Courts & Corrections

Police looking into reports of Essex assault by anti-fascists

Essex attack
Part of a Facebook post that showed a close-up of a gash reportedly inflicted by anti-fascists.

ESSEX — Police say they are investigating reports of an assault on a local man after he spoke to the media about an acquaintance who attended the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Essex police said they became aware of the assault allegations via members of the media. Officials said they have since located and interviewed Sam Wormer, who initially described the attack on social media.

Last week Wormer told The Burlington Free Press that he went to high school with Ryan Roy, a Burlington resident who appears in Vice News coverage of the deadly rally. Roy was fired from his job at Uno Pizzeria and Grill after a social media backlash against him.

Wormer told the Free Press that he strongly disagrees with Roy’s white supremacist views, but said no good would come from having him fired or calling on the Department for Children and Families to take his son.

“Taking away somebody’s job and livelihood — I mean, that’s just adding fuel to the fire,” Wormer told the Free Press.

Wormer did not immediately respond to a Facebook message Monday from VTDigger requesting an interview.

Early Wednesday, the day after the Free Press interview appeared, Wormer posted a photo on Facebook appearing to show a cut on his abdomen. The post read: “This is social justice apparently. This is what i get for sticking up for someone. Cowards.”

In a subsequent comment on the post, Wormer said he was “jumped” for defending Roy and that his assailants were masked.

Ryan Roy
A screen shot from a Vice report on the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, shows Burlington resident Ryan Roy, 28, carrying a torch and chanting.
The right-wing news website reported in a post titled “Man Stabbed By Antifa Mob Outside His Home For Not Condemning ‘Nazis’ Hard Enough” that Wormer said he was attacked by five masked men armed with box cutters. Wormer said, according to the post, that his assailants called him a “Nazi” and “fascist.”

“Antifa” is a shortening of “anti-fascist” and refers to loosely connected groups of sometimes militant leftists focused on confronting the far right directly rather than pushing leftist policies. Members often cover their faces and wear black at rallies and protests, and are frequently blamed for property damage or provoking violent confrontations.

In a comment that Wormer appears to have subsequently deleted from his original post about the incident, he writes of his attackers: “I never said they were affiliated with antifa and i hope they weren’t cuz I support a lot of what antifa does when they’re not shutting down black metal shows. They called me nazi and fascist and some other words were thrown around too.” Wormer adds that the assault happened quickly and he was focused on defending himself.

Wormer told the fact-checking website that just two of the five people who confronted him outside his home actually participated in the attack. He disputed the premise of the post blaming anti-fascist groups.

“I honestly don’t think antifa had anything to do with this. I personally believe this was a false flag attack perpetrated by the far right to further their own agenda,” Wormer told Snopes.

Wormer said a local antifa group contacted him after the assault “trying to figure out what happened [and] who’s responsible, and have been very very supportive,” according to Snopes.

Both Snopes and BigLeaguePolitics reported that Wormer did not seek medical attention after the incident and did not initially contact police.

Essex Police Capt. George Murtie confirmed Monday that Wormer did not report the incident to police.

Murtie said that after being contacted by members of the media late last week, detectives located and interviewed Wormer. The detectives solicited a report from Wormer, and the investigation of the alleged assault is ongoing, Murtie added. No arrests have been made.

“At this point it’s an open investigation, and I can’t really give you more information on where that investigation is heading,” Murtie said. “If this assault happened in our community, we want to get to the bottom of it, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”

Murtie said this is the “first and only” case that he’s aware of where anti-fascist groups are alleged to have assaulted someone in Essex.

Essex police rejected a public records request by VTDigger for the report detectives took from Wormer, citing an exemption for active investigations.

It’s unclear how active anti-fascist groups are in Vermont. A Twitter account @VermontAntifa is very active, but appears to be a parody account. A Burlington Antifa Facebook page is less active, with the most recent post from July 18 linking to a field guide on wheat paste, which is frequently used for street art and graffiti.

Before that, the group posted a link to a Washington Post op-ed about Middlebury College students protesting conservative speaker Charles Murray, with the message, “Power to our comrades at Middlebury College! No platform for hate!”

A person responding to VTDigger from the Burlington Antifa page declined to provide his or her name, saying anonymity is “the cornerstone of our movement.” The person reported being unaware of the incident with Wormer, but said it would not be surprising if anti-fascists had contacted Wormer to renounce the attack, which the person described as “disheartening.”

“Our ultimate goal is to drive hate far from the lives of those around us. We condemn white nationalism and think the complacency of disaffected liberals furthers the cause of such fascists,” the person said in a message. “That being said, stabbing a moderate for his potential ignorance is disgusting and the furthest thing from a benefit to anyone.”

The person could not provide an estimate of how many local activists identify as antifa, saying anyone at rallies, marches and demonstrations spreading an anti-fascist or anti-capitalist message could be considered antifa.

The person acknowledged the confrontational nature of the antifa movement, saying that to send a message and address the “destruction capitalism has caused and the horrendous deeds of fascism and far-right nationalism, we must defy the state’s monopoly on violence.”

“Turning the inherent violence of hateful systems against them is the only way to sufficiently respond to them. As long as prejudiced ideologies manifest themselves in our communities we will fight them, and to be complacent enough to let them flourish is the reason they’re so prevalent today,” the person responding from the Burlington Antifa account added.

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Morgan True

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  • Dennis Works

    Violence against those who are not violent is not acceptable – from anyone or towards anyone. The only time injury upon another person is acceptable is in self-defense or the defense of another individual. If Mr. Wormer’s account of the incident is accurate (and I have no reason to doubt him at this time), then the attackers truly were cowards.

  • Bill Gee

    I’m inclined to believe Wormer’s account that the assailants in this case were more likely pro-fascist rather than anti-fascist. His account to the BFP was well-reasoned and shouldn’t have provoked any sort of violent response from anyone. Nobody should be fired from their job or have their children taken away from them because of their political beliefs. However, it does fit that fascist cowards would attack an innocent man for speaking up and then attempt to blame it on anti-fascists. I hope the investigation reaches that conclusion.

  • Gary Murdock

    I’m going to wait and see on this one. False accusations on social media…from all sides of an issue…seems to be a hobby for some these days (one of the reasons I detest social media) If this happened to me, my first call would be to call the police, not post it on social media, so I’m naturally suspicious. And while I’m expressing my suspicion, I’ll add that if this is found to be a false accusation, it will receive wall to wall coverage for obvious reasons. By the way, Digger should spend a moment to look up the definition of fascist and fix the headline. If this did in fact happen, the perps are not anti fascist. A Constitutionalist is an anti fascist, these clowns are not.

    • Neil Johnson

      This is most likely propaganda. No police reports. The police monitoring websites along with reporters. What is false, what is true? People making assumptions when they don’t know the motive of the 5 perpetrators, but we assume it’s a false flag. We assume it’s not staged.

      Read Smeared, and Rules for Radicals it will highlight how and why our country is so messed up.

      This is why we have courts of law and a justice system. This is why we are supposed to protect the press to report FACTS. Claims and thoughts by people are not facts.

  • rosemariejackowski

    This does not surprise me. Many people on the so-called Left are now advocating violence.

    Actually, I don’t see much difference between the 2 sides. They seem to have morphed into a violent gang who are enjoying the spotlight. Does anyone believe that any of them are really motivated by justice and equality for all?

  • Tim Vincent

    Think Leahy, Welch or Sanders will have anything to say about this?
    Oh look, a pig just flew past my window.

    • Jeff Noordsy

      Say about what, exactly? If you read the story there’s no consensus on what actually happened.