Keystone United is a white nationalist group which was founded in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and is now active throughout the state. Keystone United’s members have been convicted of hate crimes and racially motivated violence, and the Southern Poverty Law Center says the group is a “white supremacist hate group.” Keystone United has also been classified as a terrorist organization. At least some of the group’s membership — including Keystone’s co-founder — is staunchly pro-Trump, and its members have been spotted at Trump rallies wearing their full Keystone gear.
On Tuesday, the police chief of Avalon, PA announced that six or seven members of Keystone United would be charged with “multiple offenses” in what’s being called a racially motivated attack on an African American man in a bar earlier this month. Police say that members of Keystone United attacked the man, Paul Morris, at the Jackman Inn, a bar near Pittsburgh, on July 7, in what authorities are saying was a racially-motivated hate crime.
Witnesses say that the men who attacked Morris were wearing clothing that identified them as members of the Keystone gang. Police say that Morris was attacked when he walked to the back of Jackman Inn to thank the cook for preparing food for his son’s graduation. The gang members were reportedly loitering at the pool tables near the back of the bar, and attacked Morris — first verbally, and then physically. Morris later told local media that the men who attacked him “had the look of skinheads.”
The Avalon’s bartender told CBS that the attack was totally unprovoked. “Eight of them jumped Paul,” she said. “He was hit in the face. He bent down to pick up his glasses. He was hit again.”
Police have not yet announced whom they will charge in the case.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Keystone Union Members Have Been Spotted At Trump Rallies in Pennsylvania. The White House Has Declined to Comment.
On at least two separate occasions, Keystone Union gang members have turned up at Trump rallies in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In April 2017, a reporter for New York magazine, Olivia Nuzzi, reported spotting a number of Keystone members at a Trump rally. (The rally was organized to take place at the same time as the White House corresondents’ dinner, which the president skipped.) Nuzzi took a picture of one of the skinheads, but reported that the crowd was “studded” with men wearing black t-shirts that read “Keystone State Central PA”.
The co-founder of Keystone United, Steve Smith, also tweeted that 2016 was “a great year for nationalists” because of Trump’s election.
Nuzzi said the White House did not return calls asking about the presence of skinheads at the rally.
During the presidential campaign, back in April 2016, Trump held another rally in Harrisburg. The Daily Beast reported at the time that “almost a dozen” white men wearing Keystone United clothes were in the crowd, cheering loudly as Trump called for tighter immigration laws.
2. Keystone United Says They Are “White Advocates” Who Want to Combat “Degenerative Influences” In Society
Keystone United’s website says that the group was founded in 2001 “by a small group of White advocates residing in the state capitol of Harrisburg, PA”. The group’s “About Us” page does its best to paint Keystone United as a small, embattled group which has been victimized and misunderstood. The group claims that they have been “physically attacked, imprisoned, harassed and slandered” for trying to present their point of view in public.
The website marks dark, and vague, references to the “degenerate influences found virtually everywhere today” and to the “destructive propaganda fed to today’s youth through the mass media.” Keystone United’s mission, according to their own website, is to “counter” those “degenerate influences” by offering a “productive outlet for whites.”
3. The Southern Poverty Law Center Calls Keystone United “One Of The Largest And Most Active Single-State Racist Skinhead Crews In The Country
Keystone United was originally known as the Keystone State Skinheads but changed its name in 2009, in order to get away from the violent reputation associated with “skinheads.”
But the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit which monitors hate groups around the US, singled Keystone out as one of the most active racist skinhead groups in America. The center notes that Keystone tries to present itself as a “family friendly” and modern group of skinheads, and that they hold picnics and concerts. But Keystone members also have a history of violence against minorities.
In January 2006, Keystone United member Jason Honeywell was arrested for allegedly stabbing two anti-racist SHARP (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) skinheads outside a punk rock club. A fight had already broken out in the club after Keystone United members allegedly made sieg-heil salutes and obscene gestures toward the black singer of the band River Side Riot, which was performing at the time.
Two men, Timothy David Alonso and Sean Fitzmaurice, were severely injured in the fight. Honeywell was charged with four counts of aggravated assault.
In 2003, three Keystone United members, including co-founder Steven Smith, were arrested and charged with beating up Antoni Williams, a black man, using stones and chunks of pavement. Smith and another Keystone member, Steve Monteforte, pleaded guilty to “terrorist threats and ethnic intimidation.”
4. Steve Smith, a co-founder of the Keystone United, is a former Aryan Nations member And Also An Elected Official in Pennsylvania
Steve Smith is a co-founder of Keystone United. He is also an elected official in Pennsylvania. In 2016, he won re-election to the Republican Party County Committee for Luzerne, Pennsylvania. He described this as one more reason that 2016 was “a great year for nationalists” — the other reasons Smith lists are Trump’s election, and Brexit.
The Keystone United website notes that Smith used to be a member of Aryan Nation and also a member of the KKK. Smith has responded to questions about his membership in the KKK and Aryan Nation by saying the he was “young and angry” about changing demographics in Pennsylvania when he joined those groups. He claims that Keystone United, which he helped to form at age 30, is a more moderate group than the others that he was a member of.
5. Keystone United Has Been Listed As A Terrorist Group
The digital intelligence agency TRAC (Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium) has listed Keystone United as a “racist terrorist group.” TRAC says that even after Keystone changed its name in 2009, the group is “increasingly violent” and active.
TRAC says that Keystone has a history of violence toward minorities and that many of its members have ended up in jail for their activities. TRAC also notes that Keystone has an active propaganda arm.