LEWISTON, Maine — Christopher Pohlhaus, a neo-Nazi and extremist influencer on encrypted messaging apps, is living in Maine, according to reporting by VICE News.
Pohlhaus, according to VICE, advocated for his followers, which refer to him online as The Hammer, to move to Maine and transform it into a white ethnostate.
VICE was able to identify Pohlhaus in a crowd of National Social Club 131 members who showed up and marched around Kennedy Park in Lewiston in October.
The showing, according to bystanders, was confusing as not many know about the group.
"It was very concerning to see this display of hate," Julia Harper of Lewiston said.
VICE News reporter Ben Makuch, who covers national extremism, said this big showing of a neo-Nazi group should raise concern among Mainers.
"Even this many men showing up and doing that, it's my experience on this beat that that's never good. And I think people in Maine and in New England should take notice," Makuch said. "If you think this kind of thing can't happen in your state it will, and it can if there is nothing to resist against it."
Makuch said Pohlhaus's influence on working with NSC 131 should also be noticed.
"He was someone who really showed up on the radar of people who watch this space. He ended up having a connection to one of the infamous January 6 attackers," Pohlhaus said.
In an interview with VICE News, Pohlhaus said it's not about getting along with people of other races, but about power.
"Where does the Arian get to cash out? We bled out a lot... since the Civil War, dude," Pohlhaus told VICE News. "It's literal power."
But for the people who advocate for refugees and immigrants in Lewiston, the presence of NSC 131, even with an extremist influencer tagging along, does not deter their efforts.
"They don't know who we are, and they cannot instill fear in us. Together we thrive. We have established tolerance," Fatuma Hussein said.
Hussein started the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine in the early 2000s in response to the influx of refugees to Maine. She said then, hate groups wrote letters to deter them.
"They showed up. We stood together as a community, and we came out of it as one larger community," Hussein said. "We came from war-torn backgrounds. We have a second chance of life. This group, and the noise they make, does nothing to us."
On Oct. 18, Lewiston city counselors voted to approve a resolution, which they said condemned the presence of the neo-Nazi group.
"The resolution passed explicitly states we reject white supremacy, condemn white supremacist, and repudiates neo-Nazi groups. Lewiston has no appetite for such heinous acts displayed by these hate groups," Angelynne Amores, the marketing director for the City of Lewiston, said.
But Mayor Sheline said that counselors approved a "watered down" version of the original resolution he proposed.
"I am deeply disappointed with the amendment that was passed last night. This shouldn’t have been a debate. Council members should have clearly denounced neo-Nazism and white supremacy without watering down the resolution’s original clear message. Our entire city — and particularly the people targeted by the neo-Nazi group — deserves better," Sheline said in an email to NEWS CENTER Maine.
The resolution passed did not state any legal action against the neo-Nazi group.
Police told NEWS CENTER Maine there is nothing they could do about the march, as they said it did not infringe on anyone's safety.