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‘Youthful face of hate in America’ has made presence known in Kentucky

Matthew Heimbach, center, and other members of the Traditionalist Worker Party spread their message in Beattyville.
Matthew Heimbach, center, and other members of the Traditionalist Worker Party spread their message in Beattyville. The Washington Post

“Get out! Leftist scum! Get out!”

Video of the Louisville rally

In the video, the bearded white man wears a black shirt and a red baseball cap with the words Make America Great Again. He is yelling at a young black woman. He shoves her once, then again, screaming at her to leave. The crowd around him is agitated. Others push the woman as well. Many are yelling.

There had been clashes between supporters and protesters at Donald Trump rallies before, but this one in Louisville last month stood out. The racial imagery was jarring, the violence only barely contained. When video of the encounter went viral, most who saw it had no idea who the man was. But his followers knew. And so did the people who track hate groups.

The day after the rally, Matthew Heimbach, 25, a white nationalist who grew up in an affluent Maryland community and now lives in rural Indiana, acknowledged online that he was the one in the video pushing the woman. The object of his fury, Kashiya Nwanguma, 21, a public health major at the University of Louisville, has joined two others in suing Trump in Jefferson Circuit Court for inciting a riot. The suit also accuses Heimbach of assaulting Nwanguma.

Heimbach’s supporters cheered his actions, praising him for standing up to the protesters. But for those who have been tracking his rise, the video raised new worries about Heimbach. Some compare him to David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and the country’s best known white nationalist.

“He’s the affable, youthful face of hate in America,” said Ryan Lenz, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog.

Heimbach doesn’t hide his extremism. He has had his picture taken at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington holding a sign that reads “6 million? More like 271,301.” In another photo, in front of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s grave in Atlanta, he unfurled the first flag of the Confederacy. After terrorist attacks in Brussels in March, he tweeted, “Hey Brussels, how’s that multiculturalism working out for you?”

His racial worldview has cost him jobs and led to his excommunication from his Orthodox Christian church. It has created a rift between him and his parents, and confounded those who knew him in Maryland.

Why, they ask, would someone as smart and educated as Heimbach choose to assert that the Holocaust never happened, that lynchings in the South were mostly deserved, that apartheid in South Africa was not as bad as people have said and that if white Americans don’t set off a homeland for themselves then the future of white America is in jeopardy?

Short- and long-term

Heimbach recently drove to Western Kentucky with members of his Traditionalist Worker Party. In Madisonville, Heimbach met with Colton Williams, 23, a dishwasher, and Chappy, 37, a tattoo artist. The three men and other party members went door to door in small towns struggling with high unemployment rates encouraging people to join them.

“We don’t consider ourselves a hate group at all,” Chappy says. “We don’t hate anybody.”

Heimbach concurs. “We advocate for our people, but I don’t wish pain or death or suffering for anyone else.”

What they want, they say, is to make sure that elected officials are addressing the needs of poor and blue-collar white That’s the short-term plan.

The long-term plan is grander. Heimbach foresees the United States being divided into autonomous racial states with white Christians free to live apart and outside of the control of any federal authority. Other racial groups would have their own lands, and an area would be set aside for people who wanted to continue living in a multicultural society. The goal would be for each race to protect its identity, and for Heimbach that means protecting whites.

“The system, which is a multiethnic empire, doesn’t care about us,” he says. “We’re under attack. White people need an advocate.”

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