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The White Power Movement Hits the Streets

On a warm September day in 2023, neo-Nazi leader Christopher Pohlhaus led a crew of over 50 extremists carrying swastika flags through the streets of Orlando, Florida. It was, as someone from his organization, Blood Tribe, wrote in an enthusiastic Telegram post after the event, “AN INCREDIBLE DAY TOGETHER EXPRESSING OUR WILL FOR WHITE POWER.”

Throughout 2022 and 2023, there has been a resurgence of in-person demonstrations among white nationalist, neo-Nazi and far-right reactionary groups throughout the country. For the first time since 2018, these racist activists, who together make up what is known as the white power movement, turned out in droves, holding 191 demonstrations in 2022 and 143 in 2023.[1] These street actions have helped the movement regain some of its momentum following a series of setbacks from legal challenges, infighting and increased scrutiny from activists, journalists and lawmakers in the aftermath of the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Another sign of the white power movement’s confidence is the growth in the number of hate groups aligned with the movement. Between 2022 and 2023, the number of active white nationalist groups in the United States grew just over 50 percent, from 109 to a historic high of 165. While the number of neo-Nazi groups remained stable, eight new organizations that embrace that ideology formed within the last year.


Today’s white power movement lacks a central figurehead or figureheads, around whom to organize, nor does it have enough institutional structure to build a countervailing political apparatus. Instead, these organizers operate within a loose, decentralized network of nationwide and regional groups vying for each other’s attention and acknowledgment.

Many white power activists are not explicitly pro-Trump, nor do they indicate much interest in engaging with the mainstream political process, even to interrupt it. Nevertheless, they see promise in the litany of reactionary causes that the pro-Trump Republican Party has embraced and have aligned their activism with the mainstream right’s parade of grievances against immigrants, LGBTQ+ people, Black people, and other racial or religious minorities. Highly mobilized, they are ready to ride the authoritarian wave of Trump’s campaign, challenging the enemies they share with the presidential candidate through protests, intimidation and acts of violence.

Surging Street Activism

During the heyday of the “alt-right” — a term that members of the movement, researchers and journalists used to describe a big tent approach to white supremacist organizing during the early years of the Trump presidency — the SPLC documented a historic increase in the number of white power street demonstrations. Between 2016 and 2018, SPLC analysts found that far-right activists from a variety of ideologies, including from the white power movement, organized and attended 125 rallies, marches and protests nationwide. That level of activity was a dramatic departure from previous decades, when the movement eschewed this kind of activism in favor of holding buttoned-up conferences, publishing racist “scholarship” and, in general, attempting to make themselves appear respectable to mainstream audiences.

While the number of white power street demonstrations in the first half of Trump’s presidency was historically significant, today’s street activism far surpasses it. This past year saw almost twice as many demonstrations as 2017 — the high point of activism for the alt-right. Whereas alt-right activists held several much larger and nationally focused events, such as the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, today’s cadre of white power activists has focused their energies on smaller, more localized events.

The focus of white power demonstrations has also shifted in recent years. Alt-right groups planned their rallies and marches often as a show of force, meant to promote their ideology while intimidating Black people, leftists and others. The impulse was perhaps best epitomized by the deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, which aimed to “unite the right.” Recent white power events, though, are more specifically targeted and overtly reactionary – focusing, most often in the past two years, on targeting LGBTQ+ people. That focus has also tightened: In 2022, about 32% of white power demonstrations and protests targeted LGBTQ+ people, but by 2023 that proportion grew to 47.5%. Most of those demonstrations targeted specific community events, including drag and Pride events and a children’s literacy program called Drag Story Hour.

In comparison, in 2023 antisemitism was a prominent part of about 20% of white power demonstrations, while 35% focused broadly on promoting white supremacist ideology.[2]

The white power movement designates as an enemy any group that they deem a threat to a white, patriarchal, Christian social order: Black people, nonwhite immigrants, religious minorities, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The fact that the movement is now focused so heavily on LGBTQ+ people is a clear response to popular trends in right-wing politics. As the GOP stepped up and normalized the assault on LGBTQ+ people, and trans people in particular, the white power movement is emboldened to lend them a hand — operating in the streets as right-wing operatives pushing their anti-LGBTQ+ agenda in legislative bodies, through lobbying efforts, and in the media.

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‘Be the Vanguard We Say We Are’

Blood Tribe’s 50-person-plus demonstration in Orlando represented a turning point for the neo-Nazi movement. “It has been many years since a rally this large, using explicit Nazi imagery, has happened in the United States,” Spencer Sunshine, a longtime researcher of the far right, later wrote for Truthout.

Other neo-Nazi groups, such as the New England-based Nationalist Social Club (NSC-131), have portrayed these demonstrations as a necessary risk.

“It is times like these when our movement must step up to the plate and be the vanguard we say we are,” NSC-131 wrote on the social media app Telegram on Sept. 5, 2023, in response to the governor of Massachusetts calling upon the Commonwealth’s National Guard to aid communities housing migrant families.

“F*** your optics/F*** your message/F*** your stickers/Do something,” NSC-131 added.

A notable feature of today’s white power demonstrations is the increased participation of overtly white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups like Blood Tribe, NSC-131 and others who employ such racist imagery as swastikas, Hitler salutes and common neo-Nazi symbols like the sonnenrad. As they stepped up their activity, the Proud Boys, a far-right reactionary group whose leaders played a prominent role in the 2021 insurrection, have decreased their public activism. Indeed, the primary reason the number of white power demonstrations decreased between 2022 and 2023 is the declining activity of the group. While the Proud Boys were present at 121 white power demonstrations in 2022, by the following year members participated in just 44.

Other white power groups that have recently ramped up their activism include Active Clubs, a loose-knit, nationwide network of street-fighting clubs founded by imprisoned white nationalist leader Robert Rundo. The white nationalist group, which grew to 39 chapters in 2023, is attempting to build a racist subculture among young white men that focuses on physical fitness, brotherhood and participation in on-the-ground demonstrations. In 2023, they erected banners and racist and antisemitic messages and protested outside LGBTQ+ community events.

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Marching Toward November 2024

Despite the Proud Boys’ declining on-the-ground activism, their activity will likely surge during this presidential election year. Though the group’s most prominent leaders are currently imprisoned on seditious conspiracy convictions stemming from their participation in the 2021 insurrection, the group’s numbers remain stable. If anything, the convictions have fueled the group’s authoritarian impulses, leaving them primed to, once again, act on the perceived orders of Donald Trump.

Other groups within the white power movement are facing infighting and fatigue among their membership. Patriot Front, an overtly fascist organization headquartered in Texas, has seen their growth stall as members seem to have become disillusioned with the group’s authoritarian structure and tightly controlled activism. The National Justice Party, which grew to 32 chapters in 2023, collapsed at the end of the year thanks to infighting among the group’s leaders, who referred to themselves as “chairmen.”

Within the white power movement, groups fade, collapse and rebrand frequently. In times of greater political stability, these developments often mean the movement’s activism is impeded for years.

But that is unlikely to be the case in 2024. Much of the movement’s motivation comes from an external source: the increasingly mainstream, hard-right wing of the Republican Party. As the pro-Trump GOP continues to endorse authoritarianism, as well as tolerate and even promote political violence, the white power movement will enthusiastically take to the streets. With the heightened political tensions that come with one of the country’s most important presidential elections, the chances of political violence this year will likely outstrip even 2020.

Illustration by Klawe Rzeczy

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[1] To tally these numbers, the SPLC relied heavily on the Armed Conflict Location & Events Data Project’s (ACLED) database of protest activities. The SPLC included rallies, marches, protests and other demonstrations where members of white nationalist and neo-Nazi hate groups participated. We also included selected groups the SPLC categorizes as General Hate groups, including the Proud Boys, and antisemitic hate groups, including Goyim Defense League, that we consider part of the larger white power movement.

[2] The SPLC determined these percentages by categorizing each white power event from our tally. Some events were coded with multiple descriptors. For example, an October 2023 event in which swastika-clad members of the neo-Nazi Order of the Black Sun protested a Dallas church’s pro-LGBTQ+ belief while protesters yelled “down with Israel,” “down with the Jews,” “All gays should be gassed,” “Annihilate the gays” and “Annihilate the Jews,” was categorized as an anti-LGBTQ+, antisemitic and white power event.