Screenshot of the "Adopt-a-Nazi" page on GoFundMe
Screenshot of the "Adopt-a-Nazi" page on GoFundMe

S.F. lawyers’ ‘Adopt-a-Nazi’ fundraising campaign goes viral

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San Francisco attorney Cody Harris and the Jewish Bar Association of San Francisco are behind a new fundraising page that asks people to “Adopt-a-Nazi,” taking a lighthearted approach to a serious matter: how to respond to a “free speech” Patriot Prayer rally planned for Crissy Field on Aug. 26.

When Harris heard about the San Francisco rally, he was shocked that a national issue stirred by last week’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia, was coming to his doorstep. Without much further thought, he sat down and created the GoFundMe page “Adopt-a-Nazi (Not Really)” to raise money for the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the nation’s preeminent organizations fighting hate and extremism and tracking neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups.

The campaign asks visitors to donate a small amount of money to “sponsor” each person expected to attend the rally (current estimates are 300). Some donors have pledged $6; others have given $600 or more.

Harris came up with the idea after hearing about a town in Germany that countered a neo-Nazi parade in 2014 with a fundraiser to benefit anti-extremist groups. “I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to try to repurpose this idea,” he said. He asked the Jewish Bar Association of San Francisco, where he is a board member, to take on the effort.

Harris launched the page on Aug. 17, let people know about it, and sat back to wait. “It just took off beyond my wildest expectations,” he said.

His initial goal was to raise $10,000, but, to his surprise, the campaign went past that target in 24 hours. After four days, the total grew to nearly $85,000. The new goal is $100,000, and Harris said the link has been shared 10,000 times on Facebook.

“What it shows is that people want to do something positive,” he said.

The rally scheduled for Aug. 26 in San Francisco is organized by the Portland-based group Patriot Prayer, whose events have been marked by clashes between protesters and counterprotesters. The group is led by Joey Gibson, a Trump supporter who has publicly denounced white supremacists but whose rallies still draw racist and white-nationalist elements.

“He seems to like to troll what he considers liberal parts of the country,” Harris said. Rallies have been held this month in Seattle and Portland.

But there’s no way to control who shows up to such a provocative event, and that’s the danger, critics say. Gibson reports that security for the Patriot Prayer group will be provided by the Oath Keepers, an armed, militia-like group composed of military and law-enforcement veterans.

The rally, which has been condemned by local and national politicians and drawn opposition from around the Bay Area, has tentative approval from the National Park Service. A final decision is expected any day.

As reported in J., Bay Area Jewish leaders and Jewish organizations are split on how to respond to the rally and its alt-right message, which often contains racist and anti-Semitic tropes. Some plan to join counterprotests at Crissy Field, while others say the best response is attending alternative, peaceful gatherings elsewhere. One is planned at S.F. Civic Center from 12 to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26.

Harris feels it is his duty both as a Jew and as a lawyer to take a stand against the kind of fear-mongering, hate and provocation the rally embodies.

He says the response to his campaign is both heartening and gratifying.

“Obviously the urge to do something positive is there,” he said. “The rally had this catalyzing effect.”

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.