White nationalists plan to gather in Middle Tennessee this weekend, where they’ll hold “White Lives Matter” rallies in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro in protest of refugee resettlement and immigration.
The organizations bringing members to rally have said they’re doing so as an alliance called Nationalist Front, but who are these groups? In addition to being considered extremist organizations by the Southern Poverty Law Center, here’s a primer on each group and their causes.
Traditionalist Worker Party
Self-described as a political party seeking to “establish an independent white ethno-state in North America” in which immigration is “limited to members of the White European Race,” TWP is a relatively new group, having formed a couple of years ago under the leadership of Matt Parrott and Matthew Heimbach of Indiana after they started the Traditionalist Youth Network.
At Unite the Right and other protests, TWP members have outfitted themselves with shields, wearing masks and often all-black clothing.
The group opposes capitalism and colonialism, as well as “international Jewry,” calling instead for a “National Socialist government, economy and society for our people,” according to its website.
Unlike some right-wing groups, the TWP advocates for its ideal government offering a “strong social safety net” for anyone willing to work, free higher education for youth, no prison or bail for nonviolent offenders, as well as environmental conservation and humane treatment of animals.
“The group’s version of ‘traditionalism’ has its roots in the ‘radical traditionalism’ espoused by mid-20th century Italian ‘philosopher’ Julius Evola, a fascist thinker who believed that Jews were to blame for the modern materialism and democracy that he thought subverted the natural order of the world,” writes the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Following a June 2016 TWP event in Sacramento, Heimbach reported that his organization “got” six anti-Fascist protesters who were being taken to the hospital after being “finished” by TWP members after “the left started the fight,” according to the SPLC.
In April 2016, Heimbach was charged at a campaign rally in Louisville for then Republican candidate Donald Trump with pushing a University of Louisville student who was protesting at the event. This July, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.
National Socialist Movement
Based in Detroit, the National Socialist Movement has been around for decades.
On its website, the organization is open about equating National Socialism with Nazism, as well as attributing its ideology to that of Adolf Hitler.
“Adolf Hitler and National Socialism pulled Germany and her people out of the depression by creating meaningful jobs for them,” reads an answer to one of NSM’s frequently asked questions. “They also went the extra mile and made life a true joy for their people! Hitler loved and cared deeply for the average person.”
The SPLC, which considers the organization “one of the largest and most prominent neo-Nazi groups in the United States,” says NSM has operated since 1994, when leadership of the group was passed to Jeff Schoep. The organization’s website, however, reports it was founded in 1974.
On NSM’s website, in its list of 25 Points of American National Socialism, the group calls for the development of a nation made up of “only those of pure White blood,” in which “no Jew or homosexual may be a member of the nation.”
NSM demands “that all non-Whites currently living in America” be forced to leave the country.
The group’s political ideology also includes calls for a livable wage, the ending of taxes on food, medicine, housing, clothing and other necessities, affordable housing, universal health care for all members of the nation and the government regulation of news media, among other ideas.
Until 2007, NSM held demonstration in brown-shirt Nazi uniforms until voting that year to adopt black outfits, the SPLC reports.
League of the South
Classified by the SPLC as a “neo-Confederate” hate group, a label League of the South denies in multiple sections of its website, the organization advocates for the secession of southern states, an ideology it refers to as “Southern nationalism.”
Run by Michael Hill, the organization’s president, League of the South is also the group that has spearheaded most of the planning of the White Lives Matter protest, including reaching out to city officials and publicizing the rally online.
League of the South member explains the rally and their beliefs on Southern Heritage. Brittany Crocker/ USA Today Network – Tennessee
The group held similar, small anti-immigration and anti-refugee resettlement demonstrations in both Shelbyville and Murfreesboro in October 2013.
On its website, League of the South features “country studies” for several southern states, in which the organization explains how Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana and Texas could each exist as independent republics.
In 2014, the SPLC reported it had uncovered evidence from “leaked internal communications” and “anonymous sources within” League of the South that the organization was developing a militia, “the Indomitables,” in the event of potential secessions.
The group received criticism from left-wing blogs, though not widespread attention, after hosting a an event in 2015 to celebrate John Wilkes Booth and the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
The group has rebranded and split into new factions multiple times in recent years, previously operating under the name American Vanguard and Reaction America, according to the SPLC.
The Anti-Defamation League describes Vanguard America as “a white supremacist group that opposes multiculturalism and believes America is an exclusively white nation,” primarily targeting college-aged men in its recruitment efforts.
James Fields, the suspect charged in the killing of 32-year-old Heather Heyer — who died after a car drove into a group of counterprotesters Aug. 12 at the Unite the Right in Charlottesville, Va. — was photographed by the New York Daily News earlier that day holding a shield depicting a version of VA’s logo.
Vanguard America confirmed in a statement that Fields was carrying one of its shields and seen with a group wearing white collared shirts and khaki pants — the organization’s uniform — but denied that Fields was a member or that the shield or uniform denoted membership.
On the blog page of its website, VA encourages potential supporters to “stop the White Holocaust.”