Filed under: Action, Anti-fascist, Community Organizing, Southeast
Nashville, Tennessee– Saturday, July 22nd, 2017 the community of East Nashville confronted white supremacists invading the neighborhood by setting up a gym called Vengeance Strength Kvlt. The gym is owned and operated by Sky Lemyng. A quick spin through his Instagram account reveals he loves taking pictures of his own abs, and is an avid supporter of Operation Werewolf, a white nationalist organization that fancies itself a type of IRL fashy “fight club”.
The founders of Operation Werewolf are brothers Paul and Mattias Waggener who are co-founders of the Wolves of Vinland, a crypto-fascist hate group that has co-opted a variety of Scandinavian imagery, totems, and mythos.
The gym and its founders are problematic for many reasons. Situated on 1401 B. Gallatin Pike, in East Nashville, this building is tucked neatly in a portion of the city ravaged by gentrification. People of color (POC) have historically lived in this neighborhood and are now being systematically driven from their homes through strategic planning, economic warfare, and a militarized police force brought to bear disproportionately on POC by their new white neighbors. Now, this gym emerges in the community as a gathering place for like-minded folks. The gym’s social media presence spouts tenets that are ableist at best and promoting eugenics at worst. For example, the gym philosophy promoted on their social media pages includes this gem: “The elite all do certain things in common. Only the inferior strive for equality.”
The ties to the Wolves of Vinland are also indicative of the type of people this gym will attract. In Virginia, Maurice Thompson Michaely (a prominent member of Wolves of Vinland) set fire to a historically African American church in his home state of Virginia. [Editor’s Note: In response to the church burning, WoV members wore shirts that read “FREE MAURICE.” WoV founders have also given interviews with white nationalist groups, podcasts, and websites, such as Counter-Currents. Jack Donovan, who has appeared alongside Richard Spencer, is also within a leadership position within OW and the WoV.]
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Nashville organized a broad group of community activists to come out and oppose the opening day of the gym. Activists from the Nashville Feminist Collective, Workers’ Dignity, Nashville AntiFa, and a few other leftists and liberal/progressive groups converged on the gym to disrupt the opening. Local news sources were also present and covering the gym grand opening. When the Channel 2 News Crew arrived, the gym sent several members out into the streets. Our group watched as they approached several young Black males congregating together. The gym members walked them to a nearby convenience store and bought them snacks and various items and invited them into the gym. Subsequently, they escorted the young men into the gym and have vociferously touted, “LOOK WE HAVE BLACK PEOPLE IN HERE!!!!”
A couple of POC from our group walked over and tried to talk to the young POC to try to get them to understand that they were being exploited by racist opportunists for a photo op, and weren’t doing themselves or their community any favors (we aren’t knocking the hustle, capitalism makes all of us do things beneath our dignity from time to time).
The gym was supported by a variety of folks dressed in three percenter memorabilia, confederate flags and other symbols of white pride. The white supremacists also sent an infiltrator dressed all in black into our group with a go-pro camera to clandestinely take photos of all of us, and he focused most of his attention on the members of the group who came masked up and the women organizers. We spotted him a mile away and did our best to mitigate his presence.
The gym members came out at one point with bar-bells (no we are not kidding you) and started doing exercises and push-ups to demonstrate how incredibly fragile their masculinity is.
Subsequently, our group patrolled the neighborhood hanging flyers to alert the community to defend themselves and support the local antifascist movement.