Early Warning for 06 March 2018: A Recap of Yesterday’s Alt-Right Event at Michigan State University – Forward Observer Shop

Early Warning for 06 March 2018: A Recap of Yesterday’s Alt-Right Event at Michigan State University

Good morning. Here’s your Early Warning for Tuesday, 06 March 2018.

The most recent battle in the Alt-Right/Alt-Left fight occurred yesterday afternoon in the vicinity of Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, Michigan. While trying to attend a 5:00pm speech by Richard Spencer, some members of the Traditional Workers Party (TWP), a national socialist organization, were blocked from entering the facility by antifascist protestors. Some scuffles broke out between TWP leader Matthew Heimbach, other TWP members, and the protestors, while antifascists allegedly threw rocks at the TWP members. [source] At some point during the fighting, Alt-Right member Greg Conte was arrested. [source] Apparently the campus police struggled to maintain order before the event, but finally built a corridor to allow the Alt-Right members into the speech pavilion. Various reports say that around 30-50 Patriot Front and TWP members were present in the face of a couple hundred protestors. A total of 24 activists on both sides were arrested by campus police. [source] Later that evening, Richard Spencer shows up to the police station to meet with and collect Greg Conte and others who were arrested, where he is then confronted by more antifascist organizers.

The day before, on 05 March, a white nationalist conference hosted by Spencer and other Alt-Right organizations was shut down after the location was apparently leaked. Calls from protestors poured into the venue and, upon learning about who they were hosting, the venue cancelled the event. In another instance away from the venue, an Alt-Right supporter was arrested after brandishing a pistol during a scuffle with protestors outside of Ann Arbor, MI. [source]

Analyst Comment: This sounds pretty typical of Richard Spencer’s events: Lower than expected turnout among the Alt-Right, outnumbered by protestors, and ends up speaking to a small crowd of mostly journalists. There are so many points to unpack here:

  • MSU campus police knew well in advance of the Richard Spencer speech, but were severely outnumbered by protestors before the speech. Videos of scuffles show campus police struggling to maintain control over the situation and in some cases are pushed by by protestors. The campus police on scene had to call for back up to deal with the protestors, and only then could they allow Alt-Right activists passage into the facility. We’ve seen before that when law enforcement is prepared and serious about maintaining order, violence is limited although the situations are always volatile. The Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville is demonstrative of what happens when law enforcement doesn’t enforce order, and so I’m left to believe that either MSU was not prepared to handle the situation or that MSU wanted to allow the hundreds of protestors to confront the outnumbered Alt-Right members. Either case is feasible.
  • Why do these Alt-Right events have such poor attendance? The day before a white nationalist conference was scheduled to be held in Detroit, so antifascist activists expected around a hundred or more attendees at yesterday’s speech. Around 30 showed up. The answer is that the Alt-Right is a small fringe group. Antifascist activism severely limits a large turnout because Alt-Right members know that they may be identified and doxxed (have their personal details published on the web) and that their employers will receive hundreds of calls and constant harassment until they fire the Alt-Right member. That limits the number of people who show up to only the most committed activists, who also understand the risk of showing up to a crowd of protestors. So far, the antifascist activist side is winning this conflict because there are no consequences for their activism. In the event that an antifascist is arrested, bail is usually posted or a fundraiser is started to help out with legal costs. If the Alt-Right wants to ‘turn the tide’ and achieve some parity, they’re going to have to compete by getting activists into positions of power and using the state to prevent violence against them.
  • Richard Spencer adopted the strategy of speaking at public universities so he could be assured a venue and a reasonable level of protection during the event. The tactic of “de-platforming” has plagued many on the Alt-Right — including more recently an event in Phoenix, AZ held by Milo Yiannopoulos, who is decidedly not Alt-Right — and events have been routinely cancelled by venues after a deluge of calls and threats from antifascist protestors. By using public institutions, Spencer ensures that he can’t be de-platformed and he also forces Leftist campuses to comply with federal law. Spencer is also under the impression that attacks against Alt-Right members gain the movement some sympathy and support, and that may have been true in 2016 and into last year. More recently, Spencer chose to publicly ally his movement with national socialist and neo-Nazi groups, and he’s alienated a large part of his base: young white men who don’t like the idea of becoming minorities in their own country. Had Spencer led with that as his message and forgone the commitment to socialism and promotion of national socialist groups, then he would probably be enjoying higher levels of popular support. Spencer is not an effective leader of the Alt-Right movement and his inability to bring significant numbers to these events and prevent being accosted by protestors shows that.
  • We’ve also observed a number of damaging leaks by the Alt-Right. There have been tens of thousands of messages leaked from Vanguard America, Patriot Front, and other Alt-Right/fascist Discord servers, in addition to other documents and chat logs (including Facebook groups). For instance, the security planning document from Spencer’s speech at the University of Florida was leaked (as one Alt-Right source told me, “It’s real.”). That document was prepared in the format of an Army operations order, so veterans are likely involved in security planning for at least some of these Alt-Right events. In other instances, names, social media profiles, phone numbers, and a number of other personal information has been stolen by antifascist activists who have likely infiltrated a number of Alt-Right groups. The movement overall has serious security problems and Alt-Right leadership has been ineffective at addressing those needs.
  • On the opposing side, we’ve observed Alt-Left activists and counter-demonstrators using technology to communicate. That includes the use of smartphone apps like Wire or Signal, in addition to radios. We know that in some instances, antifascist activists have used police scanners to listen into radio traffic, and yesterday we observed an antifascist activist doing that. Below are a number of tweets from @antifa_ne, an account that was ‘live tweeting’ scanner traffic.

  • Conclusion: Richard Spencer can’t be proud of his latest event, but he’s been committed to this strategy. Last I checked, Spencer and the National Policy Institute have an appearance pending at the University of Cincinnati. Previously, Spencer focused on holding events at Southern colleges where he might experience more support (UF, Auburn, Texas A&M), and now he appears to be testing a more northern strategy. We’ll have more on other Spencer appearances in the weekly Alt-Observer reports.

Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.

1 Comment

  1. I’m anti-fascist. Michael, I’ll bet you are to. I’m sure as hell not pro-Antifa. I’ll bet you’re not either. Antifa believes otherwise. It could be that I’m just confused about what I’m reading (alot of good info.) but speaking of Antifa as if they are antifascist is an error they you may have fallen for – by design. Antifascism is a virtue that, like stolen valor, Antifa wants to be recognised for. If I am reading correctly, then, I suggest in writing about Antifa that you write ‘Antifa forces’ thereby more clearly distinguishing them from true ‘antifascist forces’.

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