The Unite the Right rally last August brought the lurking specter of white nationalism to the mainstream’s attention. But that brought with it a major crackdown, with tech companies shutting down white nationalist accounts and websites, fundraisers tightening rules to make it difficult for them to raise money, and counter-protesters publicizing white nationalists’ identities and causing them to lose their jobs.
Even though a few far-right figures remain determined to hold a rally tomorrow outside the White House, this crackdown has caused a major fracturing, making it increasingly unlikely that many of the major figures will, or even can, return to lend support. Here’s a rundown of some of the main far-right figures from last year’s rally, and a look at where they are now.
Jason Kessler’s 15 minutes of fame started and ended at Charlottesville last August. After the rally he organized descended into chaos, Kessler introduced himself to America by describing murder victim Heather Heyer as a “fat, disgusting communist” — behavior he later blamed on a combination of ambien, xanax, and alcohol.
Kessler has spent a good portion of the last year being ostracized by other far-right figureheads, and is — along with two dozen other white nationalists — facing a massive lawsuit in 2019 that claims that he was responsible for the violence. He remains determined to lead the anniversary rally in D.C. tomorrow, even though he and the few white nationalists who decide to attend will likely be massively outnumbered by counterprotesters.
This is the organizer of the Unite the Right rally where Heather Heyer died. pic.twitter.com/MVnJHecLOt
— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) August 19, 2017
Chris Cantwell rose to prominence after he was featured last year on VICE journalist Elle Reeve’s documentary on Charlottesville. After a state of emergency was declared in Charlottesville, Cantwell uploaded a video of himself crying upon learning that there was a warrant out for his arrest. Cantwell spent most of the last year in Virginia awaiting trial for an assault and battery charge, for which he eventually pleaded guilty and received a suspended sentence. He has returned to his home in Keene, N.H. , and has been barred from the state of Virginia for five years.
Despite still being an active white nationalist, Cantwell’s popularity in the community has imploded after he claimed in March that he’s working as an FBI informant. Even if he could attend this year’s rally, Cantwell has completely disavowed it, writing in a blog post to “Follow Kessler At Your Peril.”
James Alex Fields Jr.
James Alex Fields is accused of deliberately running his car into counter-protesters at the rally last year, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens more. In July, Fields was indicted on more than 30 federal hate crime charges, in addition to the Virginia murder charge he is currently facing. Fields has been given an attorney, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), over concerns he might incriminate himself during the federal civil suit.
After Trump’s electoral victory, Spencer was hailed as the “Dapper” leader of white nationalists. Since Charlottesville, however, Spencer’s fortunes have taken a decided turn for the worse. His college tour fizzled out, after barely three dozen people attended his talk in March at Michigan State University. Spencer also ran into significant financial difficulty, with platform after platform blocking his attempts to raise money for white nationalist causes. He has also been barred from traveling to Europe.
Unsurprisingly, given the attention on him and his inability to raise any sort of funds, Spencer has said he’s opting not to attend this year’s rally. “I will not be participating in the Unite the Right 2 rally,” Spencer said. “I’ll of course, consider any good-faith offer for an appearance… But I’ve already made my decision clear on many occasions now.”
'Richard Spencer was supposed to lead the alt-right to legal victory over the nation’s liberal universities. Now he’s giving up on his war on colleges, and begging for help in a serious lawsuit against him.' https://t.co/OnpSUJBtgL
— Casey Michel (@cjcmichel) May 2, 2018
Before Charlottesville, Matthew Heimbach was ascendant in white nationalist circles — ThinkProgress even named him “The most important White Supremacist of 2016.” His Traditionalist Worker’s Party group was present in Charlottesville and claimed that the police stood by and watched while counter-protesters attacked. Heimbach and his group managed to survive the initial post-Charlottesville fracturing of the far-right, and was present with Richard Spencer at his Michigan State University talk.
But soon after, Heimbach was arrested on charges of battery in Indiana. According to the police report, he was having an affair with his mother-in-law, Jessica Parrott. His father-in-law, Matthew Parrott (who was involved with the Traditionalist Worker’s Party) watch the scene unfold and confronted Heimbach, who then allegedly assaulted him. In May, Heimbach was sentenced to 38 days in prison for violating his parole from a previous assault charge with the brawl with his father-in-law.
“I’m done, I’m out,” Parrott told the SPLC in wake of the incident, leaving the hate group. “SPLC has won. Matt Parrott is out of the game. Y’all have a nice life.” Heimbach was released from jail in June and has kept a low profile since.
Tim Gionet A.K.A. “Baked Alaska”
“Professional” troll and wannabe far-right content creator Tim Gionet was present at last year’s Unite the Right rally, where his “ironic” appreciation for white nationalism began to come crashing down. In November, Twitter banned him from their platform, making him apoplectic and furthering reducing his reach and influence. Last year he moved to Los Angeles in an effort to further his content-creating career, but the most memorable incident reported from that time was when three women broke his phone after he refused to stop harassing them. Baked Alaska is currently home, living with his parents, in Alaska.
— Nathan Bernard (@nathanTbernard) January 13, 2018
The former grand wizard of the KKK has been one of the most high-profile white nationalist in the U.S. for decades — even reaching the Louisiana gubernatorial run-off in 1991. Identity Evropa leader Nathan Damigo credits Duke’s book My Awakening with helping to radicalize him into the far-right. David Duke was present at last year’s Unite the Right rally and is on the list of speakers for Sunday’s rally. However, Duke also reportedly has another PR problem — he is “concerned” that Spike Lee’s newest film BlacKkKlansman will make him look foolish.
Despite Jason Kessler being a documented member of the Proud Boys, and a group of Proud Boys being present at the demonstration in Charlottesville last year, the “pro-Western fraternal organization” completely disavowed the so-called “alt-right” and the Unite the Right rally. “If you know of anyone who is presently a member and who is Alt-Right, they are cut from the club as of right now,” Proud Boys found Gavin McInness said last August. “If you refuse, you are your own separate entity and not affiliated with Proud Boys.”
Despite this attempt at disavowal, two Proud Boys are slated to speak at this weekend’s Unite the Right 2. The group also formed an integral part of last weekend’s violent “Patriot Prayer” rally in Portland, Ore., as well as previous far-right demonstrations in the city, including one where a Proud Boy was filmed knocking out a counter-protester. All this suggests that the Proud Boys are one of the few far-right groups that have flourished in wake of the Unite the Right rally.
Prior to allegedly ramming his car into counter-protesters, James Alex Fields was seen with Vanguard America members. And yet the group has repeatedly denied that Fields was ever a member. “The driver of the vehicle that hit counter protesters today was, in no way, a member of Vanguard America,” the group said at the time. “The shields seen do not denote membership, nor does the white shirt. The shields were freely handed out to anyone in attendance.”
Despite this, the group fractured in the wake of Charlottesville, but many of its members have now joined Patriot Front, which eschews rallies for a more guerilla-style of white nationalism. Some of the group members have also intermingled with other, more mainstream “free speech” groups, which could lead them to recruiting more actively. It is unclear whether or not they will make an appearance at Unite the Right 2.
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