Nation

With Trump in power, white-power groups try to build alliances

Klansmen participated in cross and swastika burnings last year after a "white pride" rally in rural Georgia. Six Klan organizations from around the country announced a consolidation last month.

Mike Stewart/Associated Press/File

Klansmen participated in cross and swastika burnings last year after a "white pride" rally in rural Georgia. Six Klan organizations from around the country announced a consolidation last month.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — White extremists, almost by nature, are seldom good at working together.

Creating consensus among white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux, and the like has always been difficult, with wide disagreements on policies and a heavy turnover of leaders and followers.

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But the Nationalist Front, an alliance of white-power groups that was born in a KKK bar in Georgia, marked its first anniversary April 22.

Separately, six Klan organizations from around the country announced a consolidation last month.

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On Saturday, members of several white-supremacist groups filled Main Street in Pikeville, Ky., for a march and rally. The event was organized by the Nationalist Front, along with the Traditional Workers Party, and other pro-white supremacy groups.

Dozens of police in riot gear were deployed to keep peace at the event, as several dozen people massed for a counterdemonstration organized by the left-wing group Anti-Fascist Action. Some downtown businesses and the county courthouse closed Saturday.

The white-power groups say their common goal is protecting the white race at a time when the Census Bureau projects whites will be a minority within three decades.

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Watchdog groups that track hate organizations doubt whether the National Front can build on its united movement. They say the alliance now lists 11 member groups, about half the number it had when it was formed.

“These things never last,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the hate-monitoring Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Beirich said that while white supremacists have been emboldened by President Trump’s election, such groups have been trying on and off for decades to merge, generally to appear larger than they really are.

But leaders say there’s a difference this time: Matthew Heimbach, a spokesman for the Nationalist Front, said US white nationalists are trying to follow the example of far-right European groups that have learned to work together rather than bicker over ideology, theology, and organizational structure.

US nationalist groups have cooperated on projects such as video presentations and propaganda strategies over the last year, Heimbach said, and they worked together to support white nationalist Richard Spencer when he spoke at Auburn University earlier this month.

Originally called the Aryan National Alliance, the Nationalist Front renamed itself and dropped its use of the swastika in an attempt to broaden its appeal.

Some robe-wearing KKK members who were initially part of the Nationalist Front dropped out, and some Klan groups are now consolidating to build membership and power.

The American Alliance of Klans formed during a meeting in rural Florida in March. More Klan groups have joined since, leaders say.

Tom Larson of Delaware, imperial wizard of the East Coast Knights of the KKK, a part of the new alliance, said: “We want to see people stand up and make this country great again, like Trump is saying. We’re tired of seeing white people lose everything.”

None of these groups will provide membership numbers, but it’s safe to say none is huge. About 100 people have registered to attend a Nationalist Front gathering this weekend in Pikeville, Heimbach said.

Photos from the meeting where the Klan alliance was formed showed about two dozen people in KKK robes and black uniforms giving the Nazi salute, but organizers said that was only leaders and does not represent total membership.

Both the Nationalist Front and the Alliance of Klans are but a shadow of the United Klans of America, an Alabama-based group that claimed membership in the thousands in the 1960s and was blamed for the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four black girls.

It was disbanded in 1987 after the Klan murder of a black man resulted in criminal convictions and a lawsuit that bankrupted the group.

The SPLC’s Beirich said she is less worried about new supremacist alliances than free-standing extremist entities like The Daily Stormer, which she describes as an anti-Semitic, misogynistic, racist website that entered the real world last year by forming “book clubs” that hold local meetings.

Beirich said a single hate-based website can reach millions.

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