White supremacists gather for annual Stormfront summit

Counterprotesters heckle the attendees of a conference for Stormfront, a white supremacist forum linked to murders.

    Neo-Nazis demonstrate in front of the US Capitol in 2008, in Washington, DC [File: Haraz N. Ghanbari/Associated Press]
    Neo-Nazis demonstrate in front of the US Capitol in 2008, in Washington, DC [File: Haraz N. Ghanbari/Associated Press]

    White supremacists from across the United States have gathered in the state of Tennessee for the annual Stormfront forum summit, drawing protests from some community members and anti-racist activists. 

    Dozens of protesters heckled the white supremacists as the summit attendees convened, according to local media. 

    With more than 330,000 members, Stormfront is a leading web forum for white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis, among others. 

    The forum started on Saturday in Crossville, a small town located 70km west of Knoxville, Tennessee and was announced by founder Don Black back in July. 

    Black, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), reportedly fell ill and has been unable to attend the conference. Billy Roper, another white supremacist, took Black's place. 

    Among the attendees are several leaders and prominent figures of far-right groups from across the country.

    Matthew Heimbach, head of the Traditionalist Worker Party, a self-professed fascist organisation, was present, as was Michael Hill, who runs the neo-Confederate League of the South. 

    The exact location of the summit was revealed in a private thread after it was changed from Knoxville, a much larger city, to Crossville, which is home to just over 10,000 people. 

    'Murder capital of the internet' 

    The Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors hate groups, describes Stormfront as the "leading white supremacist web forum" and "murder capital of the internet". 

    Between 1999 and 2014, the SPLC documented nearly 100 cases of Stormfront members carrying out "bias-related homicides". 

    In August, hundreds of white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the city's decision to remove a Confederate statue. 

    READ MORE: Inside the alt-right - 'Genocidal behind closed doors'

    That rally, which was dubbed "Unite the Right", was the largest of its kind in the country's recent history. Attendees clashed with community members, anti-racists and anti-fascist activists throughout the city. 

    By the end of the day, 20-year-old James Alex Fields, who was photographed marching with a neo-Nazi group earlier in the day, allegedly ploughed his car into an anti-racist march, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. 

    Following Charlottesville, far-right groups endured institutional and public backlash, with several cities and universities denying permits for their events and large counter-protests staged against events that did take place. 

    'They are neo-fascists'

    Several websites affiliated with far-right groups were also taken offline, while social media outlets cancelled the accounts of several prominent white supremacist activists. 

    Stormfront was among the many sites taken down. On Friday, however, the website was back online after a long dispute with the web host service. 

    "The reason why they took it down is because there were more than 100 deaths attributed to people who boasted on Stormfront," said Daryl Lamont Jenkins, an anti-fascist researcher and founder of the One People's Project.

    READ MORE: How neo-Nazis 'burn crosses' from behind a keyboard

    "Shouldn't that have happened after the first death?" he told Al Jazeera ahead of the summit. 

    "They are neo-fascists, and people don't want anything to do with it anymore." 

    Many far-right groups rallied behind US President Donald Trump's electoral campaign and celebrated his victory, pointing to policies designed to limit immigration and repeal affirmative action, among others.

    Jenkins said: "The government is basically going to do their bidding because these are Trump's supporters." 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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