Nation

Alt-right plans its next moves with what it says is a new energy

Multiple white nationalist groups marched last week.
Mykal McEldowney/The Indianapolis Star
Multiple white nationalist groups marched last week.

NEW YORK — The white supremacists and right-wing extremists who came together over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va., are headed home, many of them ready and energized, they said, to set their sights on bigger prizes.

Some were making arrangements to appear at future marches. Some were planning to run for public office. Others, taking a cue from the Charlottesville event — a protest, nominally, of the removal of a Confederate monument — were organizing efforts to preserve white heritage symbols in their home regions.

Calling it “an opportune time,” Preston Wiginton, a Texas-based white nationalist, declared Saturday that he planned to hold a “White Lives Matter” march Sept. 11 on the campus of Texas A&M — with a keynote speaker, Richard B. Spencer, who was featured at the Charlottesville event.

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Wiginton was not the only one seeking to capitalize on the weekend’s events. On Monday, Austin Gillespie, a conservative Florida lawyer who is better known as Augustus Sol Invictus and attended the “Unite the Right” rally in Virginia, said he planned to announce Tuesday that he would seek Florida’s Republican nomination for the Senate. And at a news conference Monday, Spencer, a prominent white supremacist, promised to return to Charlottesville for another rally. “There is no way in hell that I am not going back,” he said.

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The far right, which has returned to prominence in the past year or so, has always been an amalgam of factions and causes, some with pro-Confederate or neo-Nazi leanings, some opposed to political correctness or feminism. But the Charlottesville event, the largest of its kind in recent years, exposed the pre-existing fault lines in the movement.

The ugliness of the rally — which included crowds of young white men offering the Nazi salute and which led to the death of a woman in a car attack — has resulted in a fracture on the right. After waiting days, for instance, to directly criticize the extremist groups, President Trump on Monday condemned white supremacists, saying from the White House that “racism is evil.”

Some hard-line conservatives beat Trump to the punch, apparently concluding that the marchers had gone too far and that their aggressiveness and messages could hurt the movement. Mike Cernovich, an influential right-wing media figure who is hardly shy of controversy, posted a Twitter message Saturday afternoon, attacking what the self-proclaimed alt-right, parts of which use Nazi imagery and racist language, had become.

“The alt-right will now be made up of losers with nothing to lose,” he wrote. “This sets ceiling on numbers while also attracting loons and terrorists.”

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Unwilling to be associated with explicit neo-Nazis, some of those invited to the Charlottesville event did not even bother showing up. Among them was Gavin McInnes, the founder of the Proud Boys, a conservative fraternal organization of self-described “Western chauvinists” that has engaged in several battles with the left in recent months.

Well before the gathering in Charlottesville, McInnes had planned to hold a “Free Speech” rally in Boston on Saturday, but it remained unclear whether it would take place. McInnes, in an unusual move, said he hoped the event would be canceled.

“It’s a lose-lose situation . . . ” he said. “If we do go, it will look like we’re fighting for Nazis we don’t like.”

On Monday night, officials at Texas A&M announced that they were canceling Wiginton’s event. But he pushed back, saying he would fight the university in court. “It seems like the First Amendment doesn’t apply to white people,” he said.

Elsewhere in the country, other movement leaders were busy pushing forward with their plans. Jack Posobiec, an activist who interrupted a June performance of “Julius Caesar” in New York that portrayed the assassinated leader much like Trump, is planning to march on Google’s New York headquarters Saturday to protest the company’s firing of an employee who criticized its diversity policy.

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Matthew Heimbach, a founder of the Nationalist Front, an umbrella organization for the white nationalist movement, said Monday that he was going to start organizing against an effort to remove two Confederate statues from public squares in Lexington, Ky. As the violence broke out in Charlottesville on Saturday, the mayor of Lexington, Jim Gray, wrote on Twitter that the statues should come down.

And Eli Mosley, an organizer for Identity Evropa, a white separatist group that endorses racial segregation, said that his and other like-minded groups planned to hold more rallies in Virginia. Indeed, on Monday, a Confederate heritage organization filed a request with state officials to hold an event Sept. 16 near a monument of Robert E. Lee in Richmond. Mosley was so enthused by the Charlottesville rally that he claimed the movement could within two years attract as many as 10,000 people to a national march in Washington.

“Every city needs to watch out,” Mosley said. “We are everywhere.”

Mosley added that he had no concerns about the president’s remarks and that they would have no effect on the movement’s future plans.

“The president is being advised by people who don’t know what’s going on,” Mosley added. “He’s essentially going off of false information. We’re not in any way worried about moving forward.”

Heimbach echoed that notion, saying that the president’s remarks would not stop him or his colleagues.

“I expected him to backtrack,” he added. “You have Republicans and Democrats united in the purpose of genociding our people. With the pressure put on Mr. Trump, I’m not surprised he made those comments.”

The goals of the far right have never been uniform. The disparate factions of the movement have sometimes come together in supporting concrete issues like restricting immigration and creating “a white ethnostate” in America. But at their large-scale rallies like the one in Charlottesville, they are often mainly interested in solidifying their communal bonds and attracting the attention of the news media.

Gillespie is among a handful of people to have taken the traditional route of seeking office. (He ran a failed campaign for the Senate last year as a Libertarian candidate in Florida.) While one of Heimbach’s groups, the Traditionalist Worker Party, has also run candidates, mostly for local offices, it is arguably more concerned with creating a grass-roots movement of white nationalists. The group has organized on behalf of disaffected coal miners and those affected by the opioid epidemic, and it has handed out white supremacist literature at gun shows and neighborhood Christmas events.

Like other white supremacists, Spencer has called for “a white homeland” in North America. But he, too, can often seem less interested in policy than in headlines.

At his news conference, he referred — cheekily, it seemed — to the throngs in Charlottesville who marched by torchlight in an echo of the Ku Klux Klan.

“The idea that the KKK had a monopoly on torches,” he said, “that is not the case.”