The antisemitic and neo-Nazi group the National Socialist Movement (NSM) is now under the control of a black civil rights advocate from California who once dissolved a notorious Ku Klux Klan chapter in Mississippi.
Stern was formerly incarcerated, spending five years in a Mississippi prison, but he now runs Racial Reconciliation Outreach Ministries, a group that aims to spur conversations across racial lines.
A court filing made Friday morning in a civil lawsuit against racist groups that took part in the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, lists Stern as the representative of NSM as of Feb. 15, 2019.
That same filing also lists Stern as the new legal representative of NSM in the civil suit, which alleges that NSM and two dozen other groups and protesters caused emotional and economic harm to people at the University of Virginia and in Charlottesville on Aug. 11 and 12, 2017.
The notice of Stern’s ascension also dismissed attorneys James Kolenich of Cincinnati and Elmer Woodard, of Blairs, Virginia, from representing the group.
The two lawyers, who still represent other racist outfits named as defendants, did not immediately return messages seeking comment Friday.
Incorporation papers filed with the Michigan Secretary of State’s office show that Stern became the legal president of NSM on Jan. 15.
Jeff Schoep, who is listed as the Party National Director of NSM on the group’s website, did not return an email seeking comment. Harry Hughes, the group’s designated spokesman, also did not return an email seeking comment. In the past, Schoep has said NSM and its members do not speak with the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Matthew Heimbach, a prominent neo-Nazi who briefly served as community outreach director for NSM in 2018, told Hatewatch on Friday he didn’t know the circumstances leading up to Stern taking over the group.
Schoep incorporated NSM in 2004 as a non-profit. The group is known for showing up to demonstrations in matching uniforms that evoke the Nazi stormtroopers of the Third Reich.
Stern posted on his blog on Feb. 12, 2017, that he helped NSM drop the Nazi swastika from its logo and replace it with an Odal rune, a symbol often co-opted by white supremacist organizations.
“Rev. Stern has got this group that has poured more poison on the world in racist propaganda to change its ways,” Stern wrote on the blog.
Stern met former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Edgar Ray Killen while serving time for wire fraud.
Killen, who died at the age of 92 in January 2018, had been serving a 60-year-sentence for his role in the June 21, 1964, deaths of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner near Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Neshoba County.
Their killings prompted a major FBI search and, eventually, the movie “Mississippi Burning.”
Stern shared a cell with Killen from August 2010 to November 2011.
Killen signed over power of attorney to Stern, who used it in 2016 to dissolve the Klan organization Killen once belonged to. In press coverage and in his own accounting of the dissolution, Stern has said the legal move disbanded the Ku Klux Klan, writ large. However, that is not the case. The Klan is made up of dozens of unique chapters, most of which were not affiliated with, and therefore not affected by, the dissolution of Killen's holdings.
Stern did not respond to a request for comment before publication, and what he intends to do with the NSM now that he's in charge remains unclear.
Photo credit Alamy Stock Photo