Cedar Rapids man charged with making threats of violence against a Jewish organization

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A 31-year-old Cedar Rapids resident has been charged with making violent threats against a Manhattan-based Jewish organization, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced on Tuesday.

Garrett Kelsey called and emailed an organization only identified as the “Victim Organization” by the U.S. Attorney, and made threats that were laced with obscene and anti-Semitic language. He demanded the organization remove an online video about Nordic neo-Nazis.

Kelsey admitted making the threats when he was interviewed by FBI agents, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a written statement.

According to Berman’s statement:

On May 23, KELSEY called the Victim Organization and spoke briefly with one of its employees. A short time later, KELSEY called that employee’s number back and left a voicemail for the Victim Organization stating, “My people have fucking slaughtered your fucking people before and we will do it again. And right now, you are giving us incentive to do that . . . . Filthy fucking Jews.”

Kelsey identified himself on the phone as “Garrett Odinschild.”

After the second phone call, Kelsey sent the organization a threatening email in response to the video on Nordic neo-Nazis it had uploaded to the internet. According to the U.S. Attorney, Kelsey wrote, “You have 3 days to remove this video and offer an apology to the Asatru community or we will be taking action against your organization full of degenerates.”

Asatru was founded in Iceland more than four decades ago, and seeks to revive the religious beliefs and practices common in Iceland before Christianity was declared its official state religion in the year 1000. It was recognized by the government of Iceland as an organized religion in 1973, and is the fastest growing religion in that country, according to surveys.

“Asatru, as it has been practiced in Iceland, is a religion of nature and life, stressing the harmony of the natural world and the search for harmony in the life of individuals,” according to Iceland Magazine. “Its openness and philosophical character has led some to compare it to Unitarian Universalism.”

But in recent years, the ancient Norse imagery used by Asatru has been adopted by neo-Nazis and other white nationalist groups in Europe and North America. Leaders of the Asatru community have forcefully pushed back against the usurpation of their imagery.

“I think it’s obscene,” Hilmar Hilmarsson, the high priest of Asatru, told the Atlantic after Asatru imagery was used by white nationalists during the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally in 2017. “We are absolutely horrified.”

Kelsey isn’t the only person recently arrested for a racist crime that claims an association with Asatru. Holden Matthews, who was arrested in April for setting fire to three historically black churches in south Louisiana, is a self-described adherent of the faith.

Kelsey has been charged with one count of making interstate threats, a federal crime that carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.

The New York Daily News reported that federal investigators also discovered Kelsey had a Facebook page under the name Garrett Odinschild, which prominently featured Nazi imagery, and that using that name, Kelsey posted threats of violence on the Facebook page of an Iowa Antifa group. He is not currently facing charges related to those threats.

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