The rise of Andrew Anglin's neo-Nazi website, the Daily Stormer

In the early afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 14, a brown-brick office complex in an unremarkable section of suburban Worthington is on lockdown. A security guard and an off-duty police officer hired by building management stand beneath the cantilevered structure, making sure no one goes in or out.

The cop smokes cigarettes and stares across the parking lot, where, in a narrow span of green space abutting High Street, a group of 40 or so protesters hunch their shoulders, rock on their heels and toes and pace across the grass to keep warm in the gray, nearly freezing drizzle. In front of the building's large geometric sign that reads "Executive Corporate Center," people hold posterboard placards with slogans like, "Worthington is not a safe space for Nazis," "Nazis cash checks here" and "Greg Anglin takes Nazi $."

Inside the building, located at 6827 N. High St., is a digital directory of businesses at the address, and under suite 121, it lists Morningstar Ministries and Greg Anglin, who has leased the 1,700-square-foot group of offices since 2010. The Nazi connection comes from his son, 32-year-old Andrew Anglin, a Worthington native who runs the world's most-visited white supremacist website, the Daily Stormer. Until recently, the Daily Stormer accepted mailed donations through Greg Anglin's office suite.

Andrew Anglin boldly embraces a Nazi ideology on the Daily Stormer and spreads his message through short, news-related posts riddled with racial epithets. "I ask myself this, in all things: WWHD? (What Would Hitler Do?)," he wrote in a 2015 Daily Stormer post.

Before the protest, the Worthington address and its connection to the Anglins was an open secret of sorts, sitting on the Daily Stormer's "Contributions" page, one click away from the home page. Picketers from the Columbus chapter of Anti-Racist Action (ARA), along with chapters from Cleveland and Louisville, plus members of Showing Up for Racial Justice and other like-minded groups, hope that by exposing the source of the Daily Stormer's snail-mail funding they can hobble its donation pipeline.

"They're not only spreading hate, but some of its followers are endorsing attacks against Jews and Somalis," said Olivia Flak, an ARA organizer. "We wanted to raise awareness. By drawing attention to this and what they're about, it says, 'Hey, look. This is not a joke. Here's what's going on. Look at this website. See what's going on in your community.'"

The protesters chant boldly ("No Nazis! No KKK! No more fascist USA!") and intermittently give short, impassioned speeches through a megaphone ("We demand that Greg Anglin stop cashing Andy's checks!"), but an uneasy paranoia also infuses the gathering. Some in the crowd partially cover their faces. Most don't want their photos taken or last names used. At one point, a gray-haired male organizer, who's using binoculars to monitor the surroundings, keeps close watch on a white sedan idling in a parking lot a block or so away. When the car makes a lazy left turn and drives past the protesters uneventfully, he affixes his gaze elsewhere.

Their paranoia isn't unfounded. Earlier that week, users on the Daily Stormer's message board went to the ARA's Facebook event page for the protest and found the names of people who indicated they were attending or interested in the event and began posting photos, addresses and other personal information about the potential protesters. The tactic, known as "doxing," is used periodically by the Daily Stormer's "Troll Army" and Andrew Anglin, who has also partnered with notorious hacker Andrew Auernheimer (aka weev) to target those who oppose his cause, particularly if the target is Jewish or a person of color.

Though the protesters are cautious, they aren't dissuaded. One Worthington couple came to "raise awareness that it's right here in our backyard." Another middle-aged couple drove down from Morrow County to "hold a light in the dark."

"I think people are afraid to talk about things in the dark. It's terrifying to them. They'd rather pretend it's not there," said ARA protester Gail Burkholder, who first knew Anglin as "Drew," a student in her preschool class at Calumet Christian School in Clintonville. "My background is I'm Jewish. I grew up in New York — in Trump Village, by the way — surrounded by neighbors with [Holocaust number] tattoos on their arms. That was my childhood. … You could ask, 'Are you scared to go to the rally?' That implies choice. It's in my genetic makeup that I absolutely have to do this. There's no fear whatsoever."

II.

Prior to launching the Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin was simply Andy, a high school freshman at Worthington's Linworth Alternative school, where he attended classes beginning in 1999 after attending Worthington Christian Middle School. He would later transfer to Worthington Kilbourne High School, graduating on June 8, 2003, according to the school.

In interviews, five high school classmates, who asked not to be named for fear of repercussions, described Anglin as quirky, funny and nice — but also standoffish and occasionally antagonistic. (Published details were corroborated by multiple sources.) At the time, he was a devout vegan. "But he wasn't that kind of vegan," said one former friend, describing other vegan students who carefully researched their diets. "He was the guy who ate a bag of Fritos and that was his meal for the day." Others recalled Anglin going so far as to shop for vegan skateboarding shoes.

Anglin's individualistic streak exhibited itself in his appearance. The first week of freshman year he arrived for school sporting self-styled dreadlocks, with his hair divided into squares and each square twisted into a dread-like spiral. His typical uniform included baggy hooded sweatshirts and outsized JNCO or UFO pants, and acquaintances alternately described his style as "hippy grunge" or "Nirvana-meets-some-music-fest-spiritual." At one point, he stopped wearing a hat emblazoned with the Independent Truck Company logo because another student purchased the same cap. "He was like, 'Now I can't wear that hat,'" said a classmate. "He didn't want to be the same as anybody else."

Friends said Anglin was smart, but unmotivated.

"It was one of those cases where if he would have applied himself he could have done very well," said one. He was, however, politically and socially engaged — though at the far opposite end of the spectrum from where he currently resides. "We were all socially liberal, and he was in line with everybody in our small, alternative school," said a friend. His favorite bands at the time mirrored this worldview: Propagandhi, Dead Kennedys and Crass.

"When people used homophobic or racist slurs around him [in high school], he was very outspoken about saying that was not OK," said an acquaintance. "And that has stuck with me to this day. It's ingrained in me. He was so adamant about that, and it opened my eyes a little bit."

In an autobiographical March 2015 Daily Stormer post, Anglin addressed his early liberal views, writing, "I was not really ever a liberal, in the SJW (Social Justice Warrior) sense, as they are fighting for the system which is something I never did." (While Anglin initially responded via email to Alive, he didn't respond to specific interview requests.)

Even in high school, Anglin was something of a provocateur, though his targets were generally conservative leaders, like President George W. Bush, or fundamentalist Christianity. One friend noted he had unique perspectives on myriad topics, which made him an interesting conversationalist since it was impossible to predict what he might say next.

In January 2006, Anglin, then in his early 20s, was arrested and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia after getting caught with a pipe containing marijuana residue. He was also charged with possession of a controlled substance for having less than 100 grams of marijuana. The paraphernalia charge was amended to disorderly conduct, and the court dismissed the other charge. Anglin eventually pleaded guilty to the disorderly conduct charge and was fined $100 plus costs, which his father paid. In December, Anglin filed to have the drug charge expunged from his record, which would require an in-person court appearance. No court date had been scheduled as of press time.

Regardless of the rare brush with the law, Anglin never appeared to get into trouble at home. Those who knew him best described his family life as "normal," noting Andrew's strong relationship with his father. In a January video-conference interview with an ABC/Fox affiliate in Montana, Anglin said, "I get along fine with my parents. Hopefully human relationships can go beyond politics. I would hope so."

But Anglin could be unpredictable. Three classmates described one high school gathering where Anglin repeatedly slammed his head into the sidewalk in front of the house where the party was taking place. Similarly, the walls of Anglin's childhood bedroom were dotted with indentations, owing to a predilection for slamming his head into things when lashing out, according to multiple friends.

Beginning during his sophomore year, some classmates noted a marked change in Anglin. His moods could be more unpredictable, and he started to provoke older students to fight, "like he wanted to get hit," one person explained. Another longtime friend put it more bluntly, saying, "If you go out for a drink [with Anglin], then you're either going to fight or stop someone from kicking his head in. He just doesn't care."

III.

After Anglin transferred to Worthington Kilbourne, he lost touch with many of his Linworth Alternative classmates. He ditched his vegan diet, which was the first attribute anyone mentioned when discussing his teen years. More recently, Anglin authored a May 2015 Daily Stormer post encouraging readers to "Take the Stormer 30 Day Paleo Challenge," which included a passage about meat being a staple of any diet ("All forms of meat are good forms of meat").

In 2007, two freshman-year friends had strikingly similar run-ins with Anglin. On both occasions, Anglin expressed a deep interest in conspiracy theory and, in particular, reptilian humanoids, a concept that posits global leaders either are, or are controlled by, lizard-like beings. These theories would form the backbone of Anglin's first forays into blogging on his site Adventure Quest 2012, which launched with a post laying forth the site's mission to mend "the wounds produced by modern society … and [help] the reader transcend these physical bonds and reach total ascendancy." "To mend these wounds," Anglin wrote, "the world must learn to embrace diversity and color."

Later posts would delve into the lives of reptilians and humanoid sharks.

After high school, biographical details on Anglin grow hazy. He took classes at Columbus State Community College in 2003, and, at age 23, he moved to the Philippines, where he taught English and spent a few years bouncing around Southeast Asia.

Anglin's current whereabouts remain unknown. Citing FBI sources and Anglin's social media activity, a November 2016 Huffington Post article believed him to reside in Germany, while rumors have placed him everywhere from Russia to right here in Columbus. In an undated photo provided to Alive, Anglin sits beneath an umbrella advertising Gerolsteiner mineral water — a German brand.

Writing on his blog True Fascism, a precursor to the Daily Stormer first launched in 2012, Anglin described an affinity for Filipinos, referring to them as "a civilized, non-aggressive and industrious people." Over time, however, he started to believe it impossible to develop deeper, more meaningful relationships with the island dwellers, owing to what he described as "minds … as primitive as their living."

"While living in the jungle, I began drinking too much of a strong coconut wine brewed by the locals, began to feel deeply depressed and alone, and eventually left that life behind, forever," he wrote. "It was only among my own kind — those of the European race — that I would ever be able to share true kinship, as it is only they who share my blood, and can understand my soul. … By the Grace of God, I found Adolf Hitler."

After delving deeper into the writings of Hitler and former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, Anglin launched the short-lived Total Fascism, which included long-form posts about everything from Hitler's artwork to a written desire to round up non-white immigrants and place them in concentration camps "until they can be shipped back to wherever they are from."

IV.

In March of 2013, the web domain dailystormer.com was registered using the email gregorymarkanglin at yahoo.com and the Ohio mailing address of 6827 N. High St., Worthington, and a few months later, on July 4, Andrew Anglin debuted his new white nationalist website, which did away with Total Fascism's wordy essays in favor of short, obscenely racist takes on breaking news.

Historically, Stormfront.org had been the online hub of neo-Nazi activity, but last summer the Daily Stormer took over as the most-read white supremacist website in the world, and during the culmination of the presidential campaign last fall, the site's readership spiked considerably. Dailystormer.com now enjoys more than 10 milllion page views from nearly half a million unique monthly visitors, according to estimates from Alexa, a company that charts commercial web-traffic data.

Compared to sites like Stormfront, the Daily Stormer targets and appeals to a younger demographic that is more familiar with internet subcultures incubated on sites like 4chan and 8chan. ("I had always been into 4chan, as I am at heart a troll," Anglin wrote in a 2015 post.) The image-heavy site is littered with familiar alt-right symbols (Pepe the Frog, swastikas, Hitler and, more recently, President Trump aka "Our Glorious Leader") and large headlines laced with ethnic slurs. A recent smattering: "Terrorist Jew Rat Sarah Silverman Calls for a Military Coup Against Trump," "Jews, Capitalists and Catladies Pour Money Into ACLU to Keep Invaders in America" and "Barack Obama has a Message for the Kike Schumer."

"Anglin is a provocateur. He purposefully uses provocative and extreme language to rally his supporters," said Marilyn Mayo, a research fellow with the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks extremists like Anglin. "He's definitely on the more extreme end of the alt-right. … You have people who hold his views but don't use the same kind of virulently racist and anti-Semitic language he uses. And he tends to use that language all the time."

"A lot of it is highly participatory," said the Southern Poverty Law Center's Keegan Hankes, who has closely followed Anglin's activities since the Daily Stormer debuted. "You read some of these articles where he's trying to work his readers into a frenzy, and there will be instructions. It'll be phrased as a game: 'Troll Stormer Army, go do this, that and the other. Here's how to do it. This will be fun.' ...That's all very familiar to anyone who's been on the worst parts of the internet in the last four or five years."

In late December, Anglin generated national headlines when he announced plans to stage an armed march in Whitefish, Montana, a tiny ski-resort town that is also the part-time residence of controversial white supremacist Richard Spencer, widely credited with coining the term "alt-right." Anglin said the march, organized in response to what he viewed as community-wide efforts to silence Spencer by harassing his mother, a Whitefish resident, was to include demonstrators carrying “high-powered rifles."

The rally, initially planned for Monday, Jan. 16 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), fell through a week before it was scheduled to take place, and afterward it was revealed Anglin had submitted an incomplete permit application to the city of Whitefish. He later attributed the permit refusal to "Jewish trickery."

Anglin combines his internet savvy with a deep love for and knowledge of Nazi propaganda. The Daily Stormer, in fact, is named after Der Stürmer, a weekly Nazi newspaper published by Julius Streicher in the 1920s, '30s and '40s.

Hankes said Anglin quite purposefully talks about the same subjects (the "Jewish problem," black-on-white violence, etc.) over and over again in much the same way Streicher and others in the Nazi propaganda machine once did.

"[The Daily Stormer] is designed to talk about issues in one category, hitting the same ideological points in every single one of them," Hankes said. "It's a type of indoctrination. It's literally how effective propaganda works. He's that sophisticated with it. He has a thought-out plan, and he's committed to it."

Despite his site's popularity, Anglin isn't universally revered among alt-right leaders. Some of the criticism is due to his past.

"He's a controversial figure within the white supremacist movement because he lived in Asia and the Philippines, and at one time he had relationships with Asian and Filipino women, which is considered something that is traitorous by white supremacists," Mayo said. "He's also controversial because he's a misogynist and has attacked and belittled women, including white women, on his site. There are women in the white supremacist movement who have taken note of that."

Others in the movement don't like his troll-heavy approach. White nationalist website Counter-Currents argued in 2014 that the Daily Stormer "is designed to appeal to whites of all social classes who are below average in intelligence, morality, and taste." That same year, the Alternative Right blog wrote that "hatred, among the weak and the feeble, is often simply transmogrified fear, which is one of the odours emanating from The Daily Stormer and its audience, who feel attracted to Anglin's schtick."

"There's a real healthy debate going on in a lot of different areas about whether trolling is the right tactic and whether that flippant tone is ultimately going to help [white nationalists] cross the finish line with the white nation," said Hankes, who noted that extremist alt-right leaders are "all total contrarians. ... They're their own worst enemies. They will eat each other alive if you push them in the right direction."

Racist online screeds sometimes cross over into the real world. After Dylann Roof killed nine black people at a church in Charleston, S.C., the Daily Stormer's profile was raised when it came to light that parts of Roof's manifesto were found nearly verbatim in comments made on the Daily Stormer, which led many to believe that Roof was a Daily Stormer commenter. (Responding to what he dubbed a "conspiracy theory" in June of 2015, Anglin acknowledged that the possibility of Roof commenting on the Daily Stormer wouldn't be "particularly surprising, given that anyone reading about Black crime or other racial issues on the internet would necessarily have come across this site.")

It's often difficult to tie a specific hate crime to a certain website, and the Daily Stormer's homepage lists a disclaimer that opposes violence and advocates "revolution through the education of the masses."

Anglin's online realm does enter the flesh-and-blood world in other ways. Hankes said he has independently verified that 40 chapters of the "Stormer Book Club" have met in real life. "They're out there having a meeting, talking about racist ideas. Some of them have built gun ranges. They'll go shooting together, go to concerts together. They're actively organizing around that," he said. "It's not inconceivable that he would try to mobilize these groups the same way he does people on Twitter."

As Anglin and the Daily Stormer's profiles are raised, more and more newly emboldened white nationalists latch onto the cause. "These guys in far-right movements, they're not used to seeing their ideas and movements and activities reflected back at them," Hankes said. "They're used to only getting 10 guys in a conference room. They're used to only existing in their own little echo chamber."

V.

Within 10 days of the Jan. 14 ARA protest, the Daily Stormer removed all mentions of the Worthington address from the site. The site also experienced recent difficulty with a bitcoin digital currency address ascribed to it, which led some commenters to believe the Daily Stormer had been blacklisted by Coinbase, a popular bitcoin service. (Reached for email comment, Coinbase spokesperson David Farmer said the company does not comment on specific merchants.) Anglin claims other typical donation outlets such as PayPal and Google Wallet have banned the Daily Stormer from using their services.

"A couple folks from the group let me know [the Worthington address] had been taken down from the Stormer site," ARA's Olivia Flak said. "I think that was direct pressure, and it was something ARA had a lot to do with, being that we exposed this to the community and let them know what was going on."

On Friday, Feb. 3, in a post titled "Choking Last Jew Gasp: Daily Stormer has Mailing Address and Bitcoin Shutdown," Anglin explained the situation. "With the mailing address — it was at my dad's office. It's the address I've used since I moved out of my house as a teenager, for mail from the government, the bank, so on," he wrote. "It worked well because it's inside an office building. Anyway, the rat kikes from the SPLC called up the owner of the building [and] started making threats, so the building company was going to cancel his lease if I didn't stop using the mailbox there."

Then, he pivoted.

"Anyway, I've got a new mailing address: Andrew Anglin, PO Box 208, Worthington, Ohio 43085," he wrote, also adding a new bitcoin address. "These are unshutdownable."

In addition, Anglin announced a corporate sponsor, Smerff Electrical of Brisbane, Australia. He said donations have been "scant" and implored the book clubs to pass around a hat and mail the money collected. While crying poor, he also proudly posted the site's recent traffic numbers and reassured readers of his bold plans.

Meanwhile, Greg Anglin's status as a tenant at 6827 N. High St. remains an open question. Reached by phone, Greg refused to comment on the situation, saying, "I don't talk to reporters." In 2015, he told The Washington Post he was "not really involved with Andy's site" and that "if there's things I disagree with him on, I sit down and talk with him directly rather than airing it in public."

Robert McGrath, a senior communications director for CBRE, which manages the Worthington property, said the company was "actively reviewing the situation," but as of press time no decisions had been made.

Reached for comment, Executive House LP, the Quebec-based group that owns the property, said building tenants had been informed that they may not use their space to conduct business on behalf of other organizations since it would violate lease agreements.

"The ownership group of the building has no association to the Daily Stormer," wrote Anthony Ortona, part of Executive House LP's ownership group, in an email to Alive. "Furthermore, there is no lease or rental agreement with this group. They are not a tenant of the building."

In his Feb. 3 post, Anglin framed these recent hurdles as part of a larger battle. "We are going to have an office in the New York Times building. And then we're going to buy the whole building," he wrote. "There are no brakes on this train. The future belongs to us."

That all-consuming attitude motivates protesters like Gail Burkholder to remain vocal, pushing back against a white nationalist movement that has picked up significant momentum in recent times.

"The era of Trump has emboldened the alt-right, Nazi movement. We have to be out there bringing what's dark into the light," she said. "We need to let the good people of America know, no matter who they voted for, that this exists. There are people out there willing to hurt people based on who they are."