A white nationalist group that was involved in a violent brawl with anti-racist protesters this weekend in Sacramento has announced its plans to be at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 18-21 to protect Donald Trump supporters. A spokesman for the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP), which organized Sunday’s march where at least five people were stabbed, told McClatchy that roughly 30 members of the group would be in attendance at the GOP event. “We’re essentially just going to show up and make sure that the Donald Trump supporters are defended from the leftist thugs,” he said.
This has become a bit of a party line for TWP. The group, which was joined by the Golden State Skinheads (GSS) in planning Sunday’s rally, said on its website ahead of the demonstration that it would serve “to make a statement about the precarious situation our race is in,” as evidenced by protesters’ previous “brutal assaults” against Donald Trump supporters.
The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that TWP head Matthew Heimbach — who previously made a mainstream name for himself after he was captured on video physically assaulting a young black woman at a Trump rally — tweeted before the event, “We won’t bow down to leftist scum.”
The conflict at Sunday’s event reportedly occurred instantaneously, with the estimated 30 TWP and GSS in attendance being met by 400 counter-protesters. (“I don’t think there was any verbal exchange, just full-on fight,” the press officer for the California Highway Patrol told the Los Angeles Times.) Although followup reports have stated the injured represent both sides in attendance, Heimbach has boasted that the majority of those wounded were anti-racism protesters. “They got 1 of ours, but we got 6 of them,” Heimbach tweeted after the clash, according to the SPLC. “[Six anti-fascists] on the way to the hospital.”
TWP, which on its website states that “European-American identity is under constant attack by members of American institutions such as the state, education, culture and even churches,” is just one of several pro– and anti-Trump groups gearing up for the convention. Other Trump-supporting factions include “Bikers for Trump…Tea Party-affiliated organizations, a new group called Stop The Steal led by Trump ally Roger Stone, Citizens for Trump, and Truckers for Trump,” according to the AP.
Conventions always have a healthy turnout of demonstrators, but the rancorous tone of Trump’s campaign and the violence that has become a staple of his rallies have made this year’s RNC of particular concern to authorities. In anticipation of potential skirmishes between opposing groups, the city of Cleveland planned to have a nearly four-square-mile “event zone” with high-level security and bans on protests, but a judge just ruled against those measures, citing free speech violations. City officials say they will have 200 beds ready for “fresh arrests” during the convention, according to Talking Points Memo.
TWP’s self-appointment as the guardian of Trump’s masses is only vaguely surprising, considering the candidate has become a favorite among white nationalists and various other racists who form the base of his coalition. In Trump, America’s white power types see a candidate who speaks directly to their bigotry; a presidential nominee who goes beyond dog-whistles and subtle codes to shout their racism out loud.
The Trump camaign selected a white nationalist as a delegate, then asked him to step down once Mother Jones ran a story that inspired outrage. Vice magazine recently covered the annual American Renaissance conference, held by the white supremacist magazine of the same name, where the suit-and-tie braintrust of the white nationalist crowd gathered to discuss how Trump has energized racists, embolding them to be loud and proud with their hatred. Attendance at this year’s conference was up 50 percent over 2015, thanks in no small measure to the GOP’s current bright, shining star.
“Donald Trump has not thought through questions of race in any depth at all, as far as I can tell,” Jared Taylor, founder of American Renaissance, told Vice. “He just has instincts. His instincts, I’m guessing, are opposed to having to press one for English when he turns on the telephone. His instincts are against walking into a 7-11 and being surrounded by people that he can’t understand. His instincts are against walking down a street in New York City and finding more people from Asia or Africa or the Middle East than people of European origin.”
“I think Donald Trump is an expression of this general angst amongst white people,” says Richard Spencer, head of the National Policy Institute — an “independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent” — in the video. “It’s a kind of implicit identity politics.”
From here, it’s hard to know how disruptive a presence TWP, or any of the other white nationalists and racists supporting Trump, will be to the RNC. But they are, by virtue of their very presence, attempting to play up the idea of white people in America as victims of an increasingly multicultural society that has denied them every right to which they are entitled — emphasis on “entitled” — including free speech.
“Make no mistake,” says Levin “I think the hatemongers wanted to have this violence take place.”Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State University, tells Raw Story that violence against white supremacists allows them to keep up the falsified narrative of a class “under siege.” While he acknowledged that “some of the anti-fascists” in Sacramento wanted to have a violent face-off with the white nationalists, being under attack is good for the white power crowd’s image.