Virginia rally attracted loose mix of right-wing extremists
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — “Unite the Right” was the name given to the Virginia rally that ended in bloodshed Saturday when a car plowed into a crowd of demonstrators, killing a 32-year-old woman. A loosely connected mix of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists with disjointed missions assembled in Charlottesville for the largest gathering of its kind in a decade, including:
Richard Spencer, a leading figure in the white nationalist movement, was scheduled to speak at Saturday’s rally in Charlottesville. Spencer popularized the term “alt-right” to describe a fringe movement that is a mix of white nationalist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic and anti-immigration beliefs. Spencer has advocated for an “ethno-state” that would be a “safe space” for white people. After Donald Trump’s election, Spencer hosted a conference in Washington that ended with audience members mimicking Nazi salutes after Spencer shouted, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” In April, a federal judge’s ruling paved the way for Spencer to speak at Auburn University after the school tried to ban his appearance.
James Alex Fields Jr., the man accused of ramming his car into the crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, was photographed hours earlier carrying a shield bearing the emblem of Vanguard America. The group, which calls itself “the face of American fascism,” on its Twitter account, tweeted that Fields was “in no way” a member of the group. Vanguard America is primarily known for spreading its white nationalist messages in fliers posted on college campuses. Its website prominently features the motto “Blood and Soil,” a Nazi slogan. “If current trends continue, White Americans will be a minority in the nation they built. It’s time to take a stand,” its website says.
Identity Evropa is another white nationalist group known for provoking outrage — and stirring up publicity — by putting up fliers on college campuses. The group, founded by California-based Nathan Damigo, also has tried to grow its ranks with campus visits. A video that went viral showed Damigo punching a woman during a brawl at a rally in Berkeley, California, in April.
TRADITIONALIST WORKER PARTY
The Traditionalist Worker Party describes itself on its website as “fighting to secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” The group is led by Indiana-based white nationalist Matthew Heimbach, who was accused of harassing protesters at a Donald Trump campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, last year. As a student at Towson University in Maryland, Heimbach formed a group called the White Student Union and made headlines in Maryland for scrawling messages like “white pride” in chalk on campus sidewalks.
LEAGUE OF THE SOUTH
Founded more than two decades ago, the League of the South describes itself as a Southern nationalist organization. Based in north Alabama, it advocates for Southern states to again secede from the union. Flags and shields with the group’s insignia were visible in the crowd on Saturday. The League is run by Michael Hill, a retired university professor who was among the speakers listed on the program for the “unite the right” rally in Charlottesville.
NATIONAL SOCIALIST MOVEMENT
Members of the National Socialist Movement joined other white nationalist groups, including Heimbach’s Traditionalist Worker Party, at a rally in Pikeville, Kentucky, in April. Jeff Schoep, head of the National Socialist Movement, has said the white nationalist groups are trying to transform a recent groundswell of online support into real-world activism. National Socialist Movement members used to wear swastika armbands at marches but more recently have tried to broaden their appeal by avoiding the use of neo-Nazi symbols.