Marine Corps Boots Out Neo-Nazi Who Attended Charlottesville Rally

An investigation ensued after a report by ProPublica and Frontline PBS publicized Lance Cpl. Vasillios Pistolis' involvement with neo-Nazi organizations and his violent remarks.

Close-up of Defense Secretary James Mattis gesturing during press conference.

UPDATE: Lance Cpl. Vasillios Pistolis is officially no longer a Marine. 

The decision came after Pistolis, 19, served 28 days of confinement at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, WTOP reports. He was detained after being convicted in June of disobeying orders and making false statements related to his role in the infamous "Unite the Right" white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.

An investigation ensued after a report by ProPublica and Frontline PBS publicized Pistolis' involvement with neo-Nazi organizations and his remarks in which he bragged about physically attacking people in Charlottesville.

“Today cracked three skulls open with virtually no damage to myself,” he wrote on Aug. 12, the day of the rally and counter-protest.

Upon his release from the service, one of Pistolis' superiors spoke out to denounce his behavior and the company he keeps.

"There is no place for racial hatred or extremism in the Marine Corps,” wrote Maj. Brian Block in a release published by the Jacksonville Daily News. “... Bigotry and radical extremism run contrary to our core values.”

This level of punishment is well deserved. There should be absolutely no tolerance for racism in any branch of the United States military. Service members are expected to fight for the rights of all Americans, and if you believe that some Americans are superior to others, then you are not qualified for the job.  

The United States Marine Corps is looking into one of its members who was outed as a violent white supremacist in a joint report by ProPublica and Frontline.

Lance Cpl. Vasillios Pistolis, 19, is under investigation after his ties with various neo-Nazi groups came to light. He is currently stationed at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune and assigned to the 2nd Marine Logistics Group, according to ProPublica.

Pistolis has been connected to known white supremacist organizations, including the National Socialist Movement, the Traditionalist Worker Party, and Atomwaffen Division, which is described by ProPublica as a group that hopes to provoke a race war.

The investigation into Pistolis’ association with these groups is being handled by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), which examines felony-level offenses that involve members of the Navy or Marine Corps.

“We’re looking into the allegations and do not comment on open investigations,” said Adam M. Stump, an NCIS spokesperson.

ProPublica and Frontline used interviews, videos, photos, and Pistolis’ online activities to uncover his ties to the different groups as well as his participation in several assaults during the deadly “Unite the Right” rally last August in Charlottesville, Virginia.

This latest investigation marks the second time that Pistolis has caught the attention of the NCIS. Several months ago, he was questioned about these activities, but the investigation was dropped for reasons that are currently unclear.

The probe has the support of Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota), who encouraged Defense Secretary James Mattis to investigate the Marine and his neo-Nazi pals. Additionally, the lawmaker asked the Department of Defense to tell Congress what actions the military is taking to discipline white nationalists who have made it in the ranks as well as how racial extremists are being vetted during enlistment. Ellison is asking for a response to his request by May 21.

“ProPublica and Frontline identified three Atomwaffen members or associates who are currently employed by the Army or Navy,” wrote Ellison in a letter to Mattis. “The involvement of service members in white supremacist organizations or other hate groups is cause for significant concern, particularly given their combat and weapons training.”

The concern over Pistolis' alleged racism is valid. There are several reasons why having white supremacists in the armed forces is problematic and dangerous. 

When you enlist into the military to fight for the rights of U.S. citizens, you are not representing only the white Americans, but each and every person in the country. However, you cannot effectively do that if you hold bigoted views toward much of the population.

Furthermore, the military is made up of men and women from all walks of life, and it's expected that they all look out for each other in combat. How can a white supremacist truly be trusted to risk their life for another service member of a different race?  

Lastly, who is to say that people like Pistolis won't use their weapons training to carry out hate crimes against the people they dislike right here on American soil?

If the investigation finds that Pistolis is, indeed, involved with these groups, swift disciplinary action should be taken, such as a prompt dishonorable discharge. 

 Banner/thumbnail image credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

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