After years of escalating rhetoric, the neo-Confederate League of the South moves to form secret paramilitary unit.
Change was in the air. At the League of the South’s (LOS) annual conference in Abbeville, S.C., three years ago, Michael Hill, the towering and gray patriarch of the neo-Confederate movement, addressed the gathering as if war loomed large and the battle lines were forming.
It was an odd moment for Hill, a former Stillman College professor who founded the LOS in 1994 with other, relatively genteel academics who were interested in Civil War history. But even before he started the group that now seeks a second Southern secession, Hill seemed to fancy himself a wartime general, often wearing a Confederate battle flag pin to his classes.
At that moment in South Carolina, he had become one.
“The mantra [that] violence, or the serious threat thereof, never settles anything is patently false,” Hill said in a speech there later posted on the group’s website. “History shows that it indeed does settle many things. Please don’t forget this — your enemy hasn’t.”
The moment was a kind of milestone for Hill, who since founding the LOS had grown increasingly radical in his activism on behalf of Southern cultural and geographic independence. In retrospect, what seemed to be happening at the time, as the LOS welcomed younger, more radical members to its ranks, was a sea change the scope of which only recently has become clear.
This September, the Southern Poverty Law Center revealed on its Hatewatch blog that, under Hill’s leadership, the LOS had quietly begun building what LOS insiders described as a paramilitary unit called “The Indomitables,” which appears to include white supremacists, former Klan members and neo-Nazis. In a leaked Facebook message, Hill said reasons for the unit were clear. “We desire that our women and children be warm and snug while the world outside rages. And as our due for that we must face the world.”
According to sources who requested confidentiality because they were not authorized to speak about the LOS and feared retribution, the unit was conceptualized at an LOS meeting in early 2014.
Floyd Eric Meadows, 43, of Rome, Ga., who also goes by “Eric Thorvaldsson” online, is in charge of “training.” In that role, Meadows represents the pugnacious essence of what the LOS now appears to seek in its leaders.
A veteran of both the U.S. Army and Navy, with 12 years of service, Meadows has been an active LOS member for years. His personal Facebook account is filled with neo-pagan iconography and photos of his weapons. He posts often about “earning” his red bootlaces — typically awarded in racist skinhead culture for drawing blood on behalf of “the movement”— and his ongoing desire to throw “boot parties” for enemies of the LOS. Meadows also has posted pictures of himself standing with assault rifles in front of a Confederate battle flag, and has frequently quoted Robert Barnwell Rhett, a South Carolina statesman who was dubbed the “Father of Secession” for his efforts leading up to the Civil War.
While definitely a surprise to outsiders, the formation of The Indomitables may have been only the obvious next step for the LOS, which has seen a dramatic escalation of violent rhetoric from its members, as well as an embrace of more ideologically extreme white nationalists. This pattern seems to date back to 2007, when the LOS’ national conference theme was “Southern Secession: Antidote to Empire and Tyranny.”
But there have been hints of true hardliners in the LOS for longer than that.
The best example may be Michael Tubbs, who joined the LOS around 2004 and has been close to Hill ever since. The former Green Beret demolitions expert pleaded guilty to theft and conspiracy in the 1990s for amassing a cache of weapons — machine guns, 25 pounds of TNT, land mines, an anti-aircraft gun, grenades, 45 pounds of C-4 plastic explosive and more — in connection with an alleged plot to target black and Jewish people. According to prosecutors, Tubbs and a partner robbed two soldiers of some of those weapons at gunpoint, yelling, “This is for the KKK!”
Tubbs is not some fringe member of the LOS. Leaked Facebook correspondence shows that he was recently promoted to Hill’s chief of staff, and his influence on the direction of the group seems clear. Meanwhile, the blogger “Spelunker” recently identified Abe Monroe, described as “a good, wholesome, normal LOSer,” as the man who had just posted pictures of himself with the words “White Power” tattooed on his back. A swastika was embedded in the “O.”
The LOS denies Monroe is a member.
Regardless, it seems clear that the LOS is on an increasingly radical trajectory. In 2011, Hill told his followers “we are already at war” and urged them to buy AK-47s, hollow-point bullets and “tools to derail trains.” Members today, unlike the academically minded types who inhabited the LOS in its early days, are now focused on survivalism, assault weapons, hunting, tracking and other skills related more to war and fighting than any esoteric pursuit of independence.
The Report left telephone messages for Hill and the LOS, hoping to learn more about the new paramilitary unit. They were not returned. But within a day, Hill posted what seemed to be a dismissive, sarcastic response to the query.
“I’ll let you in on a little secret,” Hill wrote. “We Alpha Males in The League like to talk military stuff; we like to shoot and hunt; and we like to make you Beta Males nervous by exercising our God-given right to self-protection.” He added: “In closing, I’ll say this. Even if we are — and you really have no idea on earth if we are or not — setting up a Southern militia or some other form of paramilitary organization, we are doing nothing that free men have not done for centuries. Deal with it and stop your whining.”
At press time, it was unclear if the LOS was still moving ahead with its militia. But Hill was clearly scrambling to control the fallout as criticism mounted.
Speaking with The Anniston (Ala.) Star after the SPLC published its report, Hill refused to acknowledge the existence of the unit. And he insisted that an article entitled “A Bazooka in Every Pot,” published on the LOS blog months earlier and pontificating about future war, was only speculative. The article focused on the Second Amendment and ended with an ominous warning.
“So, both we ‘gun nuts’ and you bed-wetting, anti-gun leftists can rest easy about those bazookas in everyman’s closet,” Hill wrote in the piece. “You don’t want us to have them and we really don’t need them. We’ll manage just fine with what we have now. But if we need more, as an old friend is wont to say: ‘We’ll be able to literally pick them up in used condition — dropped only once.’”
Hill sought to clarify the article in September. Speaking to the Anniston newspaper, Hill said: “I’m talking to you here as a military historian, in theory.” However, he added that he wanted “the group’s followers to begin thinking about how they’d fight if federal intrusion became intolerable,” the newspaper reported.
Such mixed messaging almost immediately led to backpressure from inside and outside the group. One commenter to the LOS blog warned that the group’s leaders “should strictly avoid publishing paramilitary revolutionary fantasies, gun fantasy stuff, speculating on future guerrilla war secession scenarios.”
Others said that the LOS was having trouble hiding its true self now. Frederick Clarkson, an expert on the far right writing for the liberal analytical group Political Research Associates, put it like this in September: “Try as he might to divert our attention by debating definitions and name calling — Hill has been caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. He called for the formation of guerrilla paramilitary units while simultaneously claiming he and the League were not.”
Clarkson noted that in July, Hill had called on the “citizen-soldier” of the South to prepare for war and added: “No sane man wants war if there are other viable and honorable alternatives. But wise men prepare for all eventualities.”
Whether the LOS is simply thinking about possible future eventualities or actively building a kind of military force, one thing seems patently clear: Today’s League of the South is not the relatively benign LOS of 1994.