knew your daughter or share the same ideals that she had, would probably want to kill me. can i ask you something, ma'am? >> yes. >> it was pretty common sentiment resolving around the nationalist movement that she didn't die from injuries from the car accident, she decide from a heart attack, is that true? >> the medical examiner's report said blunt force trauma to the abdomen, was the cause of the death, the heart stopped because of the impact of the car. not because of heart attack. jason kessler was in the courtroom and he know what the
medical examiner said, and he has not issued that information to anyone. >> in fact, he has done the opposite. he has helped spread the fake news. >> he helped spread the heart attack theory. >> he's helped spread the heart attack theory. >> that's pretty bull [ bleep ]. sorry. >> i think god understands. >> because you can't keep something going and base it off lies and expect it to last. the thing that really didn't settle in to my mind until later was how was going to this city that i have never even heard of before and provoking these people to violence, how is that going to really change anybody's mind about anything? it just makes everyone look bad, really. and you know, people got hurt from it.
>> susan, i'm assuming nobody has ever reached out to you and said i'm really sorry for what happened? >> nobody who was at the rally. but i don't hold him responsible. i hold the leaders responsible. because they deliberately stirred up the anger. he was used. i'm sorry, you were manipulated. >> i'm sorry you lost your daughter. >> thank you. i appreciate that. but i don't hold you accountable. you understand? so where do we go from here? how do we fix this? >> honestly, susan, i don't know how. >> i don't know either. i think we're all trying to figure it out. >> i think a good start is sitting down and talking about it. two people that normally would never do that. it's a start. susan's only daughter, heather, was killed by a white
supremacist just six months ago. >> can i help you up? >> do you remember how? >> yeah. just like that. >> to witness her compassion for a misguided young man like gabe is remarkable. >> you want a hug? if you're not comfortable, just say -- it's okay to say so. okay. i give long hugs. >> at first i was really reluctant about meeting with heather's mom. >> seems like you guys connected. >> yeah. yeah, we did. i'm glad she was able to see where i was coming from. >> this is a big step in gabe's journey. but it's not the last.
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before gabe ever contacted me he was so desperate to shed his skinhead past he used a spoon and lighter to try to burn the nazi tattoos off his face. >> ready? >> yep. i was born ready. >> he couldn't do it then. he's ready now. >> i think starting with a clean canvas is going to be a huge thing for you and have a major impact. >> oh, yeah. for sure. >> people deserve a second chance and you're getting one, man. >> i know it and i'm pretty grateful. >> all right, gabe. you can put those on. three, two, one. there you go. is that bad? >> everybody that i meet i see as me 30 years ago. i know that they weren't born that way. they learned to do this.
>> oh, that sucks. >> one, two, three. there you go. >> if somebody were to look at gabe a year ago, from a mile away they would have judged him as being a monster. >> another 15 seconds. 3/4 done. five. four. you got it. come on. you're tough enough to get it put on, you've got to be tough enough to get it taken off. >> gabe changed the outside but that didn't really change the real gabe.
>> there's probably going to be some people that i know that are going to think i'm a traitor or whatever. it's pretty refreshing to say that i really don't give a [ muted ]. >> there you go. >> it takes a kind of twisted nerve to try to join the hammer skin nation. but it takes real courage to walk away from them. >> it's just little stuff that happened that just kind of built that doubt more and more. you know, just grew that seed of disillusion. >> i think the people that stay are afraid. they're afraid to start over. >> i wanted to be me again, not this thuggish skinhead nazi guy. i didn't want to give that impression to people anymore because that's not how i really felt inside. >> hate always has consequences. it destroys everything in a person's life.
if we let it. >> they tried to kill my child to shut her up. well, guess what? you just magnified her. [ applause ] you need to find in your heart that small spark of accountability. what is there that i can do to make the world a better place? you take that extra step, that's how you're going to make my child's death worthwhile. i'd rather have my child. but by golly, if i've got to give her up, we're going to make it count. [ applause ] >> 30 years ago i dedicated my life to spreading hate. i can't erase those years but i'll never stop trying to make amends for what i've done.
i just got another e-mail that says "i need your help. you're my last hope." >> like it or not, i know this is what i'm meant to do. ♪ he was born with a gift. he spoke to the animals. >> a dog trainer to the stars. with a beautiful wife. >> he was totally crazy about her. >> but an ill wind will blow through paradise. >> the kennel dogs were very, very upset. it was a huge ruckus. >> they told me