It’s a news story that’s fit for a Hollywood screenplay.
A local news reporter infiltrates a hate group, finds at least one of the recruiters is a military reservist and shortly after he blows the lid off the story. Then the reservist vanishes only to surface five months later south of the border, caught up in an FBI sting involving a terrorist cell that’s plotting a violent white revolution.
Ryan Thorpe is the Winnipeg Free Press reporter who broke the story Homegrown Hate back in June 2019.
“The first questions I was getting was if I have military experience, firearms training, background in chemistry, engineering,” Thorpe said. “This group isn’t content to be keyboard warriors, they want to translate from online activity into the real world.”
(Winnipeg Free Press reporter Ryan Thorpe joins Melissa Ridgen to talk about infiltrating a Winnipeg hate group)
As a result, the Canadian Armed Forces booted reservist Patrik Mathews, who soon after, went missing from his home in Beausejour, Man., and was later caught by the FBI for allegedly plotting violence against ethnic Americans in an effort to create a white ethno-state.
Thorpe said it was a tip that alerted him to posters that the white supremacist group The Base was recruiting in Winnipeg last summer.
He made contact and went through a vetting process — back and forth communications that last a couple of weeks before anyone would meet him in person.
“Their state of aims is to establish two to three man cells in as many regions as possible. They’re not looking to throw their doors open just to anyone. They’re really seeking to recruit who they view as the most hard core, extreme in this milieu,” said Thorpe. “And if you talk to academics and experts who track these things, they will say, organizations like The Base represent the most violent, extreme radical fringes of the far right hate movement.”
Mathews remains in custody in the U.S. awaiting trial on charges relating to weapons and a plot to start a race war.