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Lazer Follow-up story:

Groups working in attempt to counter nationalist groups set to rally in Pikeville

...called Hollywood Nazis, Sunshine said, due to their predilection to large, showy events to gain attention. ...called Hollywood Nazis, Sunshine said, due to their predilection to large, showy events to gain attention.

By Julia Roberts
Appalachian News-Express

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth hosted a webinar Thursday night that featured information about the Traditionalist Workers Party, which has been described as a Hate group and is holding a rally in Pikeville this month.

Spencer Sunshine, an associate fellow with Political Research Associates, a Boston-based think tank, gave some information about the group and its leader, Matthew Heimbach.

The rally is being held by the Nationalist Front, an umbrella group of which the TWP is part. 

Sunshine said Heimbach is the point person for this event. It has two leaders. The other is Jeff S. Choep, the leader of the Nationalist Socialist Movement, the biggest neo-Nazi party in the U.S., he said. 

They are sometimes called Hollywood Nazis, Sunshine said, due to their predilection to large, showy events to gain attention. 

Other groups will also be attending, Sunshine said, including the League of the South, a neo-Confederate group that wants to break the Southern states from the U.S. and revive the Confederacy, and the neo-Nazi university-based student group called the American Vanguard. 

Sunshine said Heimbach and the TWP are using the current political climate to further their cause.

“This is happening to communities all over,” Sunshine said. “With Trump’s campaign, white nationalists felt like they could come into the mainstream. They have kind of come out of the shadows. I think it’s true to some extent that the politics are, at least to some parts of society, fairly normalized. Regardless, they are using this climate to engage in much more aggressive recruiting campaigns and have open public events. In the past, they have often been shy about exposing themselves in public and doing big public things.”

He said TWP is changing its tactics in order to appear less militant.

“They are trying to take advantage of Trump to mainstream a bit,” Sunshine said. “In the past, they have been quite well-known for showing up with big swastika flags. This will probably be the first public event since they have rebranded themselves. They have removed the swastikas from their flags. What he is doing is part of a bigger trend that has altered the cultural and aesthetic look of the facist movement in the U.S. In the old days, it was an old guy wearing a suit and tie, or a Klansman or a Nazi skinhead. Now, they have a different look, a different feel. It’s the same old ideas, but it’s dressed up differently. Heimbach has been really part of this change.”

Sunshine said Heimbach is no stranger to violence.

“A year ago he was caught on camera punching a white woman at a Trump rally in Louisville,” Sunshine said. “His group has been tied to a lot of violence. In June 2016, they sponsored a rally in Sacramento. There was a big meelee,” Sunshine said. “About 400 people showed up to confront them. Ten people were stabbed, nine of them were anti-facists who were confronting them. Afterwards it came out that several of the people who working under Heimbach’s label had brought guns. One of them was loaded. At Pikeville they have called on people to bring weapons where they legally can.”

Sunshine said he doesn’t believe the TWP rally will attract a lot of supporters.

“I think there will be 50 to 100. I think 200 would be a really big gathering,” Sunshine said. “I think a lot of people are looking at Pikeville. This is going to be a test of how big, since there are three major white supremacist groups involved, this is going to be a test of how big it can appear in public under Trump.”

He said it is difficult to gauge what Heimbach hopes to accomplish in Pikeville.

“He has done some very provocative stuff,” Sunshine said. “He is good at playing the media.

He tends not to fight back. They want to build a base in Pikeville, and if you want that, you don’t want confrontation. I think what they want is a locally popular, non-confrontational event. But they like publicity. They don’t seem to have local organizers. To what extent it’s organizing, and what extent it’s publicity is a tough call.”

 

 

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