Robert Sterkeson was the man who held up a Nazi flag at a Bernie Sanders rally in Arizona on March 5, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Sterkeson is the founder of the Islamophobic group, Bomb Islam.
Not long after unfurling the flag at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Sterkeson began to shout, “Heil Hitler,” witnesses said. Sanders’ supporters ripped the flag from Sterkeson’s hands before security escorted him out.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Sanders surrogate Brianna Westbrook said, “It was absolutely wild. I never thought I would have seen a swastika at a political event. It’s gross.” While an attendee, Ron Mack, told Buzzfeed News that “[Sterkeson] never put his arm down. Everybody was in disbelief.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sanders Did Not See Sterkeson’s Flag
In the video of the incident, Sanders does not appear to notice the flag as he is in the middle of thanking his supporters for showing up to the event. Sanders does notice Sterkeson being escorted out.
The senator from Vermont told the crowd, “Whoever it was, I think they’re a little outnumbered tonight.” The Post described a scene outside of the rally where Donald Trump supporters “got into minor scuffles with Sanders supporters.” Sanders communications director Mike Casca confirmed to CNN, “[Sanders] didn’t see it, but he was told about it afterward and was disturbed.”
Heavy.com has reached out to the Sanders campaign for comment on the incident.
2. The ADL Calls Robert Sterkeson a ‘White Supremacist’ & a ‘Stunt-Activist’
The ADL said in their statement that Sterkeson is a “white supremacist” and “stunt-activist.” The group says that Sterkeson “has harassed a range of Jewish and Muslim organizations and events.” The press release adds that Sterkeson regularly posts about his activities to his YouTube channel, BombIslam.com. The ADL identified Sterkeson as being a resident of Glendale, Arizona.
In a social media post, Sterkeson identified himself as the man who was behind the stunt. Sterkeson posted a video of the incident and wrote, “This is me at a Bernie Sanders rally unfurling the Swastika behind him right as he came out. Footage on tomorrow’s episode.”
3. Sterkeson Calls Himself a 2024 Presidential Candidate
On his YouTube channel, Sterkeson refers to himself as a 2024 Presidential candidate. Sterkeson writes, “Sick of Clown World? Help me get the nuclear codes.” He then provides links to his BitCoin account. The majority of the videos on Sterkeson’s page are of him playing various video games. Sterkeson calls himself the “Commander in Chief” on a now-deleted LinkedIn page. The profile photo on that Linked-In page showed Sterkeson with an assault rifle.
On a separate account, Sterkeson writes, “Islam is the cancer. NUKES are the answer!” In his most recent video, Sterkeson posts and comments on a series of racist memes taking aim at African-Americans, the LGBTQ community, rapper Cardi B, and Jewish people. Sterkeson makes no mention of the Bernie Sanders rally. He spends the latter half of his show putting a racist angle on various news stories.
Sterkeson was featured in the 2016 BBC documentary, “Muslims Under Attack.” In the documentary, Sterkeson’s followers in Arizona are described as a “small group of army veterans, determined to uphold American values.”
4. Sterkeson’s Brother Shot a Man With an AK-47 in 2007
In 2007, Sterkeson’s brother Johnathon Sterkeson, was found guilty of aggravated assault and unlawful discharge of a firearm after shooting another man twice. Robert Sterkson has said that the AK-47 used in the attack was his.
Johnathon Sterkeson argued the shooting was done in self-defense and that he had suffered injuries at the hands of his victim following a physical altercation. Documents in the case say that Johnathon admitted the shooting. Those documents say that the victim suffered “serious injuries” and was hospitalized for 20 days after the shooting.
The victim’s sister wrote in a blog post about the shooting, “The gunman first claims the shooting was an accident then after being placed under arrest, he claims it was in self-defense, but somehow he had time to break away from my brother and retrieve the assault rifle from his vehicle. Two shots were allegedly fired, the first hit my brother mid-back barely missing his spine, the second missed is body completely.”
5. On the Day of the Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting, Sterkeson Took a Nazi Flag to the Jewish National Fund Conference
On the same day of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in October 2018, Sterkeson recorded himself attending the Jewish National Fund conference in Arizona draped in a Nazi flag. Sterkeson posted the video with the hashtag, “RobertBowersDidNothingWrong.” On October 27, 2018, Robert Bowers was accused of shooting and killing 11 people at the synagogue and wounding six others.