KKK hood inside Vons
On Saturday, May 2nd, a man wearing a KKK hood made his way among fruit stands inside the Vons store in Santee, CA. In the era of social media, his picture went viral and made the international news.
On May 7th, Dustin Hart and his wife Brittany Hart went shopping at Food 4 Less in Santee pushing a stroller while wearing velcro swastikas attached to their masks. The woman wore a T-shirt with Pepe The Frog and the word “Honk” on it, which are white supremacists symbols used by the alt-right.
The hooded man was not charged and his name was not published, although he was identified by the Santee Sheriff’s department.
Hart posted a 14 minutes video recording on BitChute (preferred for hate speech content) showing the altercation with the store clerk and the deputies who asked him to remove the Nazi decals. On May 18, Hart removed the video from BitChute, leaving on another recording showing him yelling homophobic slur and profanities at an unidentified man who confronted Hart about his swastika on May 8th in front of a post office building.
Hart is operating under several aliases. He has at least two Facebook accounts as Dusty Shekel and Dusty Shekel III. Hart signs as reichard_nixon on IG and uBeartron on Twitter and BitChute. On one of his Facebook pages, Hart posted his donation to Planned Parenthood followed by a meme stating “ When you realize Planned Parenthood might be a good thing - Abortion is the leading killer of black lives in America.”
Asked to comment about his recent public actions, Hart said, “I can’t talk about anything until the hate crime investigation is over.” He added there are no charges against him at this moment, “but apparently there is still an investigation. They called me, but haven’t informed me that the investigation is closed.” Hart wrote on his Facebook page that he is a “TransJew” and therefore cannot be anti-semitic.
In the video of the incident now removed, Hart claimed he wore the swastika as a “peaceful protest against governor Newsom” mandate to shelter at home during the covid pandemic and that it was not intended as a Nazi speech. However, both him and his wife wore t-shirts adorned with white supremacist symbols.
Before the public incidents, Hart used Threadless and Weebly to sell these t-shirts. A local group of activists succeeded to have his stores removed from the two platforms. Hart is now using www.wix.com and one of the activists who intends to remain anonymous said, “Our efforts with web hosting site Wix were unsuccessful though”. The activist said one of the people who worked to have the stores removed had to go to the police after Hart retaliated. “Hate should not be profitable and companies have the power and authority to remove it from their platforms. Therefore we need to demand accountability. Dustin makes a profit, and the online platforms make a profit from the sale of hate-related items and speech. They are not government entities. It isn’t a free speech issue,” the activist said.
The activist took action “because white supremacists are a direct threat to me and my family and silence is compliance. Members of our family were murdered at the hands of Nazi. Jewish people were murdered last year in Poway.” The activist said their child was a victim of hate at school when another child “started going up to Jewish kids and telling them that he should put a plastic bag over their head, to do “like Nazi did to the Jews.”
Cati Marie lives in Santee and went to school with Dustin Hart. “The kid was always looking for attention. My strongest memory of him was doing gross things in front of as many people as possible. It was like he got off on it. I don’t believe he is a racist, but I do believe he was seeking attention.”
Hart changed the name of his Wix store on May 18 and deleted the Facebook post where he advertised it. As of today, May 19, the store is still operational under a different name. On the main page, Hart writes, “We are proud to offer censorship-free service.” The website is not certified, nor registered for e-commerce, has no company name listed or if it is licenced for business in the state of California and no tax ID number. Hart has no contact info posted, but has a link for donations.
Hart sent the reporter an invoice for $30 for a t-shirt ordered with the design of a pink Pepe the Frog and a black and white hat inscripted with the word “Honk” in big fonts surrounded by Nazi SS symbols and several swastikas in red. Hart demanded the amount to be paid upfront by sharing credit card information via email.
Screaming match during the Santee city council meeting
Hart is an Alpine resident and many people questioned his choice to come shop in Santee while wearing Nazi and alt-right paraphernalia. Santee city council member Stephen Houlahan said, “This individual lives in Alpine but grew up in Santee, so it’s a failure of our community to reach out to this individual and there’s probably more like him. He did not choose to go to Barrio Logan or to an area that is predominantly minority. He felt a great degree of safety to bring a baby with them - they had a level of comfort.”
Houlahan faced a heated argument with council member (R) Rob McNelis during the last virtual board meeting on May 13 after local residents accused McNelis of denying there is racism in Santee.
Moreover, several of the public comments singled out McNelis as complicit when his supporters led racist attacks against a woman of color, Evlyn Andrade-Heymsfield, who was his opponent during the 2018 elections.
Andrade-Heymsfield wrote to the council and her words were read out loud during the meeting along with other 31 public letters. She wrote, “ I lived in Santee for one short year and during that time I was constantly told I didn’t belong there, I was not one of them. Out of fear of safety for my family, we had to instal a security system for our home. When I ran for office, people suggested I look in the mirror because people who look like me cannot win in Santee.
There is racism in Santee and it is offensive to people like me to claim “this is not who we are anymore,” so please stop saying it. Do something to change this current reality. Denying racism exists in Santee when many of us have experienced it is insulting.”
McNelis was the first to request the microphone to say “few of these comments are super disturbing to me because they have no idea who the heck I am.” The council member said he is the first generation of Hispanics “who does not pick fruit. That’s how I was raised.”
McNelis said his mom’s real first name was Guadalupe. “She was ashamed by that and changed her name to Marie.” He said he wanted to change his last name to match his mom’s, but his wife “said she will not take my name if I did that when we got married because I was so proud of my Hispanic culture.”
McNelis claimed there were no Hispanics in Santee when he moved here in 1994 and he became best friends with one of the few he met at his daughter’s kindergarten. He then added that the majority of people in Santee are thriving here regardless of their background.
McNelis claimed people who are looking for trouble in Santee, find trouble. He takes personal offense when people say Santee is a racist community because of everything Santee provided for himself and his family. “None of these incidents were racist in any way, shape or form,” because the people involved protested governor Newsom. He blamed the media for looking for opportunities to call Santee, Klantee “because that’s what the media does.”