Hundreds of Alt-Right activists and white nationalist extremists are set to descend on the small community of Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday in what’s shaping up to be the largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States.
“Unite the Right” is expected to draw a broad spectrum of far-right extremist groups – from immigration foes to anti-Semitic bigots, neo-Confederates, Proud Boys, Patriot and militia types, outlaw bikers, swastika-wearing neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Ku Klux Klan members – all of whom seem emboldened by the Trump presidency.
The “summer of hate” gathering of racist extremists from all corners of the country will face counter-demonstrations pledged by hundreds of anti-racist, antifa activists, including so-called anarchists, civil-rights community organizers and Black Lives Matter members.
Planned counter-protests will be the “blueprint for the fight” against an uprising of fascism and racism blossoming under the Trump administration, David Straughn of Black Lives Matter told a local TV station last week. “The Unite the Right rally … is just the tip of the iceberg of the white supremacy” taking root, he said.
The looming social chemistry on a hot summer weekend — 115 miles from Washington, D.C. — seems to point to the clear possibility of violence. Riot-equipped Virginia State Police will augment local police and sheriff’s deputies.
A smaller KKK protest on July 8 in Charlottesville cost the city $35,302, including $16,299 in police overtime.
In the roll-up to Saturday, The White House and the Justice Department have not said a word about the pending racial drama and conflict just down the road in Charlottesville.
The event may well become a seminal point for the Alt-Right and the extremist hate fringe: It’s a bold move beyond the anonymity of web sites, message boards, pseudonyms and social media — a move to take the hardcore, racist, white nationalist message to the public square.
“This is the biggest rally event we’ve had this millennium,” event flag-waver Brad Griffin said on a recent radio showed hosted by former KKK leader David Duke.
Racial activists “get hung up on interacting with people online,” and the racist message board culture has its drawbacks, Griffin said, creating “a lot of paranoia when people don’t know each other in real life.”
But the Unite the Right rally will give “the movement a real world presence, which it hasn’t had in 15 years,” Griffin said.
The Alt-Right factions and their supporters will gather noon Saturday at what they continue to call “Lee Park,” a city landmark officially renamed Emancipation Park. It is the site of a statute of Confederate War General Robert E. Lee that the city has marked for removal — a move that sparked the idea for the rally.
White-rights activist Jason Kessler, who lives in Charlottesville and a newly sworn member of the pro-Trump “Proud Boys,” is the organizer who got a city permit for the rally, initially estimating there would be 400 in attendance. He also is president and founder of Unity and Security for America, described as a “right-wing political advocacy group.” Kessler is being provided with “security” by members of the Warlocks Motorcycle Club.
While he claims he’s neither a white supremacist nor a white nationalist, Kessler’s message isn’t far removed from those camps. His sidekicks for the rally will include the Confederate White Knights of the KKK and their associates in the East Coast Knights of the KKK. Hooded members of the Exalted Knights and the Global Crusader Knights also may show up.
Other headliners quickly signed up included Matthew Heimbach, co-founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party; Mike “Enoch” Peinovich, who preaches white nationalism on the “Right Stuff,” and Michael Hill, head of the neo-Confederate League of the South who is telling his followers to gear-up for confrontations with counterprotesters.
With rally permit in hand, it wasn’t long before the Unite the Right bandwagon included like-minded extremists and Internet hate moguls along with neo-Nazis and KKK groups and their leaders whose hate messages extend well beyond the removal of a Civil War statute that many view as a sign of slavery, racial oppression and racism.
As recently as last week, the Charlottesville City Council and its mayor reportedly discussed behind closed-doors the possibility of cancelling Kessler’s rally permit or moving the event, attempting to dampen what many see as a certain stage for conflict and potential violence.
But Kessler got almost immediate legal backing from Kyle Bristow, a racist-activist attorney from Michigan who heads the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas.
Bristow — backed by the historic 1977 U.S. Supreme Court case that allowed Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois — claimed it would be “ridiculously unconstitutional” for the city to block or move the Unite the Right rally because of public safety concerns.
In April, Bristow played a role in an Alabama legal case that came when Auburn University attempted to block Spencer from delivering his white nationalist speech on the school’s campus. Spencer was allowed to speak at Auburn, and the university had to pay $29,000 in legal fees.
In a letter sent to Charlottesville officials last week, Bristow warned that the city could deprive Unite the Right rally-goers of their constitutional rights of freedom of assembly and speech if police don’t keep “leftist thugs” under control.
The city is home of the University of Virginia, whose president, Teresa A. Sullivan, is urging university staff, students and faculty to avoid the rally or “physical confrontations” with its participants.
“There is a credible risk of violence at this event, and your safety is my foremost concern,” the university president said in a just-released statement.
Sullivan said although the Unite the Right participants “represent a variety of ideologies and agendas, many of them express beliefs that directly contradict our community’s values of diversity, inclusion, and mutual respect.”
Diversity is an essential element of excellence, and intolerance and exclusion inhibit progress, the university president said.
“We also support the First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly,” Sullivan said. “These rights belong to the “Unite the Right” activists who will express their beliefs, and to the many others who disagree with them.
In addition to Spencer, other emerging extremist-group leaders expected include Heimbach, of the Traditionalist Workers Party Heimbach and Traditionalist Youth Network. He advocates for “racially pure” nations and communities and blames Jews for many of the world’s problems.
The Trump-inspired “Proud Boys,” called the “Alt-Light” by some and always seeming to be looking for a rumble, may or may not show up in sizeable numbers, although the group’s founder, Gavin McInnes, says he full-heartedly supports the rally.
Others identified on rally posters include Austin Mitchell Gillespie, or “Augustus Sol Invictus,” as the 34-year-old Florida resident is known in Alt-Right circles where he is affiliated with American Guard and the Proud Boys.
The Charlottesville rally should prove fertile ground for Invictus, a failed 2016 Libertarian Senate candidate who once drank goat’s blood during a pagan ritual and now is a right-wing blogger who says a violent, second Civil War is necessary to preserve “Western civilization.”
Also lined up is Nathan Benjamin Damigo, the founder of Identity Evropa, a white nationalist group that has been center-stage at other extremist-right events in recent months. A former Marine who became racially radicalized while in prison, Damigo’s ethno-state message is that America was founded by white people and should be for white people.
That message is largely shared by headliner Mike Peinovich, a white nationalist and social media personality, better known as “Mike Enoch,” founder of The Right Stuff podcast and co-host of the Daily Shoah, another Alt-Right podcast. Few in the mosaic of modern-day racists compete with Enoch’s hard-line anti-Semitism.
Earlier this year at a Traditional Worker Party rally, Enoch, who’s from New York, said “Jewish, cultural Marxist brainwashing” of young people was indoctrinating them to be “useful idiots for the systems of international finance, capitalism and war.”
One of Enoch’s former close allies, Timothy “Treadstone” Gionet, aka “Baked Alaska,” also will be in Charlottesville, even though the two apparently have had a parting of the ways.
Like many in the modern world of internet hate and extremism, Timothy “Treadstone” Gionet prefers to hide behind social media pseudonyms — Tim Treadstone or, more frequently, “Baked Alaska.” He originally lived in Alaska and says “Baked” is a reference to his stoner days.
These days, when he’s not seeking attention at Alt-Right gatherings, the hip-pop singer is busy on social media promoting his pro-Trump release “MAGA Anthem” which includes the line, “Build the wall, it just got 10-feet higher” and “I just want to make America great, I just want to have a Trump steak on my plate.”
If that message doesn’t rile the UTR crowd, Christopher Cantwell will grab the microphone, likely for one of his anti-Semitic rants.
The Alt-Right shock jock from New Hampshire identifies as an unapologetic fascist and white nationalist with a libertarian spin on his live-streamed call-in show, “Radical Agenda.”
If any of the speakers even come close to comedy, it might be John Ramondetta who wails on the airwaves out of Berkeley, California, as “Johnny Monoxide.”
He recently gained broadcasting notoriety on the white supremacist blog, The Right Stuff (TRS), and seems focused on unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, interspersed with a hint of comedy and blasts of hate speech.
But then in a last-minute addition, Spencer announced that he’s adding — with a drum-roll, please — Ayla Stewart, a racist Mormon “mommy blogger” who pens “Wife with a Purpose Ministries.”
She made headlines earlier this year for her “white baby challenge” on Twitter — “I’ve made six. Match or beat me!.” No one is predicting what the Mormon mommy will say to the Alt-Right feeding frenzy in Charlottesville.