There are growing signs that what’s being called a “new generation of white supremacists” is coming to the center of the violent — and in some cases deadly — protests that unfolded in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.
This is no fresh crop of hooded KKK recruits; rather, it’s a movement of more modern organizations, some of them explicitly based around white supremacy, that use symbols and slogans that hearken back to Nazi Germany in many cases, and in ways that may not be obvious to the casual observer.
On Monday, President Trump elaborated on his response to the violence that unfolded at the “Unite the Right” rally on Saturday by condemning groups that cause violence in the name of racism, like “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white [supremacists], and other hate groups.” But he also raised eyebrows by vouching for some of the Charlottesville protesters who, he said, were merely defending the memorials honoring Confederate soldiers.
The KKK, a group known historically for its racism, wasn’t officially included among the groups formally taking part in Saturday’s protest. However, one of their best known former leaders, David Duke, made sure to attend.
A poster made by the organizers of Saturday’s rally appears to reveal some of the organizations (though not all) that were taking part. The poster, and the rally it promoted, featured a variety of obscure symbols, flags and slogans — all of which appear to be part of a broader effort on the part of racist groups to buck the more recognizable traditions and symbols used by older organizations like the Klan, in the ultimate hopes of attracting fresh blood to their movement.
So who did come to Charlottesville? Here are some of the groups, people and symbols that were seen during Saturday’s protests — perhaps the vanguard of this “new generation” of the white supremacy movement.
The organizer of Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally, Jason Kessler described the gathering as being part protest over the removing of Confederate symbols, and part “advocating for white people.”
“This is about an anti-white climate within the Western world and the need for white people to have advocacy like other groups do,” Kessler was quoted as saying.
Kessler is a Charlottesville resident and the founder of a group dedicated to “defending Western Civilization,” though the organization’s website appeared to be down at the time of publishing. He identifies himself on Twitter as a “freelance journalist” who has written for GotNews, Daily Caller and VDARE, and documented the KKK rally & subsequent protests that unfolded in Charlottesville just a month before Saturday’s “Unite the Right.”
Kessler was chased by protesters again on Sunday, and had to be escorted to safety by police, after trying to hold a news conference following the events that unfolded at his rally the day before.
Often referred to as one of the founders of the “alt-right” movement, Richard Spencer is a frequent voice at white nationalist rallies, and his attendance often results in massive protests or even cancellations of events.
Spencer is a former Duke University doctoral student, and graduate of both the University of Chicago and University of Virginia. He is also the president & director of a think tank that is often labeled as a white nationalist organization. In an interview back in 2014, Spencer advocated for “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans… based on very different ideals than, say, the Declaration of Independence.”
Spencer has reportedly discussed the notion of “peaceful ethnic cleansing” and admits that his clean-cut appearance is an intentional departure from the traditional image of hood-wearing Klansmen, as it makes growing the ranks of his movement considerably easier.
Spencer says that he does not believe President Trump’s comments, with respect to the rally or the groups that gathered there, represent a condemnation of his movement.
Spencer said on Monday that he is also part of the so-called Identitarian movement. The U.S. branch of that movement, Identity Evropa, helped organize Saturday’s rally.
Inspired by similar movements in Europe over a decade ago, Identity Evropa’s founder, Nathan Damigo, has compared the plight of whites in America to that of Native Americans, and advocated for reservation-style communities for white people. Some of the group’s chapters reportedly identify themselves as fraternities or social clubs in order to attract college-aged recruits.
Eli Mosley, a Charlottesville event organizer and coordinator with Identity Evropa, told Fox that members of his movement believe in “preserving the cultural and racial integrity of the history of the European countries.” Mosley said the group is pushing for “a 50-year moratorium on immigration so that whites can no longer be the minority. We need time to have the white race catch up.”
Mosley, a frequent contributor to the anti-Semitic Daily Stormer website, also confirmed that the rally had been attended by members of what he called the “old guard (KKK, Aryan Nation) and the new guard (“’alt-right’”).”
In his characterization of “the alt-right,” Mosley claims he is part of “the new guard of white nationalism.” He adds that membership numbers have been growing quickly ever since President Trump’s election, and suggests they are attracting people who have spent time on both sides of the aisle.
The website for Vanguard America, one of the groups whose flags was included in the “Unite the Right” flyer, was suspended by WordPress.com at the time of this writing. However, a glimpse at some of the archived pages from their site reveal a heavy focus on “whiteness” and fascist/Nazi ideology.
The address for Vanguard’s website contains an expression popularized by the Nazis (blood and soil), and the group’s flag features an eagle carrying a fasces, an ax-like tool used by Italian fascists as a symbol of power. One of the archived articles includes the headline “A MUSLIM-FREE AMERICA.”
When asked about these references to Nazi Germany and Italian Fascists, representatives for the group were open about their beliefs.
FOX NEWS: Your group seems to incorporate various elements of Nazi/fascist imagery… Would you consider yourselves Nazis and or fascists?
VANGUARD AMERICA: We are fascists, and use the term American Fascists to describe ourselves. We use fascist imagery because we are fascists, and adhere to the doctrine.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines “fascism” as “a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
James Alex Fields, the driver accused of fatally striking a protester in Charlottesville, had been photographed marching with members of Vanguard America in Charlottesville prior to his arrest. Representatives from the group deny that Fields was ever a member, and said Fields is innocent until proven guilty.
SOUTHERN NATIONALIST/LEAGUE OF THE SOUTH
Websites for groups referring to themselves as the “League of the South” and/or “Southern Nationalists” advocate for the “survival, well being [sic], and independence of the Southern people.”
While the group considers the term “racist” to be an “anti-white” construct, it’s clear that their members believe people of different races have very separate roles to play in the world.
“The [League of the South] disavows a spirit of malice and extends an offer of good will and cooperation to Southern blacks in areas where we can work together as Christians to make life better for all people in the South,” the group’s website reads. The next line elaborates on the group’s mission, which is apparently “to protect the Anglo-Celtic core population and culture of the historic South.”
The National Socialist Movement has been around for decades, and the group’s flag was also included in the organizing flyer for, and among, the ranks of attendees at Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally.
Referring to itself as “America’s premier white civil rights organization,” the group’s name appears to be a direct reference to the original nomenclature for Hitler’s Nazi party (The National Socialist German Worker’s Party).
The group believes it is fighting “the destruction of not only America, but the White Race globally,” and claims that it has received “unprecedented levels of calls for membership and pledges for support” in the wake of Charlottesville.
Perhaps one of the most obscure “groups” at Saturday’s rally, the “Kekistani” movement is apparently named after a term popularized in the world of online video-games.
“Kek” is a translation of the expression “LOL,” which gained popularity after being noticed by players of World of Warcraft. The group seems to consist of a disparate network of Internet antagonists who met on the website 4chan. The group’s website includes a tongue-in-cheek history of its supposed homeland, but some of the imagery being adopted appears to have been taken straight from Nazi playbooks.
The Kekistani movement seems to exist solely for the purpose of mocking (or “trolling”) people who adhere to concepts of political correctness, people they refer to as “normies.” This bucking of political correctness in all of its forms is perhaps best represented by the brazenness of the group’s flag, which was included in the flyers for Saturday’s protest.
The flag of the Kekistani “movement” is a green-colored replica of a Nazi war banner, with a few tweaks. The word “kek” is fashioned into a swastika-like symbol near the center, and the logo for the website 4chan is included in the flag’s upper-left corner. The flag is nearly identical to the Nazi Reichskrieg war flag, and at some point began appearing at rallies in a variety of U.S. cities.
The group appears to consider itself a symbol of supposedly “oppressed” people who wish to be able to do or say anything they want without fear of being labeled an actual Nazi. It is believed that the use of a Nazi theme in the Kekistani flag is specifically intended to provoke reactions from those who recognize its fascist origins.