Updated July 21, 2016
The GOP convention in Cleveland (July 18-21) is a key opportunity for a range of extremists and bigots who seek publicity to voice their support or opposition to Donald Trump – and their hatred for anyone who disagrees with them.
As the Anti-Defamation League has noted, the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign – and one candidate in particular – has elicited unprecedented levels of engagement and enthusiasm among anti-government and white supremacist extremist groups.
The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism has been monitoring extremists’ plans to attend the Republican convention in Cleveland and has shared this information with federal law enforcement agents managing security for the event. We will share new information with those agents as it becomes available.
The following list of expected attendees is varied, ranging from individuals to organized groups. This reflects the support (and sometimes opposition) Donald Trump receives from a wide range of extremists. It should be noted, there is no indication that Trump supports these groups.
- Richard Spencer, who heads the National Policy, a small white supremacist think tank, traveled to Cleveland to promote his racist views. Spencer held up a sign saying “Wanna Talk to a ‘Racist’? and reportedly said he “wanted to demystify white separatism” for the people he encountered in the public square near the convention. Spencer also reportedly attended the “Wake Up!” party hosted by conservative activists, which included controversial speakers such as Milos Yiannopoulos and anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller and Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician.
- Members of the anti-refugee vigilante group Soldiers of Odin USA, spotted outside the convention hall in Cleveland, told a reporter they were there as a “community watch” organization and had no plans to confront anyone unless they sensed “imminent danger.” While they claim not to be racist, the Soldiers of Odin USA are in fact virulently anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant. The group originated in Finland, but has attracted thousands of members and admirers here in the United States, many of whom are either white supremacists or anti-government extremists.
- Anti-government conspiracy theorist Alex Jones spoke at a rally for Trump near the convention hall hosting the RNC, where he accused “globalists” of trying to implement a “world government.” Jones runs the Infowars website where he promotes conspiracy theories such as the idea that the government is behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks and is trying to strip Americans of their rights, especially their rights to free speech and to own firearms.
- The Traditionalist Worker Party is an anti-Semitic, white supremacist group run by Matthew Heimbach and Matt Parrott. They reportedly filed permits to march in Cleveland but later announced alternative plans. Heimbach showed up outside the convention anyway, voicing his disapproval for Trump, whose policies “don’t go far enough” in advancing white nationalism, and urging followers to write in George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party.
- Westboro Baptist Church: Five members of the venomously anti-gayand anti-Semitic Kansas church plan to be in Cleveland to protest the Republican Party and to warn attendees of the “imminent judgment”
facing the United States. WBC members are best known for picketing the funerals of fallen U.S. soldiers, carrying signs celebrating their deaths (because God hates America’s evil ways). Members of the church are equal opportunity bigots: They also plan to protest at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Expect to see them carrying their usual signs – expressing their boundless, unmoored hatred for everything from gay rights to Israel.
- Blood and Honour USA: This racist skinhead group is the American chapter of a loose international confederation of hardcore racist skinheads. Some members of Blood and Honour USA have in the past committed violent acts. One of the group’s leaders announced on social media that he and a number of other members would be in Cleveland supporting Trump and wearing t-shirts bearing the Totenkopf (death’s head) – a symbol used by the SS in World War II.
- American Freedom Party: This white supremacist group is headed by attorney William Johnson. Johnson made headlines in the spring of 2016 with his “robocalls” to voters in crucial primary states, entreating people to “defend the white race” by voting for Trump, and again in May when it was revealed that he was on the list of Trump delegates for California. Blaming a “database error,” the Trump campaign removed Johnson from its list, but AFP responded with this gleeful Facebook message: “…here’s what they don’t know: we have more delegates!”
- David Riden (Trump delegate from Tennessee): Member of the anti-government Patriot Movement. Riden has said he believes members of the current U.S. government deserve to be killed for “abusing the Constitution.”
- Jim Stachowiak: Member of the anti-government Patriot Movement. This right-wing, rabidly anti-Muslim extremist from Georgia will be in Cleveland to support Donald Trump, and has called upon "all military veterans, law enforcement veterans, followed by three-percenters, patriots,” to "come lawfully armed with lethal and non-lethal weaponry," has advocated for Mecca to be bombed, and has made not particularly veiled threats against Black Lives Matter activists, whom he refers to as “terrorists.” Stachowiak, a former university public safety officer turned militia fan boy and online radio host, has been arrested several times.
- The New Black Panther Party: The NBPP will be in Cleveland to protest against Donald Trump. In the days leading up to the convention, the profoundly anti-Semitic, black supremacy group will hold a series of protests and workshops in partnership with Black Lawyers for Justice, which is headed by former NBPP leader (and current “spiritual advisor”) Malik Zulu Shabazz. The NBPP, which is known for its calls for violence against law enforcement, has announced plans to carry guns during its protests in Cleveland. The New Black Panther Party is not affiliated with the original Black Panther Party, whose members have harshly criticized the NBPP for “hijacking” the original group’s message.
- Anti-Muslim activsts: Pro-LGBT conservative activists are hosting a party called “Wake Up“ at the Republican Convention in Cleveland on July 19. The event will feature anti-Muslim extremist Pamela Geller and Milo Yiannopoulos, a controversial figure who reportedly made anti-Semitic comments in the past about Jewish control of banks and the media. Other featured speakers include Geert Wilders, a well-known anti-Muslim Dutch politician, and Ann Coulter, a political commentator known for her extreme anti-immigrant position. According to a post on the personal blog of Pamela Geller, “The party is the outcome of discussions among a group of gay Republicans following the tragic massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando in June.” This appears to be an attempt to promote an anti-Muslim agenda among this group of pro-LGBT conservatives.
- The Oath Keepers will be on the ground in Cleveland, ostensibly to “help” patrol the area, as they did with long guns during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of Michael Brown. The anti-government extremist group’s website has denounced “radicals’” plans to protest at the convention, and calls for volunteers to participate in “Operation North Coast,” an “intelligence gathering” effort. This hyper-militarized language is typical of the Oath Keepers, who recruit from the military and law enforcement in their efforts to build a force capable of resisting “government overreach.”