Matthew Heimbach's neo-Nazi group tries to co-opt anti-abortion protest in Tennessee

Neo-Nazis from the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP) are hoping to join with anti-abortion demonstrators on Sunday in Knoxville, Tennessee, to counter that city’s participation in the nationwide Women’s March.

Matthew Heimbach, one of the co-founders of TWP, posted a missive on the group’s website on January 12, calling for his “comrades” to join in the counter-protest to “take a stand for life, against the hordes of those who would empty the cradle of our nation.” He encouraged members to show up in party uniforms or wear all black, and wrote that “members in good standing” were also invited to a cookout and oath-swearing ceremony near Knoxville the day before the protest.

Heimbach’s post said the group was hoping to support the local March for Life rally, which is being organized by Tennessee Right to Life.

“The gift of having children is a blessing for woman, and the entire nation, and it should be promoted as truly sacred,” Heimbach wrote. “It is National Socialists and National Socialists alone who truly fight for women.”

Tennessee Right to Life, however, responded by saying white supremacists are not welcome at its demonstration and that it was working with the Knoxville Police Department to keep “certain groups” away. (A spokesman with the police department could not be reached for comment on Friday.) The group also equated neo-Nazis with demonstrators from the anti-fascist movement.

“Any group or individual that promotes white supremacy or other dehumanizing world views, are [sic] not in tandem with the position of Tennessee Right to Life on the value of every person’s dignity and life,” Ed Albin, one of Tennessee Right to Life’s leaders, wrote on his group’s Facebook page on Wednesday. “Our organization's march has a single agenda to support the rights of mothers and the unborn, and we don't agree with the violent agenda of white supremacists or Antifa.”

The Tennessee group also posted a link on its Twitter account to an article by anti-abortion activists in Chicago who recently worked with the police there to eject the white nationalist group Patriot Front from a March for Life demonstration. Patriot Front later bragged on Twitter, however, that it had handed out “several hundred flyers” at the Chicago march.

The Women’s March in Knoxville this weekend is part of a larger, nationwide protest against President Donald Trump, whose own rhetoric and policies have energized racist groups nationwide. About 5,000 people took part in last year’s Women’s March in Knoxville, according to the local News Sentinel newspaper.

If the numbers are similar this year, the Women’s March will likely vastly outnumber those put on by TWP, whose recent rallies have drawn in the low hundreds.

It also comes at a time of turmoil for the TWP, whose leaders have been bickering with other figures in the white nationalist movement and whose own tenets of “faith, family and folk” have come into question with the disclosure of some of the sexual inclinations of its members — as detailed earlier last week in a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Kessler falls flat in D.C., but the radical right marches on