Just like big city liberals who think country folks are all a bunch of reactionary racists, these out of town white supremacists thought they would find fertile ground to plant there hateful ideas.

On April 29th Appalachians along with folks from surrounding cities came together to show the Traditionalist Workers Party, League of the South, National Socialist Movement, and other racists, that they will never gain a foothold in our communities. This “Nationalist Front” chose to prey on the city of Pikeville because they arrogantly thought they could come into to this poor hillbilly town and be welcomed with open arms and unopposed by antiracist organizers. They were wrong.

Just like big city liberals who think country folks are all a bunch of reactionary racists, these out of town white supremacists thought they would find fertile ground to plant there hateful ideas. Instead they found a community that did not want them. Even before their rally the Nationalist Front had to move their gathering from the Jenny Wiley State Park to private land out of fear that being on public land made them vulnerable to opposition. After retreating from the public eye word has it they chose to host their “family friendly” gathering on the private property of a known woman abuser.

After retreating from the public eye word has it they chose to host their “family friendly” gathering on the private property of a known woman abuser.

Just days before the rally, antiracists suffered their own setback when organizers of the big diversity rally in Pikeville canceled their event due to death threats from the Nazis. It appears this unfortunate decision was made after organizers talked with, and were presumably pressured, by the police. The event was expected to draw upwards of 1,000 people.

Undeterred by terroristic threats from the white supremacists, antifascists from Appalachia and beyond still hit the streets in large numbers on April 29th to show the Nationalist Front there message of white supremacy is not welcome in Appalachia. Around 1pm 100 antifascists, some of whom were armed, marched to the courthouse where the Nationalists Front was supposed to be rallying, to find only 10 or so members from the League of the South already being confronted by a group protestors who had arrived earlier.

Around 1pm 100 antifascists, some of whom were armed, marched to the courthouse where the Nationalists Front was supposed to be rallying, to find only 10 or so members from the League of the South already being confronted by a group protestors who had arrived earlier.

The “highly disciplined” Nationalist Front couldn’t even get it together to arrive at their own rally on time, getting to Pikeville over an hour late alternately blaming “car trouble” and “getting lost.” Once they did finally arrive, the Nationalist Front marched in loose formation wearing all black, carrying flags and some shields. Many of them were carrying pistols, and a few had assault rifles. For the next two hours the antifascist protestors successfully drowned out the Nazis sound system chanting “from the Midwest to the South, punch a Nazi in the mouth” and “We want Heimbach” in a taunting fashion. The 10 or 15 people there who actually seemed interested in hearing what they had to say were unable to due to the ruckus.

Word on the street was that antifascists made a strategic decision to not provoke a physical confrontation due to the unfavorable terrain that the city of Pikeville presented; if shit had gone down the city is laid out in such a fashion that it would have been easy for police to seal off the area and kettle antifascists. Given that police from Seattle to Berkeley have repeatedly aided the fascists while attacking antifascists, this seemed to be a reasonable calculation to make. That is not to say folks weren’t ready to defend themselves, in addition to sidearms, many in the crowd were carrying all manner of sticks, clubs and mace, and some were wearing bulletproof vests.

The “highly disciplined” Nationalist Front couldn’t even get it together to arrive at their own rally on time, getting to Pikeville over an hour late alternately blaming “car trouble” and “getting lost.”

While officials and media have been painting a narrative that Pikeville residents were equally opposed to both the Nazis and the antifascists, the facts on the ground spoke differently. As the rally continued, more and more locals came out to join the antifascist protest, many of them bringing cases of water (it was a sweltering hot day) and joining in on the taunting of the Nazis. The Nazis on the other hand received no visible signs of support from the citizens of Pikeville. In addition to successfully drowning out the Nazis message of hate with drums whistles and chants, their sound system was unplugged multiple times during their speeches. As the Nationalist Front began their exit, having failed to spread their message, the crowd began singing “Nana Na Na… Hey, Hey, Hey… Good Bye!” with much joy.

Tensions again rose as the protesters attempted to get into the parking lot where the Nazis were parked. Police quickly mobilized two squads of previously unseen riot police and began pushing back the crowd at which point two arrests were made. The cops in their short sightedness, pushed the crowd one block up in the direction the Nazis were driving, and where there were no police. Here, some folks in the crowd began charging and throwing things at the Nazis vehicles and in one case the Nazis threw some sort of explosive device at the crowd and pulled a pistol on folks. Fortunately nobody was injured. Antifascists were able to get out of the city without any further incidents from police or racists.

While officials and media have been painting a narrative that Pikeville residents were equally opposed to both the Nazis and the antifascists, the facts on the ground spoke differently.

While we can’t claim total victory over the Nazis, the antifascist mobilization was still successful on many levels:
  • The fear of previous clashes between antifascists and Nazis in other towns created an atmosphere, for better or worse, in which Pikeville was essentially a ghost town on Saturday. Meaning that any potential recruits the Nazis were looking to reach just didn’t come out in the first place. If there had been no counter rally organized, it is likely that local officials wouldn’t have overreacted in this manner and the Nazi rally would have been more accessible.

In addition to successfully drowning out the Nazis message of hate with drums whistles and chants, their sound system was unplugged multiple times during their speeches.

  •  While it would have been nice to have the larger crowds promised by the liberal rally that was cancelled last minute, antifascists proved that we won’t back down in the face of violent threats and that we can successfully organize and outnumber the Nazis on our own terms. In other words, we are the ones that can be relied on to counter these hate groups and it was clear from the locals who did come out to protest that they appreciated our presence.
  •  Even though the route of physical confrontation was not chosen, antifascists were still successful in rendering their rally ineffective as an outreach tool by drowning out their sound system consistently for 3 hours. While a pitifully small handful of locals did come out to hear what the Nazis had to say, they certainly couldn’t hear them. That being said, the inability to physically stop the rally from happening means that the Nazis still held an event that was likely empowering to them internally. They likely still feel energized by the fact that they were able to hold a rally. Putting aside that this is an incredibly low bar for what counts as success, an energized Nazi is still a dangerous Nazis.

antifascists proved that we won’t back down in the face of violent threats and that we can successfully organize and outnumber the Nazis on our own terms.

  •  Many present were eager for a fight, both Nazis and antifascists. It is anybody’s guess how this would have turned out, especially given the fact that both sides were armed with guns as well as sticks, knives and shields. I don’t think the antifascist side can confidently claim they would have won the fight. And even if a victory were attained, it likely would have been at a high cost. Furthermore with the presence of firearms any fistfight could have quickly escalated into a bloodbath. It is possible that both sides being armed helped to keep the peace, strangely. Given the build up for this event, many seemed relieved that antifascists came out of it with next to no legal repercussions and zero casualties.

Looking to the future we can draw a few lessons from the showdown in Pikeville. First and foremost, even if it is does not seem possible or advantageous to physically shut down a racist’s event, it is still important for antifascists to show up and show that there is opposition to these hate groups. In lieu of more militant tactics, drums, whistles, airhorns, bullhorns and other noise makers can render their rallies ineffective. If antifascists had not successfully organized, the Nazis would have essentially gone unopposed.

we are the ones that can be relied on to counter these hate groups and it was clear from the locals who did come out to protest that they appreciated our presence.

Second, it is important to understand the terrain you’re operating in, and know when it is strategic to engage in militant tactics, and when other approaches are necessary. Antifascists saw that even if a physical confrontation with the Nazis was successful, getting out of a small town without mass arrests or cops setting up checkpoints on the two ways out of town were highly unlikely. As satisfying as it would have been to run them out of town, it is also important that antifascists have come out of this without tons of felonies, hospital bills, or loss of life, allowing us to focus on the long term organizing that is necessary to defeat these groups. We have to consider how the consequences for our actions affect our ability to be in this for the long haul. Our movement cannot sustain an endless onslaught of heavy charges and severe injuries month after month.

The street confrontations are important, but what ultimately is going to defeat them is the less glamorous day to day organizing with white working class communities for collective liberation.

Third, it is clear that the Nationalist Front actually have some people in there ranks with a small iota of media savvy, as well as some brains for strategy, a major departure from most hate groups. They are attempting to actually organize in communities by masking there racist message with populist and even anti-capitalist rhetoric, not just come to a random town and sieg heil for an hour and call it a day. While it is important for us to confront these white supremacists when they come into our communities, we cannot afford to spend all our time and energy in an endless tit for tat with these assholes. The street confrontations are important, but what ultimately is going to defeat them is the less glamorous day to day organizing with white working class communities for collective liberation. People are not predisposed to hate and racism, it takes indoctrination and hateful groups capitalizing on their misery to turn them that way.

What will ultimately defeat groups like the TWP is white folks doing day to day organizing in their own working class communities with a message of mutual aid and liberation in opposition the white supremacist message of the Nationalist Front.


Liked it? Take a second to support It's Going Down on Patreon!