West Virginia: Over the weekend, several Twitter accounts associated with the antifascist movement began posting pictures of and talking about Patriots of Appalachia (POA), an Alt-Right group that describes themselves as “American nationalists”. Antifascist media outlet It’s Going Down described the group as “new” but that’s not accurate. Here’s a rundown…
Beginning in mid- to -late March, activists from Patriots of Appalachia began putting up posters in the vicinity of the West Virginia University campus in Morgantown, WV. Some of these posters were put up on and/or around campus. [source and source] The posters are likely part of an awareness and recruitment initiative, as it appears that POA is rather small right now.
After posters started showing up, antifascist activists took notice and then began associating POA with the now-defunct Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP). The TWP is a national socialist, neo-Nazi group that disbanded last month. (See the 16 March Alt-Observer Weekly for additional information.) In a statement on Twitter, POA denied being a national socialist organization, saying that they have no economic or political platform, and also denied being affiliated with the TWP, either previously or currently. [source and source] Several of their Twitter posts also accuse neo-Nazi groups as detrimental to their cause, and refer to them as “lapers”. (LARP stands for Live Action Role Play, and refers to the more juvenile street battles so prevalent at many Alt-Right and right wing events.)
According to Twitter posts, POA describes their group as “Appalachian Identitarians” who want to preserve Appalachian culture. The POA posted a well-produced video to their YouTube channel last week which features video and audio of Richard Spencer, so they’re firmly an Alt-Right/white nationalist group. Several of their twitter posts include photos of camo-clad members on camping trips, and a video of members shooting slugs from a shotgun. With regard to training, the group has an apparent focus on practicing bushcraft and other outdoor skills. The one video tells viewers to join “Outdoorsman Appalachia” and features background music that’s often referred to as “fashwave”, re-purposed electronic music reminiscent of the 1980s synthwave genre. Outdoorsman Appalachia is probably the name they used before POA.
POA has also described themselves as a “patriotic fraternity”, both online and as evidenced by one of their posters. They appear to be a small but active group among the Alt-Right spectrum.
Despite the focus on outdoors and being a fraternity, POA is a white identitarian, Alt-Right group looking to recruit new members in West Virginia and likely beyond. As for the potential to cause civil unrest and systems disruption, that’s still likely to come in the form of counter-demonstrations and protests by violent antifascist activists against POA.