Confrontation Looming As Neo-Nazi Groups To Hold Rally in Pikeville, KY

Pikeville, KY – Tensions are running high as the scheduled date and time approaches for the “Take A Stand for White Working Families” rally planned by the Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP), a neo-Nazi hate group with a history of violence. Unicorn Riot is on the ground in Pikeville to report on the neo-Nazi gathering, antifascist opposition, and actions taken by law enforcement.

The TWP, working with other white supremacist groups such as the National Socialist Movement (NSM), hopes to use this event to create a “Nationalist Front” in order to unify and strengthen racist organizing in America.  Other groups involved in the gathering include the League of the South and the American Freedom Party; all three are listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“The Nationalist Front is an umbrella organization for white nationalist organizations here in the United States and also aligned with nationalist organizations around the world.”  – Matthew Heimbach, TWP promotional video

A video promoting the event features Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Workers Party and Jeff Schoep of the National Socialist Movement.  (“Nazi” is an abbreviation for “National Socialist” in German).  The video contains vague language about uplifting impoverished white working families in Pike County, and is peppered with anti-Semitic references to the “Zionist lobby” and the “Jewish media.”

In an update to the Pikeville event video, Heimbach further states that “The left supports every policy to try to make our working families slaves to the Jewish bankers.”

A permit was sought by organizers to allow the gathering to take place on a public campground near Pikeville under the guise of a “family reunion”; this permit was denied, and the event is being held on private land.  Trainings, workshops, music, and speakers are planned for the white supremacist gathering on Friday, April 28, and a rally is scheduled to be held in downtown Pikeville at 2 PM PST on Saturday, April 29.

Pikeville area news outlet EKB-TV reported that Friday afternoon, antifascists were downtown passing out anti-Nazi literature that was positively received by locals.

Unconfirmed reports also circulated that members of the Traditionalist Workers Party were going door to door on Friday handing out white nationalist materials.

Antifascists have vowed to confront the various racist groups converging in Kentucky.  A call-out published on the anarchist website It’s Going Down entitled “Support the Anti-Nazi mobilization in Pikeville, KY” reads:

The Traditionalist Workers Party, The Nationalist Socialist Movement, The American Freedom Party, League of the SouthThe Iron March Forums, and other neo-Nazi organizations are converging to form The Nationalist Front. Nazis will gather on Friday, April 28th on private land for camping, a series of speakers, and trainings. The following day, they are planning to rally in front of the courthouse in Pikeville, KY at 2:00pm EST to “March to take back Mayday” and “Celebrate the working class.” (This seems like an effort to co-opt our radical narrative…).

They plan to retreat to the location where their camping and the conference is being hosted to hold an after party as well as a “secret event,” as stated in their most recent video update

They are using this convergence of nationalist organizations to rally their troops and attempt to form a nation-wide organization that will expand The Nationalist Front. However, they failed to account for the anti-fascists who are organizing here or the deep-seeded history of resistance in these hollers of rural Kentucky.

They chose a location where they think they can build inroads into the white working class, but the folks in Pikeville don’t want them here. Despite what they say in their video encouraging people to come to their event, they are not working within our community. Instead, they are exploiting our people in Appalachia to further their political agenda.

In an apparent attempt to discourage violent clashes between fascists and anti-fascists, the City of Pikeville passed an emergency ordinance banning the wearing of masks and hoods in downtown.

A family-friendly “Rally for Equality and American Values” event featuring speakers from community groups, as well as local politicians, had been scheduled to take place downtown at the same time as the neo-Nazi rally.

The Lexington Herald Leader quoted Christian Marcum, one of the student organizers, as saying “We want the headline ‘Pikeville rejects Nazis’.”  However it was announced on Thursday, April 27 that the upcoming event had been cancelled.

Officials claimed the cancellation was due to threats from anti-fascist groups but offered no evidence to support this claim.  Neo-Nazis and white supremacists have been known to send fake threats signed by antifascist groups in attempts to discredit the antifa movement, and some believe this to be the case in this instance.

A posting on It’s Going Down, published the evening of April 28, comments on how the cancellation of the event due to threats of violence fits into and furthers the neo-Nazi agenda to intimidate their opponents with threats of violence:

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. – Neo-Nazis threaten safety of Pikeville “Peace Rally”, Organizers, Campus Blames Antifa

A local high school had planned on holding their prom in downtown Pikeville on Saturday April 29, but chose to postpone it due to safety concerns.

On Friday afternoon and evening, many young people were still out on the town enjoying the spring weather in their prom regalia.

Young people in downtown Pikeville, KY on Friday, April 28.

Pikeville University issued a statement denouncing the Traditionalist Workers Party, Anti-Racist Action, and antifa all in the same sentence as “experts in mob mentality and inciting violence”. The Kentucky State Legislature in February passed a resolution condemning the Traditionalist Workers Party, the Nationalist Front, and the National Socialist Movement.

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We spoke by phone with Pikeville City Manager Donovan Blackburn regarding the anti-mask ordinance, as well as preparations being made by city and state officials to militarize the area in order to impose total control while aiming to keep fascists and anti-fascists separate.

Donavan Blackburn (DB): “[…] there’s been a lot of chatter on social media sites, with counter-protesters specifically commenting about Kentucky’s open carry law, and then also in regard to the city not having an ordinance that would restrict masks. Understanding that Saturday is supposed to be 92 degrees and sunny, the concern would be… obviously, with some of the, uh, previous history with some of these groups, that we would be putting our community and/or law enforcement at risk. So the need to adopt an emergency ordinance to ensure that that one obstacle is removed, while still ensuring that, uh, everyone’s constitutional right is upheld, giving them an opportunity to assemble in a lawful and peaceful manner, as required. So we adopted that on Monday.

We’ve also taken other steps such as, Main Street will be closed to vehicular traffic after noon tomorrow, and all the secondary streets coming off of main street will also be. The area that is permitted for the Traditional Workers Party to protest will, as most places are, will be corralled. [An area] has been designated across the street, the, uh, the counter-protesters are welcome to, uh, assemble.  And then [inaudible] which will be on Main Street itself, will be where we are positioning law enforcement to ensure that everything is done in a uh, as I said, a peaceful and lawful manner…

So, and then, past that point we are coordinating with multiple other law enforcement agencies who also plan on having a presence on-hand such as the State Police, Fish & Wildlife, the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, coordinating with neighboring cities…

There will be other details about that. Obviously a thousand times over the past couple of days, we’ve been preparing for the worst but hoping for the best … Folks are coming into our wonderful, progressive community and we hope that people demonstrate, or have their say in a way that the Constitution allows, and that after that, everybody just disbands peacefully, and all goes on.”

Unicorn Riot (UR): Is the mask ordinance passed specifically in response to antifascists responding to this upcoming TWP event?

DB: “No. The ordinance is perpetual.  It affects anybody in the city and anytime going forward.  So it’s not [inaudible] for this group. It was passed, however, under an emergency clause because of this event coming up, to ensure public safety. So it is not specifically for them, it’s for everybody.

Now, there’s obviously some exceptions in this ordinance: anybody under sixteen, Halloween, theatrical performances, circus performances, sporting events… but for the average person to wear a hood or a mask would not be permitted, going forward.”

UR: So, both a bandanna and a Ku Klux Klan hood would be both forbidden under this ordinance?

DB: “Right.”

UR: You said that some of the groups who are coming to counter-protest have a history of violence. Is the city of Pikeville aware of the history of the Traditional Workers Party, such as stabbings in Sacramento that TWP was implicated in?

DB: “Yes.  We are fully aware. Counter-intel has given us all the information on multiple organizations that are coming along with the group themselves.”

UR: Is the FBI and Homeland Security in town?  We’ve gotten some unconfirmed reports about that.

DB: “They’re involved.  Whether they’re in town or not, I’m not aware.”

As Saturday’s rally approaches, neo-Nazis, antifascists, and local, state, and federal police are all converging on the small, scenic city of Pikeville, setting the stage for a potentially explosive conflict. Unicorn Riot will continue to provide updates as we are able.

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