A member of the neo-Confederate Hiwaymen took to the steps of the Arkansas state capitol at a rally Saturday to denounce abortion as a Nazi tactic used to promote eugenics.
A few feet away, Johan Carollo led members of the neo-Nazi Shieldwall group in taunting counterprotesters.
“Six million more! Six million more!” they chanted, making a reference to the frequently cited estimate of Jewish people killed in the Holocaust.
The rally in Little Rock on March 9 had been advertised as a pro-Second Amendment and anti-abortion gathering of the two groups. While signs waved by members of both covered those topics, the rhetoric was decidedly anti-abortion from the Hiwaymen and confusing from Shieldwall, which seemed mostly interested in taunting the counterprotesters.
About 25 members of the Hiwaymen stood on the capitol steps as clouds gave way to sunshine throughout the afternoon. About a dozen people wore the black of Shieldwall, although some, such as Carollo, were former members of the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP) and the National Socialist Movement (NSM).
For Billy Roper, the head of Shieldwall, the turnout was about average for him – less than promised and less than overwhelming.
Overall, the turnout of people and groups fell short of the pre-event hype. Both the League of the South and the Knights Party, a Christian Identity-focused Ku Klux Klan organization run by infamous racist Thomas Robb, promoted the rally.
Neither showed up.
In the days leading up to the event, the Hiwaymen promoted the gathering, but didn’t mention Roper. And except for a few visible arguments between members of the two groups, there was almost no interaction between the Hiwaymen and Shieldwall members. Save for two visitors from Minnesota who were touring the capitol and seemed amused by the demonstration, the general public had no presence at the rally. It turned into the racist groups and counterprotesters shouting and blowing air horns at one another.
The Hiwaymen, waving “Trump 2020” and Confederate flags, took the high ground, manning the steps of the capitol building. In front of the barricades at the foot of the steps stood Roper’s Shieldwall crew. Between them and a crowd of about 25 counterprotesters were Little Rock and state capitol police.
The noise from the horns and the yelling back and forth made it tough for anyone to hear what was being said. But one speaker on the steps, a woman, talked about abortion and other topics for nearly 40 minutes.
“We don’t say his name, but we call out Lucifer,” she said to no discernable reaction from the crowd.
Billy Sessions, a member of the Hiwaymen known for appearing shirtless in Facebook live videos, announced a run for president amid what sounded like a stand-up comedy routine.
“Y’all look like a messed up Brady Bunch out there,” Sessions said of the Shieldwall members. “We don’t always get along, but we are kind of a family.”
Carrollo took the verbal lead for Shieldwall, relegating Roper to almost spectator status.
“I want to thank you for joining us to celebrate George Lincoln Rockwell’s birthday,” Carollo said. The rally fell on the 101st birthday of George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party.
Carrollo was a member of the neo-Nazi group the Traditionalist Worker Party. TWP fell apart in March 2018, and NSM was thrown into turmoil last month when a black civil-rights advocate took over the organization.
As a counterprotester shouted, “Nazis go home,” Carollo decided to correct the historical record.
“The Nazis disbanded in 1945,” Carollo shouted into a bullhorn. “We’re fascists. Get it right.”
The rally proved to be the latest meeting point between the Hiwaymen and Roper’s organization. Both were at a rally in Bentonville, Arkansas, in March 2018 that coincided with the national “March for Our Lives.”
Roper’s crew numbered roughly nine people that day, while across the way from them stood the Hiwaymen, a group of NRA members and a posse of Three Percenters called the Freedom Crew.
Around 2:30 p.m., the rally started to wind down. The crowd of counterprotesters dwindled to a handful of people. Carollo led the Shieldwall contingent in a group Nazi salute. Then the police escorted the black-clad neo-Nazis across the street to their cars.
The Hiwaymen continued on for about another 45 minutes before winding down and leaving the capitol.
The neo-Nazis held a swastika-burning that night and a birthday party for Rockwell on private property. Police were called in before the night ended to break up the celebration.