Filed under: Anti-fascist, Editorials, Southeast
On Saturday, April 29th, neo-Nazi groups under the umbrella of the Nationalist Front, led by racist and anti-Semitic talking heads Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP) and Jeff Schoep of the National Socialist Movement (NSM), will hold a rally in Pikeville, Kentucky.
Calling these groups neo-Nazis is not a stretch. On April 20th, members of the TWP were driven out of a Louisville, Kentucky restaurant where they were celebrating Adolf Hitler’s birthday, by a group of antifascists, community members, and restaurant goers. Up until recently, the NSM openly paraded around wearing full Nazi regalia, including swastika arm bands and flags. While these groups have been linked to white supremacist violence in the past, the media has instead focused on anarchists and antifascists who are actively organizing to shut down the neo-Nazi rally, as the key boogeyman.
Jeff Schoep, one of the leaders of the Nationalist Front, organizing the neo-Nazi rally in Pikeville, Kentucky
But now the violence and threats from white nationalists, the Alt-Right, and neo-Nazis is hitting home for the residents of Pikeville. Today it was made public, as members of the Nationalist Front began their two day event on private land, that organizers of a peaceful rally that was permitted and scheduled to be held away from the neo-Nazi demonstration have received threats against their safety. According to a WFPL radio station reporter:
Organizers say they have postponed a counter-rally organized by local youth due to “previously unforeseen credible threats to the safety of our attendees and our community,” according to organizer Ariana Velasquez.
The “Rally for Equality and American Values” had previously been moved from a centrally located city park to the local college campus, which is further from downtown and is a weapon-free zone.
Originally, the Nationalist Front planned to hold a retreat at Jenny Wiley State Park in neighboring Floyd County. After public outcry, the park told the group that they needed to remake their reservation, and would need to pay extra for security costs. The retreat has now been moved to private property. But that hasn’t stopped residents of Floyd County from continuing to organize in opposition.
In a statement posted to the group’s Facebook event page shortly before 4:30 today, [an] organizers unanimously decided to postpone the event, after consulting with law enforcement, public officials and university administration.
In the statement, she said “unforeseen credible threats” forced the decision to cancel in order to protect the safety of participants.
Meanwhile, Burton Webb, local university President, issued a statement that encouraged students to avoid Pikeville and even went so far as to equate the neo-Nazis with those brave enough to stand against them: antifascists. In a statement to the campus he wrote:
This week, it has come to our attention that at least two other groups are now planning to come to Pikeville. Anti-Racist Action (ARA) and Anti-Fascist Action (ANTIFA) have both made it known that they plan to send contingents to Pikeville this weekend. These two groups are vehemently opposed to the TWP, but their tendency to incite violence causes me grave concern.
The TWP rally is set to begin at around 3 p.m. in downtown Pikeville, The TWP has become expert in obeying the letter of the law while getting as close as possible to inciting violence. The ARA and ANTIFA will stand nose to nose with the TWP in an attempt to shout them down. Unfortunately, they may also be planning a more violent conflict. There are grave concerns among the law enforcement community that Pikeville was chosen by these groups precisely because it is a rural, safe town.
This comes hot on the heels of local Pikeville leaders passing an ordinance that would fine people for wearing masks or ‘hoods’ in public; an ordinance that would specifically target antifascists who cover their faces to avoid identification from neo-Nazis. Also, local officials are reporting that the FBI and Homeland Security are also in town to monitor the situation, presumably to police and repress those that would stand up to violent racist groups.
The leader of the neo-Nazi rally, Matthew Heimbach, born and raised in the wealthy suburb of Poolesville, Maryland, also has a history of racist violence in Kentucky.
Last year, Heimbach was seen on video attacking an African-American female protester at a Trump rally. He was later sued but now Heimbach is suing Trump himself, saying that Donald Trump encouraged him to violence at the rally by prodding attendees to attack protesters. In the video, Heimbach can be seen screaming, “Leftist scum!” Trump protesters later claim they were also called “niggers” and “cunts” by the neo-Nazis who wore red Trump MAGA hats.
The framing by the police, the city government, the local college, and the media is ridiculous. Neo-Nazis have a history of attacking and killing American people, antifascists do not. Antifascists do not vandalize places of worship, burn down mosques, murder elderly people with swords, and massacre people in churches; but white nationalists and the Alt-Right do.
For the State, the FBI, and media to be more concerned with people that would confront this terrorism shows just where it’s interest lie: not in stopping racist violence, which the State itself also carries out both through structural racism and abroad through globalization and war, but in stopping those that would oppose it.
In Pikeville, the out of town neo-Nazis were even successful in scaring local organizers from having a peaceful and permitted rally in their own town, even away from where the fascist event would take place. They did this with threats of physical harm to a group of people that presented themselves as peaceful and non-confrontational. These actions show the neo-Nazis are not concerned with uplifting “white working families” as they like to pretend, but instead are harbingers of a violent and authoritarian worldview that they will impose upon others with the utmost brutality.
One thing is clear, for anyone that stands up to these monsters, they do so out of self-defense and a strong desire to protect their communities, not a drive to simply wreck the town of Pikeville or hurt the people within it. As local Appalachian antifascist organizers wrote in a recent statement:
After threats of violence from the extremist hate groups the Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP), Nationalist Front, and others, it was announced that the Rally for Equality and American Values has been postponed out of fear for the safety of the community. To the people of Appalachia, we can’t let hate and fear win. We won’t be scared away from protecting our community from these Nazis. We will still be in downtown Pikeville on Saturday to show these white supremacists that their hateful, violent ideology is not welcome here. We ask that you join us in the streets of Pikeville on Saturday to take a stand against these Nazis preying upon our community. We are stronger together. They will be gathering on the courthouse steps at 2pm, we will be there, please join us. We won’t lie to you. These groups pose a real threat of violence, but history has taught us that the rise of fascism cannot be countered with polite words of disapproval alone. We have safety in numbers, and together we can keep our community safe from the threat of hate groups.
People on the side of freedom and against racism and fascism should wish the people of Pikeville Kentucky all the best, because their struggle in Appalachia is our struggle wherever we are.
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