Failed Neo-Nazi effort to rally at George Floyd's grave reveals a movement with global connections and infighting
White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" march in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File

The second round of nationwide White Lives Matter rallies that took place this past weekend turned out to be even more underwhelming than the inaugural event on April 11.

Repeating the dismal performance of last month's rallies, white supremacists mustered only a paltry turnout in a handful of locations across North America, with antifascists infiltrating their planning chats and turning out larger groups of protesters. Many of the local White Lives Matter organizers canceled their events altogether. While last month's White Lives Matter event in Huntington Beach, Calif. turned violent, the state admin took to Telegram on the morning of May 8 to urge supporters to "do some banner drops/sticker activism," before announcing, "California will not have an official event."

Planning chats, which were leaked by an antifascist infiltrator and disseminated by Corvallis Antifa on the eve of the rallies, reveal a segment of the US white power movement with global connections that is restless to assert a more visible presence and capitalize on white backlash against racial justice protests, but still also constrained by concern about alienating potential supporters through extremist rhetoric. The chats reveal significant crossties with the Proud Boys, dozens of whose members face federal charges for storming the US Capitol, and with Patriot Front, an avowedly fascist group that has shied away from publicity since the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. The involvement of members of the Proud Boys and Patriot Front in the White Lives Matter rallies has caused considerable dissension within both organizations, and churn within the broader white power movement.

Emblematic of the potential for escalation as a result of schisms from more established white power groups, the admin of the Texas channel who uses the Telegram handle @rooftoparyan disclosed ties to both Patriot Front and the Proud Boys. In the White Lives Matter chats, @rooftoparyans reported that his involvement with White Lives Matter caused him to get pushed out of Patriot Front, while claiming that he was assembling a more militant group of activists that wanted to rally at the cemetery outside of Houston where George Floyd is buried.

The anonymous supreme organizer, who like the private forum where the planning for the rallies took place is identified as "Vetted admin basket," initially poured cold water on the idea, but @rooftoparyan persisted.

@rooftoparyan told his fellow organizers on May 1 "the more militant guys" in his local group were pushing him to hold the rally at the cemetery, adding, "Personally, I like the idea, to be honest." @rooftoparyan, who claims to be a military veteran, defended the idea of holding a white supremacist rally at the grave of Black man who was murdered by the police as "slapping these parasites back in the face for all the slaps whites have taken in the past year specifically." He went on to express resentment about the removal of "statues to great white men, a lot of which are my heroes here in Dixie," while taking offense at the honor bestowed on Floyd.

Three hours later, "Vetted admin basket" replied, encouraging the cemetery rally while attempting to prevent it from being publicly associated with "White Lives Matter."

"So we love the idea of some sort of 'event' happening at that location," the supreme organizer wrote. "However, it shouldn't be a WLM event. This is because we are 'WLM,' not 'anti-BLM.' We see this idea as an 'anti' message not a 'pro' message. What you all do on your own time, however, is up to you."

After learning about the plans, a group called Screwston Anti-fascist Committee reported that they mobilized a coalition of local groups and individuals to show up at the mausoleum where Floyd is buried.

"On Saturday morning, a sizable group of Houstonians assembled and marched through the graveyard with flowers, which were laid near Floyd's grave," the Screwston Anti-fascist Committee reported. "We stayed until well after the neo-Nazi group had been planning to appear. They apparently changed plans on short notice and never showed up, possibly having caught wind of our counter-protest and being intimidated."

In another comment by @rooftoparyan on May 3 he describes his group as "12 NS guys" — national socialists, or Nazis — who are "all a bit younger and less experienced than me."

@rooftoparyan's Telegram handle suggests his orientation towards race war. The name is likely a play on the phrase "rooftop Koreans," referring to Korean shopkeepers who took up positions on rooftops while armed with guns during the 1992 LA riots to defend their stores from looters. Their example has been widely embraced by white supremacists, boogaloo boys and right-wing paramilitary actors, with the term "rooftop" being repurposed in various contexts to indicate a proactive tactical stance.

Further solidifying his inclination towards race war, @rooftoparyan posted in the White Lives Matter chats on April 23: "I still thank God to this day I picked up TTD." Written by William Pierce, founder of the neo-Nazi group National Alliance, the 1978 book The Turner Diaries is considered an essential text by white supremacists and serves as a blueprint for insurrection, inspiring Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, among other violent attacks.

These are not ideas or aims that are likely to go down easily with the mainstream Trump supporters the white power movement seeks to recruit. While former President Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene who have aligned themselves with him stoke white grievance, overt Nazism remains a liability for most of their supporters.

One day before his comment disclosing the impact of The Turner Diaries on his life, @rooftoparyan encapsulated the balancing act that the "White Lives Matter" white supremacists are attempting to pull off: Appeal to the mainstream while reining in the white power movement's most radioactive elements.

"Not only do we have to wake up the normies, but we have to cool off the radicals that think everything just needs to explode right now," @rooftoparyan wrote.

Later, on the same day, he reflected on the need to conceal his true beliefs while engaging with potential allies.

"The most extreme position I take openly is mass deportation and ethno-states," he wrote. "Tribalism is life. Everyone would be must better off in their own homelands."

A couple days later, @rooftoparyan would announce that he had been "kicked off all the PF servers." Previously, in the White Lives Matter chat, he had reported: "Patriot Front is in the process of suspending or outright kicking me out right now for organizing WLM in Texas. I just got into an argument with the coordinator of my area."

But he was still involved with the Proud Boys.

"PBs are cool with me organizing but won't back us up as a club," @rooftoparyan wrote. "I'm still working on them."

As an organization publicly positioned as civic nationalist that is led by a man who self-identifies as Afro-Cuban, some of the Proud Boys' rank-and-file members are receptive to white power organizing. But those linkages create a liability for the leadership, which has cultivated support from the Asian-American and Latinx communities.

Jaz Searby, whose Telegram account identifies him as the president of the Proud Boys Borderland chapter, disclosed in the chats that his role as organizer of the Australia White Lives Matter rally put him at odds with others in his organization.

"I was threatened with being disavowed if I interview Tom Sewell," Searby reported, referring to the leader of the Australian neo-Nazi group National Socialist Network.

"My whole chapter quit because of it," Searby added.

After getting frozen out of Patriot Front, @rooftoparyan wanted to know how far the new White Lives Matter formation was willing to go, including openly speaking about what white supremacists call the "JQ," or the "Jewish question."

"How is WLM going to play into building up the NS community?" he asked. "Like I see how the red-pilling is working and it's definitely helping me find guys that think like me, but is WLM ever going to go full NS? Or is drawing the normies in and then pushing our literature and the JQ how we are going about it? Just curious; if that's above my level, I understand."

The response from the supreme organizer was coy, writing, "We are pro-white. That implies pro-NS. But not restrictive to."

Tacitly acknowledging that openly calling themselves Nazis isn't tenable, the leader discussed a conspiracy theory known as "white replacement" while positioning White Lives Matter as the resistance.

"I don't know if you can get more NS than this anyway, even if you don't label it," they said.