The Georgia Peach Oyster Bar sits along a rural highway about 45 miles west of Atlanta. From the outside, it could pass for a single-story house if not for the neon beer signs. Inside, it looks like any other dusty saloon in the dregs of Dixie: a bar, pool tables under Bud Light lamps hanging from the ceiling, a TV mounted in the corner of the room. It’s what’s behind a single doorway leading to a backroom that makes the Georgia Peach unique.
Dozens of white nationalists from various groups across the country gathered here on a Saturday night in April and spirits were high, giving the room the feel of a white supremacist theme park. In one corner, a tattoo station where shirtless men were getting inked up. In another, a guy sold T-shirts featuring swastikas and hooded Ku Klux Klansmen with the words “The Original Boys in the Hood.” Centered along a back wall was a stage with a podium, the backdrop comprised of a banner with the contact information for the National Socialist Movement (NSM), the predominant neo-Nazi group in the United States, as well as swastikas and other white nationalist imagery.
A porch off the back of the building looks out over a multi-acre horse pasture, an idyllic country scene were it not for the 15-foot wooden cross and swastika that three neo-Nazis were wrapping in burlap and dousing in gasoline in preparation for the night’s festivities. Inside the bar, attendees milled about smoking cigarettes and sipping drinks in celebration of what they are calling an historic event.
Later, after the sun had set on the Georgia Peach, approximately 75 white supremacists gathered in the horse pasture. Members of different factions of the Ku Klux Klan, in ceremonial robes and hoods, were joined by members of the NSM and several other white nationalist groups, as well as several unaffiliated individuals who are sympathetic to the white nationalist agenda. They had all flocked to Georgia that day to attend two racially fueled rallies in support of the "white pride" movement. Each person in the group was given a wooden torch before forming a circle around the cross and swastika.
“For God! For race! For nation!” Will Quigg, the Grand Wizard of the California chapter of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, shouted to the group of white nationalists. “Approach your symbol. Do not turn your back on the symbol.”
On Quigg’s command, the group set the two symbols ablaze. Cheers of “White Power” echoed across the field.
It would be just another rally for racists were it not for the cross and the swastika burning side-by-side. For those unfamiliar with the white nationalist movement, both are racist emblems that seemingly go hand in hand. But for those in the movement, the union of these two symbols is the dawning of a new era of white supremacy.
Neo-Nazi groups, Klan organizations and other breeds of white nationalists generally have similar beliefs: the superiority of the white race. They advocate for a white nation. Historically, some members of these groups have used violence to push their agendas. But these groups don’t get along—their differences often come down to issues as petty as what uniforms to wear—which has led to a lack of organization and little unity amongst factions. If you ask the organizers, the party at the Georgia Peach was the beginning of a new wave of the white nationalist movement. An era of cooperation, organization, and unity—a grand collaboration to push the movement forward.
“This is making history,” NSM Commander Jeff Schoep told the group as the cross and swastika continued to burn. “We are putting together all the white organizations … There is no more time for division, whether it’s over religion, whether it’s over uniforms, whether it’s over symbols. If you’re still trying to create division and you’re trying to say you’re involved in this white power movement, there is something wrong with you.”
The previous night, Schoep presided over a meeting of the newly-formed Aryan Nationalist Alliance. Gathering at the Georgia Peach with the leaders of the other groups, Schoep and his brethren signed a document pledging support to this new umbrella organization of white supremacists. The alliance guarantees each group’s autonomy and pledges support to each organization. “Our race is our nation, and our skin is our uniform,” the agreement states. One NSM member said he hoped the organization would lead to a legal resource center for white people and even a college fund for white children.
“This is something we haven’t seen in the United States in maybe forever, at least in decades,” Schoep told Vocativ. “So it was something that I felt needed to be done and needed to be said. So we came up with Aryan National Alliance and drafted a document and basically said this is something all the groups need to do: come together. We have about ten organizations on so far and should have a few more coming on.
“We’ve had a major problem with [infighting] in the past,” he continued. “Groups would hate each other and sometimes it would even erupt in violence. And we put an end to it once and for all.”
Warning: Video below contains strong language and images that some may find offensive.
The official alliance of white supremacist organizations comes at a time when there is a surge in extremist organizations emerging across the country. White nationalists see a litany of significant problems that draw people to their ranks, including lax border security and President Barack Obama’s executive actions to give U.S. citizenship to millions of undocumented immigrants. Then there’s the federal government’s plan to allow Syrian refugees into the country, not to mention the removal of the Confederate battle flag from statehouses across the South after Dylann Roof, a self-made white supremacist inspired by white-pride rhetoric, allegedly killed nine people at a predominantly black church in South Carolina. Add to that the candidacy of Donald Trump, who has certainly helped fan the flames of white supremacy with his anti-immigrant rhetoric. The success of the Black Lives Matter movement threw additional fuel on the fire.
“We have a black president, gay marriage is now legal in this country. There’s so many modernizing influences over the last 20 years or so,” said J. Michael Martinez, an expert on Klan history and author of "Carpetbaggers, Cavalry, and the Ku Klux Klan." “So many Klansmen have those old South values and they’ve become increasingly marginalized. Their isolationist behavior has not been good for them for the last 20 years or so. I hate to say it, but it’s probably a good move for them to organize and do things differently than they have for the last few decades.”
This is making history. We are putting together all the white organizations...there is no more time for division. Jeff Schoep, Commander of the National Socialist Movement
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights advocacy group that keeps tabs on extremist groups like the Klan and the NSM, there has been a 14 percent increase in extremist hate groups in the U.S. since last year. As Vocativ has previously reported, those numbers may be skewed. But the white nationalist movement believes that now is the time to make a big play, appealing to the masses that they believe are fed up with society’s ongoing drift from white, Euro-centric culture.
“We have the potential to reach truly millions of people with our message of European culture of faith, family, and folk—and solidarity—that the Republicans could never reach,” white nationalist Matthew Heimbach, a rising star in the movement, told a crowd of about dozen or so members of a neo-Confederate group in March. “We have the potential to be able to work with so many of these millions of families to be able to then move them in our direction. Donald Trump is a gateway drug…we can then move them from civic nationalism and populism to nationalism for us—and these people are ready for our message.”
When asked directly whether the white nationalist movement has an undertone of violence, the leaders will tell you no—it’s hard to recruit people from the mainstream when advocating for the death of a particular group. But when they’re standing around a burning cross, all bets are off.
“Death to the ungodly!” “Death to the Jews!” “How many Jews can you fit in a Volkswagen? However many you can fit in the ashtray!”
Those are the types of comments that were made by white nationalists in the pasture that night. As the swastika and cross fizzled out, Grand Dragon Quigg urged members to prepare for battle.
“It’s time to unite! It’s time to fight! And we’ll discuss politics when it’s over,” he shouted to the group. “The race war is upon us. We need to have our weapons ready. We need to have food and water stored.”
One-on-one, however, members of the groups sing a more moderate tune.
“We’re a political movement, we’re not a hatred movement,” one NSM member said, explaining that white nationalists don’t seek out violence, but will defend themselves vigorously if violence finds them.
Without any sort of organization, recruitment has been an ongoing struggle for the white nationalist movement. That, too, is changing, according to leaders within the movement.
“We’re using social networking. We still use the old-school leaflets. We have NSM records,” said the NSM’s Schoep. “We’ve got the music. We’ve produced video games … There’s so many things that we do to outreach ... We try to be all-encompassing.”
The NSM has an active Twitter account and also produces National Socialist podcasts used to recruit new members. Facebook, however, deletes all of the NSM’s accounts, the leaders said, so they’ve abandoned a Zuckerberg-approved recruitment strategy. Face-to-face meetings, said Schoep, is still the organization’s bread-and-butter.
One of the unaffiliated white nationalists present at the Georgia Peach was a 36-year-old man who declined to give his name. He was wearing a Donald Trump campaign T-shirt that said “Lyin Ted,” referring to Trump’s nickname for Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Trump’s top opponent in the GOP primary for president. He said he drove to Georgia from South Carolina to attend a white nationalist rally at Stone Mountain, a site sacred to the KKK that is often referred to as the “Confederate Mt. Rushmore,” due to the relief of Confederate heroes Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis carved in the side of the mountain.
This man said he’d never been a part of any particular white nationalist group, but that he’d seen some of the literature online and decided to make the trek to Stone Mountain to show his support for movement. While he was there, he met other white nationalists who invited him to the after-party at the Georgia Peach, about an hour away from the Stone Mountain rally. He made the drive alone in his two-door Saturn, but was embraced by the robed Klansmen once he arrived. By the end of the night, despite having never participated in a white nationalist event before, he was standing in a circle with a torch in his hand, eagerly waiting to light the cross on fire.
Not everyone is convinced that unifying individual groups of white nationalists will be successful, or is even in the best interest of the movement. According to Klan expert Martinez, the lack of a centralized organization traditionally has been “both the strength and the weakness—they were everywhere and they were nowhere. It was all so shadowy and behind the scenes.”
Mark Pitcavage is a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, a civil rights advocacy group similar to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He scoffs at the white nationalists’ confidence in the success of their new alliance.
“Bless their hearts,” he told Vocativ. “I’m sure they’re cross-half-burned sort of people. They’re probably also ignorant of how these things have gone in the past.”
According to Pitcavage, this is hardly the historic moment the white nationalists are making it out to be. “This is something that white supremacists try every now and then. There have been Klan umbrella groups and other generic umbrella groups. They last for a couple of years. It doesn’t really help them do anything that they weren’t already doing.” Regardless, he said, these types of groups are still very dangerous.
The threat from groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the NSM isn’t from the organizations themselves, but from individual members inside the groups and those who are susceptible to white nationalist propaganda—people like Dylann Roof who buy into the rhetoric and take action into their own hands.
“They’re not doing crime at the behest of the group,” said Pitcavage. “The dangerous ones are individuals doing an act. They’ve been radicalized by the group but then go off and do their own thing. The criminal activity comes from the movement, not the groups.”
Bless their hearts. I'm sure they're cross-half-burned sort of people. They're probably also ignorant of how these things have gone in the past. Mark Pitcavage, Senior Research Fellow at Anti-Defamation League
Perhaps even more dangerous than groups like the Klan and the NSM are other, milder groups that help push a watered down version of the white supremacist agenda into the mainstream. Take, for instance, Matthew Heimbach, the new face of white nationalism.
“What’s different about Matthew Heimbach is this: you have the tattooed racists who wear their hate on their sleeves,” said Marilyn Mayo, another research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, who previously spoke to Vocativ. “Then you have the intellectual, business-suit racists like Jared Taylor [a Yale-educated white nationalist] who wouldn’t be caught dead with a white power tattoo. Heimbach is somewhere in between. He’s the youthful leader… He’s the bridge between hardcore racists and the intellectuals.”
Each of the white nationalist leaders with whom Vocativ spoke agreed that Heimbach is someone they’d like to see join the Aryan Nationalist Alliance, but there are no plans to change their agenda to fall more inline with mainstream beliefs. Said NSM Commander Schoep, “Our founder, Commander [George Lincoln] Rockwell, he said, ‘you know, they’re gonna call us Nazis anyway. So by god, we’ll give them Nazis.’”
Visit Vocativ.com for more coverage on racism in America: