Spring Events Reveal White Supremacist Intentions and Tactics

May 12, 2017

White supremacists pose together in Pikeville, Kentucky

White supremacists pose together in Pikeville, Kentucky.

Updated: May 15, 2017

Over the weekend of May 13, white supremacists groups united publicly for the fourth time in four weeks. This time several dozen white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the city council’s decision to remove Confederate monuments from local parks. Speakers for the event included Richard Spencer, Nathan Damigo, Mike “Enoch” Peinovich, and Sam Dickson. Attendees included alt-right adherents, members of the Traditionalist Worker Party, League of the South, Vanguard America, and Identity Evropa.

In recent weeks, white supremacists have taken full advantage of the spring weather to organize or attend a variety of events around the country.  Two events in April—one in Alabama and the other in Kentucky—and a May event in Louisiana are particularly interesting because they illustrate a number of current white supremacist concerns as well as some of the tactics that white supremacists are employing in attempts to address those concerns. 

Each event attracted members of a variety of white supremacist groups, including some that do not normally consort together.  Attendees included alt righters, neo-Nazis, and traditional white supremacists, such as Klan groups and the League of the South.

Moreover, many of the white supremacists who attended these events (including those who attended more than one of them) showed up at least in part to confront or respond to increased activity by left-wing and antifa (short for “anti-fascist”) activists.  However, the nature of each event was distinct, as were some of the purposes behind white supremacist participation in them.

The Alabama event took place on April 18, 2017, at Auburn University, where Richard Spencer had come to speak.  Several dozen white supremacists attended his speech to show support for Spencer and demonstrate that the alt right has real-world support and is moving beyond its online activities. They also claimed that they were there to promote free speech.

Spencer, the head of the white supremacist National Policy Institute, sued Auburn in order to speak after the school cancelled his appearance over fears of violence. The white supremacists who showed up from all over the country to support Spencer included alt right adherents, the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP), the League of the South, and the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. A member of the League of the South was one of two men arrested following an alleged fistfight outside the event. Matthew Heimbach, who heads TWP, came all the way from Indiana to offer protection for Spencer.

Auburn was not a particularly receptive audience for Spencer, but white supremacists had higher hopes in their second April event, in Pikeville, Kentucky, on April 29, 2017.  The people behind this event, organized by TWP and the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM), hoped to attract disaffected whites to the white supremacist movement and chose Pikeville because it contains a large white working-class population that is struggling economically. 

Approximately 125 people attended the gathering in Pikeville. The event drew white supremacists from the League of the South, the Alabama-based Global Crusader Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Council of Conservative Citizens, Aryan Renaissance Society, Vanguard America, and the Right Stuff, an anti-Semitic alt-right website. Known attendees came from at least 16 different states.

The third event, in New Orleans, on May 7, 2017, was reactive in nature. A number of white supremacists traveled to New Orleans to join other protestors who opposed the ongoing removal of old Confederate monuments in that city and want to preserve white Southern heritage. Attending white supremacists included people from NSM, the International Keystone Knights, alt-right adherents from Texas and two Louisiana members of the Die Auserwählten Skins, a small racist skinhead crew. Also present were approximately a dozen members of the League of the South, including leader Michael Hill of Alabama. At least one white supremacist was arrested following an altercation with a left-wing protestor.