The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.
The neo-Confederate League of the South (LOS) gathered outside the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery today to protest same-sex marriage today, a departure from the group’s racist activism surrounding Southern heritage.
At the heart of the protest was an SPLC lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, which seeks to overturn the state’s 1998 Marriage Protection Act, which bans the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states. The suit also seeks to overturn the 2005 Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, which enshrined the ban.
The League, a neo-Confederate hate group that advocates for a second Southern secession and a society dominated by “European Americans,” seemed to use the protest to branch out into more mainstream conservative issues.
“We’re protesting the Southern Poverty Law Center’s stand against the state of Alabama and its position on homosexual marriage,” Dr. Michael Hill, president of the League, told Hatewatch. “We’re here as much to support the concept of Christian marriage and the family as we are to protest anything.”
And so they protested, not with screams and chants, but with a dull murmur.
League members held signs that said “God Sanctions Marriage. SPLC Should Not,” and “Support Christian Marriage,” along with Alabama state flags and Christian Confederate flags. They milled about, quietly, caught up with friends and talked about ideas such as what the South would use as its currency when it does secede. This protest was lackluster compared to previous gatherings, and not as comical.
In 2004, about 50 demonstrators in town for a national League meeting brandished Confederate and southern state flags outside the SPLC. On a street corner, League supporters placed a pink toilet with an adjacent sign read, “Flush the SPLC.” There were none of those antics today, not even from the younger leaders who have argued that street protests like the one today are the future of the movement.
Brad Griffin, a League member and editor of the Occidental Dissent blog, who writes under the nom de plume “Hunter Wallace,” has been instrumental in shifting the LOS toward more frequent protests. In a piece titled “The Logic of Street Demonstrations” published last month to Occidental Dissent blog, Griffin expounded on the need to use public protests to address the “taboo” of being pro-white, pro-South and pro Christian.
“By taking to the streets on a regular basis, we are demonstrating that we are no longer going to observe these taboos or acknowledge their legitimacy in the South. We believe our cause is moral and just, that our demographic displacement is an immoral assault on the birthright of future generations, and we invite our fellow Southerners to publicly violate the reigning taboos and join our movement,” Griffin wrote.
But even in the former cradle of the Confederacy, the public involvement with the League was lacking. The only engagement came from a group of young girls, standing in front of the Civil Rights Memorial, singing negro spirituals. And just as they had been all morning, the proud and graying League protestors were silent in response.
You will know the League of the South’s street demonstrators by their flags – a variety of Confederate flags, yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flags and stark, black-and-white so-called Southern Nationalist flags. If the league’s organizers see their hopes realized, such demonstrators will be a common sight on city streets and plazas in the South.
The league’s leaders have developed a street demonstration strategy they hope will increase their public profile in the coming months. At a state conference in Alabama last month, they unveiled some of the details of that program, including a protest of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery in May.
The Alabama gathering, held at the league’s meeting hall in Wetumpka, near Montgomery, featured speeches by president Michael Hill, Georgia chapter chairman Ed Wolfe, South Carolina chapter chairman Michael Cushman and Brad Griffin, editor of the Occidental Dissent blog, who writes under the nom de plume “Hunter Wallace”. Griffin recently wrote about the league’s strategic shift in a post titled, “The Logic of Street Demonstrations.”
The shift appears to be primarily Hill’s idea, as he made clear in his opening remarks, and seems to be connected to the increasingly belligerent and radical positions he has staked out in recent years –symbolized by his exchange with a black reporter in Tallahassee earlier this year. Upon being asked if he minded if the league was depicted as a “bunch of racists”, Hill responded: “So what? I’m standing up for my people – white Southern people – no one else.”
Several of the conference speakers celebrated Hill’s response, including Griffin, who added: “We’re standing up for our people. It is the right thing to do, it is what we ought to do. We should have started doing it a long time ago. The fear of sticking our necks out has long been one of our worst enemies, and that more than anything has to be overcome before we can gather the numbers to move forth.”
Griffin and the other speakers argued that street demonstrations will provide people with a clearer view of their choices. They presented a disparaging view of counter-protesters, typically describing them, as Griffin did in a recent post, as “a bunch of queers and lesbians gyrating on a sidewalk with tambourine.”
Cushman celebrated the shift toward unapologetic racism by observing that the league was “smashing that taboo”: “We’re supposed to be embarrassed to talk about race. We’re supposed to turn red in the face and kind of turn away and whisper if we say anything at all about race. We’re smashing that taboo as well.” ( continue to full post… )
After a segregationist businessman’s products were dropped from major grocery chains over his promotion of slavery, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell – who was recently selected to head the College of Charleston – went out of his way to sell the man’s products.
Maurice Bessinger, an unrepentant segregationist who ran the Piggie Park chain of barbecue restaurants in South Carolina, sparked a controversy in 2000 when he began flying the Confederate flag over his restaurants – a reaction to the state government removing the flag from the capitol dome. Soon it was discovered that Bessinger was selling pro-slavery materials at his restaurants, including a pamphlet entitled “The Biblical Justification for Slavery.”
Bessinger, who wore a white suit and appeared atop a white horse in promotional materials, had made a name for himself during the Civil Rights era for refusing to integrate his restaurants and leading the National Association for the Preservation of White People. He posted signs at his stores telling African Americans they were not welcome. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually forced him to integrate and his restaurants went back to, more or less, business as usual.
By 2000, South Carolina had changed, but Bessinger hadn’t. According to The State, Bessinger was “distributing pro-slavery audiotapes and gave customers a discount if they bought his literature.” He claimed that slavery in South Carolina was “biblical slavery,” which he argued was more ethical than other forms.
Customers began boycotting his restaurants, and the NAACP and other organizations called on major grocery chains to drop his products – one after another, they did. Bessinger wrote in his 2001 memoir, “Defending My Heritage,” that six major grocery chains, including Walmart, had dropped his products by the end of 2000, and wholesale sales were down 98%.
When you read his memoir, it’s not hard to understand why. Here are a few choice quotes:
“I have concluded that the civil rights movement is a Satanic attempt to make it easier for a global elite…to seize power in the country.”
“The Civil Rights Act of 1964…destroyed property rights and le[d] to blacks being given special favors by government at the expense of whites.”
“It is politically correct to assume that segregation is evil” but the “facts about the Old South don’t bear out this assumption.”
Bessinger also wrote that “Lest you think all has been bad, I have loyal supporters who have stuck with me through this battle.” “There are people,” Bessinger wrote, “who are driving miles, seeking out independent grocery stores…where they can find my products.” One of those places was Glenn McConnell’s Confederate memorabilia shop, which he ran with his brother for 20 years until 2009.
I wrote last week that McConnell came to the defense of Bessinger in 2002 when South Carolina electric and gas giant SCANA banned its employees from parking company trucks at Piggie Park restaurants. Then-State Sen. McConnell “threatened a legislative vendetta” against the company – i.e. revoking its “noncompetitive, monopoly status” – if it didn’t reverse course. He denounced SCANA’s policy as a “basic slap at free speech and freedom of expression” and accused the company of “discriminating against a man’s business because of his political beliefs.” He said that “people around the state are just outraged at the audacity” of SCANA, but he apparently wasn’t outraged by Bessinger and didn’t seem to understand why others were.
As it turns out, McConnell did even more for Bessinger. He not only defended the segregationist against a boycott on First Amendment grounds – he became a distributor of his products. ( continue to full post… )
Yesterday, we explored the neo-Confederate record of South Carolina Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, who was recently selected to be the next president of the College of Charleston. As I noted, McConnell has made promotion of Confederate history and culture a hallmark of his three decades in public office.
That helps explain how, in 2007, then-State Sen. McConnell came to appear on a notorious white nationalist radio program – the Political Cesspool – that hosts the likes of David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. According to the program notes, McConnell appeared during Confederate History Month to discuss the “legacy of the crew of the C.S.S. Hunley submarine as well as the flying of the Confederate Flag on the grounds of the state capitol.” He was described as “very much pro-South.”
The Political Cesspool, hosted by James Edwards, declares in its “mission statement” that it represents “a philosophy that is pro-White” and aims to “revive the White birthrate above replacement level fertility and beyond to grow the percentage of Whites in the world relative to other races.” On the same page, you’ll find an endorsement from Bob Whitaker, a segregationist radio show host, who praises Edwards for giving voice to the “legitimate complaints that gentiles have and our fear of the genocide of immigration and intermarriage.”
The program has hosted a who’s who of white nationalists, racists, anti-Semites and far-right figures. Edwards believes that “Secession is a right of all people and individuals” and uses his show to honor “those who tried to make it successful from 1861 – 1865.” As part of that effort to “honor” Confederate veterans, Edwards brought McConnell on during Confederate History Month.
McConnell told the Charleston Post and Courier yesterday that the only people still debating the Confederate flag at the South Carolina capitol are extremists on both sides. “I’m not going to go back and open up old wounds,” he said. Yet there he was in 2007 attacking the NAACP over the flag issue on a white nationalist radio show.
McConnell, asked by Edwards to lay out the history of the flag debate, said the state hoisted the Confederate flag to mark the centennial of the Civil War. “Nobody had a problem with it until all of a sudden, I believe it was in the 1980s, the NAACP discovered that they were offended by it,” he said. “In the year of 2001, we agreed to remove the flag from the top of the capitol.”
McConnell said they “had biracial and bipartisan support for that, and everybody was happy, but the NAACP.” “Now they come back and they argue they want it taken off the grounds because it’s Confederate.” “For all fair-minded people the controversy was resolved long ago.”
But McConnell said the NAACP was “returning to the trough of controversy, they’re trying to feed on passions, they’re appealing to prejudice and they’re trying to inflame constituents and citizens across our state.” “What’s sad about that is that irresponsible grandstanding threatens to unravel the fabric of mutual respect and to divide our state for decades to come.”
Well, isn’t that rich. There’s nothing like going on a white nationalist program called the Political Cesspool to nurture the “fabric of mutual respect” and attack the NAACP for “fanning the flames of intolerance.”
Glenn McConnell was selected last Saturday to be the next president of the College of Charleston. McConnell is South Carolina’s current Lieutenant Governor and a veteran of the South Carolina State Senate, where he served from 1981 until 2012. He’s also an avid Civil War reenactor, an active member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the former proprietor of a Confederate memorabilia shop.
McConnell’s interest in and promotion of Confederate history and culture have been a hallmark of his three decades in public office – and a steady source of controversy. This history is at the core of the opposition to his appointment among College of Charleston students and faculty.
McConnell made headlines in 2010 when he was photographed in a Confederate uniform posing with two African Americans portraying slaves. And in 2002, McConnell, then one of the most influential figures in state government, came to the defense of racist barbecue baron Maurice Bessinger, owner of the Piggie Park chain.
Bessinger was under siege for displaying the Confederate flag and selling racist tracts at his restaurants, including a pamphlet entitled “The Biblical Justification for Slavery.” When South Carolina’s only Fortune 500 company, electric and gas giant SCANA, banned employees from parking company trucks at Piggie Park restaurants, McConnell “threatened a legislative vendetta” against the company if it didn’t reverse course. He called SCANA’s actions a “basic slap at free speech and freedom of expression” and accused the company of “discriminating against a man’s business because of his political beliefs.” (Be sure to check out this old Daily Show clip featuring South Carolina-native Stephen Colbert interviewing both McConnell and Bessinger.)
McConnell established himself as a defender of the Confederacy in 1996 when South Carolina’s Republican governor, David Beasley, proposed removing the Confederate flag from the capitol dome. McConnell denounced the proposal as “cultural genocide” and compared the governor to Neville Chamberlain for making peace with “militants” – in this case, not the Nazis, but the NAACP. Beasley’s proposal failed and he lost his next election, due in part to anger over his proposal. The flag debate went on. ( continue to full post… )
Forty-three years after it was integrated by court order, Nathan Bedford Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Fla., will drop the name of the Confederate general who ran an infamous antebellum slaveyard, presided over the massacre of surrendering black Yankee troops, and was the first national leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
It was a long time coming.
Initial efforts to change the name of the school, whose student body is now 61% black, were made in the early 1990s but failed. A second attempt, led by local sociology professor Lance Stoll and a few of his students, also failed in 2007, even though Stoll surveyed the local community and jumped through a series of hoops imposed by the school board. The board defied its own policies then, with members voting 5-2 along racial lines to keep the name of the infamous Confederate. ( continue to full post… )
At 22, Matthew Heimbach is a rising white nationalist star, just as eager to get into bed with graying Southern secessionists as he is with steel-toe-boot-wearing neo-Nazis.
Over the past few months, he has rallied with the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan at the invitation of Thom Robb, a Christian Identity pastor who leads the group and for whom Heimbach claims to have “great respect.” He has stood side by side with the Aryan Terror Brigade, and he plans to attend a rally this weekend with the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM) in Kansas City on the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom that left more than 90 Jews dead and some 30,000 imprisoned in concentration camps.
It has been a meteoric rise for someone so young, the likes of which have not really been seen since the anti-Semite David Duke appeared on the campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, dressed as a neo-Nazi and railing against the “Zionist Occupied Government.”
In fact, Heimbach’s profile on the radical right has risen so quickly that rumors have spread across online forums that he is privately working as a federal informant, or even as an agent of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. None of that is true, Heimbach says with a wry grin. But what he is more than willing to admit is that in the years since forming the controversial White Student Union at Towson University in Maryland, where he graduated this year with a degree in history, he been thoroughly radicalized. ( continue to full post… )
Tennessee State Senator Frank Niceley will be a featured speaker tomorrow at the “sixth session” of the Southern National Congress. Despite Niceley’s denials, the group is in fact an offshoot of the League of South, a neo-Confederate hate group that calls for a second secession.
The Southern National Congress first met in Montgomery, Ala., with the stated aim of creating “a permanent forum for the expression of distinct Southern interests, Southern grievances, and Southern solutions.” The Associated Press reported at the time that the “League of the South, a Southern independence group that is viewed as marginal and extremist by critics, is organizing the event.”
The two groups are tightly linked to this day. The current Southern National Congress chairman, Rev. David O. Jones, also chairs the Tennessee chapter of the League of the South, and so on. Nonetheless, Niceley has taken to Twitter to say the groups have little, if anything, to do with one another.
Whether or not Niceley understands the connection between the groups, he has much in common with both. As the Tennessean reported yesterday, he is broadly supportive of Southern secession:
He agrees with the group’s idea that the South might one day be its own nation, like each of the 13 colonies after the American Revolution.
“They delegated a little power to central government. When that fails, we go back to being independent nations,” he said. “We could team up with New Jersey and Oregon if we wanted to.”
Niceley will use his time tomorrow with the neo-Confederates to propose an end-run around the Seventeenth Amendment, which provides the direct election of US Senators. His proposal would reportedly end party primaries, thereby “allowing the legislature’s partisan caucuses to pick the candidates instead.”
As described in the Southern National Congress newsletter (which misspelled Niceley’s name), the proposal would “change the electoral dynamics of the US Senate as the Senators would have to be more responsive to the States rather than that nebulous concept of ‘the people.’”
Ah yes, “the people” is such a nebulous concept. Better to let the Republican legislative caucus decide instead of those pesky voters. That’s what real democracy looks like to a secessionist.
Since word spread about three weeks ago that the neo-Confederate League of the South (LOS) was coming to middle Tennessee this weekend to protest immigration and refugee resettlement, local anti-racists have been working hard to make sure the group’s stay is as uncomfortable as possible.
“We are completely non-violent,” Darlene Neal of the Tennessee Anti Racist Network told Hatewatch. “But we want to disrupt the League’s process, because their process is one of hate mongering and creating divisiveness in communities wherever they go.”
So far, so good. ( continue to full post… )
Earlier this week, racist one-time student organizer Matthew Heimbach assured his followers that he would not throw his neo-Nazi allies “under the bus,” saying it was time to abandon fear and create a “big White Advocacy tent.”
Now, a chief ally is throwing him under the bus instead.
Last night, Michael Hill, head of the neo-secessionist hate group League of the South (LOS), disinvited Heimbach and his followers from an LOS march set for this weekend in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The rally was against the “demographic displacement” of white southerners by people of color. ( continue to full post… )