On Sunday in Washington D.C. a crowd of thousands opposed to white supremacy and fascism overwhelmed in numbers some two dozen attendees at white nationalist Jason Kessler’s Unite the Right 2. Despite the low numbers, white nationalists are taking mixed lessons from the event – some admiring Kessler’s efforts at mainstreaming white nationalism behind a “civil rights” façade, some critical, and others simultaneously on both sides of the debate.
The paltry two dozen at the event was far below the 400 allowed in the permit Kessler had obtained from the National Park Service. Kessler quickly blamed poor attendance on logistical and transportation problems, white-splaining that,
“There were a lot of people who were at last year’s rally who are very scared this year…They felt like last year they came to express their point of view. They were attacked. And when they fought back, they were overly prosecuted.”
On the other hand, more than 40 anti-racist groups mobilized thousands of counter-protestors. Anti-racists met racists as they left the Foggy Bottom metro station and accompanied them all the way to Lafayette Park – separated by a phalanx of police that kept the two groups mostly separated throughout the day. Even the weather was on the side of anti-fascists, as thunder storms moved into the area and helped end the racist rally even before its scheduled start time of 5:30 p.m. – the racists ferreted out of the scene in police vans.
About 100 people also gathered in Charlottesville to remember Heather Heyer, the anti-fascist killed at the 2017 event when James Alex Fields drove his car into a crowd of protestors.
Kessler did his best to carry off the “white civil rights” framing of the event, at one point telling reporters from the New York Times, “I’m not a white nationalist, I’m a civil rights advocate. I’m focusing on white people because we don’t have civil rights advocates.” One individual flanking Kessler in the march was photographed with a sign stating, “Social media = Public Utility,” an apparent effort to muster aspects of actual civil rights struggle to criticize social media platforms such as Twitter that have expelled some racists. Brandon Watson, an African-American man from Virginia, even marched beside Kessler and helped emcee the event.
As IREHR reported in late July, Kessler’s efforts are little more than a re-hashing of David Duke’s 1980s attempt to mask white nationalism behind a mantle of civil rights. In reality, Jason Kessler is indeed a white nationalist who has expressed that a whites-only homeland may be needed in the face of demographic trends, promoted anti-Semitism, rushed to the defense of Holocaust deniers, disparaged feminism and even referred to racist cult murder Charles Manson as a “misunderstood genius.”
Kessler did give voice to racial politics, saying in his event speech that, “I’ve never claimed to be a white nationalist, ok. But, I’m ok with sharing this country with people from around the world. But, if you bring in too many people at once, it’s not the same country anymore. And that’s what they’re doing, and that’s why a lot of white people feel aggrieved. Because they feel like the country that they’re waking up in in 2018 is a very, very different country than the one they woke up in in 1960, 1970, 1980.”
In contrast to Charlottesville 2017, when confederate flags, uniformed racists and even Nazi symbols were on display, D.C. attendees wrapped themselves in American flags and pro-Trump gear – a variety of “optics” that Kessler had pleaded for in the months leading up to the event.
Displays of white-ist politics were, however, visible. Marchers held signs declaring “Protect the Endangered Species, Stop White Genocide,” and “White Lives Matter” – exhortations of a driving aspect of white nationalist ideology – namely, the false notion that whites in America are being dispossessed. Others called reporters a “tool of the Zionist media” and proclaimed that attendees of Kessler’s event were the “founding stock” of America. One individual, his face covered with a U.S. flag and sporting a baseball helmet and attached camera, offered up the stiff-armed “Roman salute” made infamous by WW II-era Italian Fascists and German Nazis.
A Mixed Review from White Nationalists
Despite low turnout, Jason Kessler quickly declared the event a success:
White supremacists and white nationalists generally do not like to try and rally in Washington D.C. They much prefer places like Lead, Arkansas. In the last 40 years, there have been two attempts. The first was at the end of November in 1983. Three Klansmen stood on a corner, protected by police, while hundreds of D.C. residents protested around them. While non-racist observers would think the white-ists would not consider it a success, the headline in the Klan’s White Patriot tabloid was “KKK Victory in D.C.”
The second was on August 24, 2002, one month after the death of national socialist leader William Pierce. 750 members of his once strong National Alliance marched from Union Station to the Capitol’s West Lawn. Although there were hundreds of protestors, the police protected the white nationalists and the white nationalists stayed disciplined and marched in line.
In the case of Unite the Right 2, IREHR reported in July that a combination of lawsuits against white nationalists and militia leaders, media coverage of blatant displays of racism and violence, and criticism of Kessler’s opportunism and limited logistical skill had led most Unite the Right 1 attendees to reject the retread. Unite the Right 2 also came as some white nationalist groups were already shifting their strategies away from public events sure to draw confrontations with anti-fascists – a response to not only Charlottesville, but other events in which the racist message was diluted by virtue of strong opposition.
In the days before the D.C. event, white nationalist and anti-Semite Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute reiterated that, “I don’t really see much potential for good things coming out of this. There’s certainly a lot of potential for danger. It will most likely will be a bit of a dud.” The crass national socialist Daily Stormer also criticized the event. On August 12 “Lee Rogers” compared Unite the Right 1 to Adolph Hitler’s abortive 1923 “Beer Hall Putsch,” in having negative “short term consequences,” but long-term potential for “channeling this energy in a smart and effective way.” “The Unite the Right 2 rally,” he continued, “does not appear to be in this spirit. The original rally had a definitive mission and purpose. This one does not seem to have a clear objective or goal. It’s why many people who attended the original rally including myself are not supporting it.”
Post-event, the Daily Stormer used Unite the Right 2 to push the claim that city officials in Charlottesville had conspired to cause street fights, describing the second event as one in which “city officials did not conspire to create street fights between rival groups. Some utterly harmless kooks came in, in an orderly fashion, gave their speeches, and left. And that’s exactly what would have happened last year” absent the alleged city conspiracy.
David Duke, originally mentioned as an event speaker in Kessler’s deposition in his lawsuit against Charlottesville, was a no-show in D.C.. The veteran national socialist did, however, Tweet his admiration for attendees:
Duke continued his praise in an August 13 interview with British-based Christian Identity advocate Andrew Hitchcock. Duke declared that “those white men women” who marched in Charlottesville and Washington D.C. are “heroes, very brave people.” Duke admonished that while the movement can debate ideology and tactics, when individuals engage in personal attacks, they are “falling right into the hands of our traditional enemies who have been trying to divide and conquer us for years.” Duke and his anti-Semitic guest went on to allege Jewish control of the media and a Jewish plot to ethnically cleanse “white” countries.
Duke did not, however, clarify why he failed to take his place among the “brave” and “heroic” white nationalists at Unite the Right 2.
Identity Evropa, whose Elliot Kline had helped run the Discord chatroom through which Unite the Right 1 was organized, remained as silent on Twitter as it had in the lead-up to the event, simply continuing to promote its own activism.
While members of the League of the South were not visible at Unite the Right 2, and President Michael Hill had indicated he would not be attending, just before the event, Hill posted a nominally supportive image on GAB:
And while the group made no official statement following the event, League of the South Public Relations Chief Brad Griffin (aka Hunter Wallace of Occidental Dissent) gave the event mixed reviews. On the one hand, Griffin praised Kessler and opined that the event may have helped the movement:
On the other hand, Griffin criticized the “alt-lite” (i.e., mainstreaming) quality of the event, even referring to it as “like some of Joey Gibson’s events,” a reference to the Patriot Prayer leader whose far right events often include a handful of people of color.
In the end, Griffin turned the events low turnout and large opposition into a positive for the movement:
Chris Cantwell, the “crying Nazi” who broke down after Charlottesville 2017 when confronted with potential criminal charges, re-posted Wallace/Griffin’s lengthy GAB assessment.
Brad Griffin did, however, reiterate the League’s commitment to a strategy of holding “flash rallies” strategically away from anti-fascist opposition – getting a response from Michael Hill that the next such event would come later this month:
Seattle, Washington-based white nationalist Greg Johnson of Counter-Currents offered a lengthy and favorable review of Kessler’s mainstreaming approach, casting such events as “battles for the public mind” that should attempt to contrast well-behaved white nationalists simply addressing “unjust treatment” with unruly anti-fascists at odds with the “very existence of America”:
“Only about 25 to 30 people took part in the protest, yet there were thousands of screaming counter-protesters on hand. How is that a triumph? Because such events are not, primarily, battles between the people who show up. Rather, they are battles for the public mind…The Unite the Right 2 message was eminently reasonable: a protest of the unjust treatment of Unite the Right 1 by the Charlottesville and Virginia state governments and the international lying media. The counter-protesters, however, were mostly Communists and other extreme Leftists, whose chant “No borders, no wall, no USA at all” is an open declaration of war on the very existence of America…The fact that only a couple dozen people had to assemble to create this level of Leftist mobilization and press coverage means that Unite the Right 2 achieved maximum propaganda impact for surprisingly little money and risk. Moreover, the Left and the system as a whole spent enormous amounts of money to assemble a vast throng of violent and repulsive misfits and broadcast them to the American public…
Jason Kessler also handled himself impressively in interviews, red-pilling normies and triggering leftists into edifying meltdowns. A couple months ago, Jason and I had a conversation about Unite the Right 2. He explained that he wanted to separate himself from the Alt Right and try to build a Gandhian non-violent White Civil Rights Movement. I encouraged him in this idea but tried to dissuade him from the march altogether. But he’s a principled and stubborn guy…If Richard Spencer or Christopher Cantwell had showed up at Unite the Right 2, the coverage would have been about them, and the most valuable lessons would have been lost. So the fact that the Alt Right boycotted Unite the Right 2 was a gift to Jason Kessler. He didn’t need the Alt Right. In fact, he needed a clean break from them. Now that he has it, I hope that Jason will take his tiny cadre of supporters and build the White Civil Rights Movement he envisions. There is a growing consensus that the Alt Right is dead, killed by adopting the self-marginalizing ideas and ethos of White Nationalism 1.0. The Alt Lite, moreover, is absolutely opposed to white identity politics. So there’s a need for fresh new approaches to white advocacy. I wish Jason every success.”
Appearing on Stormfront Radio, Don Advo, described as a California-based attorney, dubbed the event a “public relations victory for us” that presented “polite” white nationalists in opposition to unruly anti-fascists. Advo did criticize Kessler for including a black emcee.
Stormfront founder and former Knights of the Ku Klux Klan leader Don Black gave a mixed review, stating that “yesterday’s event was ok,” though it “makes us look small” in contrast to Charlottesville 2017. Slightly at odds with the assessments Brad Griffin and Greg Johnson, Black added that it would have been more successful had anti-fascists been more violent.
Black added that inexperienced activists like Jason Kessler “want to get away from the Nazi image, which is understandable because it has been so demonized.” As such, they “go in the other direction, they go in the civic nationalist direction…We’ve got black people, see, we’ve got our favorite black pets here.” Black continued that,
“it hasn’t helped Trump, and it certainly didn’t help Kessler, to try to go in the civic nationalist route. He just lost a lot of his…remaining base of support he had among white nationalists…And he’s not gonna get anybody else outside of that, because he’s still, as far as the media is concerned, a white nationalist… The people that organize stuff like that tend to be new…”
Black did add that “I don’t think Kessler’s working for the other side, like a lot of people…some people on Stormfront want to say.”