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After Charlottesville, White Supremacists Encounter Mainstream Resistance


As Charlottesville shows, the white nationalist movement is aggressively renewing its bid for legitimacy after decades on the fringes. White supremacists, neo-Nazis and other far-right groups hope to make their ideas about race and immigration more mainstream. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann has been looking at this movement and where it's headed in the aftermath of Charlottesville. And, Brian, how are the people you've been speaking to reacting to what happened over the weekend?

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Well, first, a lot of them are angry. They think that the police did not provide protection that was promised for their march. And they think a lot of the violence that - you know, they're really blaming it on the police. But there's also a lot of satisfaction. They feel like this kind of an event gives them mainstream publicity. They're on the nightly news. People are hearing about their presence in the culture and about some of their ideas, and they think that's a good thing.

CORNISH: How do they characterize their ideas at this point?

MANN: Well, there is this effort to make it sound like this is a fight for white cultural survival. Here's an example of that narrative in one of the most influential white power podcasts.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is a peaceful political advocacy movement on behalf of white people in the United States and white people in Europe and Australia and South Africa and around the world.

CORNISH: So how do they explain, I guess, what - the images we saw - people who arrived at this event armed?

MANN: Right, armed and also wearing, you know, Nazi regalia and other, you know, really controversial symbols. And basically what the activists I've been talking to tell me is that they are willing to do anything at this point to keep this idea of white identity and white power in the conversation and in the mix. They're willing to partner with anyone. They're willing to march. They're willing to fight. So there is, you know, kind of this range of messages, an effort for the mainstream but also a real willingness to take this to the street.

CORNISH: Did you get any sense that they were chastened by the death of one of the protesters and the violence that happened?

MANN: There's a lot of talk in the far-right media the last couple of days about the deaths of the two police officers who died in the helicopter crash and a lot of concern about how that will reflect on their movement. They're worried about how law enforcement will interpret that. In terms of the automobile attack that's now under investigation, there's a real effort in the movement to distance themselves from that, so to claim that it was some kind of an accident or perhaps the driver was provoked by people attacking his car. So there's really no contrition there at all.

CORNISH: Where do you see this movement headed next based on these conversations?

MANN: Well, right now, what they're trying to do is organize more of these rallies, more of these confrontations, trying to get on to more college campuses. They hope that the cameras will keep rolling. Again, a lot of people will push back. We heard Donald Trump describing this movement as repugnant this week. But at the same time, there are going to be a lot of people doing Google searches and showing up at these podcasts and websites. And this is still a very fringe movement. And so if they can attract some new recruits from this, they see that as a big win.

CORNISH: That's Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio. Thank you for speaking with us.

MANN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brian Mann
Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.