Update 11/08/17: The fifth and final participant in the Burnette Chapel protest (who gave the name of “Leah” to media) has been identified as Florida resident Haley Olivia Copeland.
Justin Burger (Douglasville, Georgia), Ian Booton (Gibson, GA) and University of Central Florida Student Simon Michael Dickerman in Far-Right Flash Protest at Burnette Chapel
On Sunday, October 29, white nationalists held a five-person flash protest outside the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee (about twenty minutes from Nashville.) A month earlier, gunman Emanuel Kidega Samson targeted Burnette Chapel, killing one congregation member and wounding seven more. A note left in the shooter’s car allegedly mentioned Dylann Roof, the white supremacist responsible for 2015 massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. White nationalists have now seized on the Burnette Chapel shooting for propaganda purposes, for a couple of reasons. First, the mention of Dylann Roof in the note left in Samson’s vehicle could be used to build a “revenge” narrative around the Antioch shooting — a narrative which is helpful to white nationalists. Second, Emanuel Samson was born in Sudan but spent most of his life in the United States. Far-Right commentators such as Alabama-based League of the South publicist/“Alt-South” blogger Bradley Dean Griffin have seized upon the Antioch shooting to increase racist and anti-immigrant sentiment. The shooting is also useful to white nationalists because it can be used to draw false equivalencies and to deflect attention from their own movement’s role in radicalizing Charleston murderer Dylann Roof.
The Burnette Chapel attack was referenced frequently by the Nationalist Front –- a racist umbrella grouping involving the National Socialist Movement, League of the South, Traditionalist Worker Party, Vanguard America and others –- as it organized for its “White Lives Matter” demonstration in Middle Tennessee on Saturday, October 28. Apart from flash mobs, the “White Lives Matter” rally was the first major street demonstration by white nationalists in the US, since the bloody and disastrous “Unite the Right” rally in Virginia this August. Nationalist Front organizers had initially planned to demonstrate in both Shelbyville and Murfreesboro on Saturday the 28th, but after their forces were outnumbered in Shelbyville, Nationalist Front organizers abruptly canceled their second demonstration in Murfreesboro, where a large counter-protest awaited them. On Saturday night following the dismal Shelbyville rally, members of the racist and fascist Traditionalist Worker Party assaulted an interracial couple at a pub in Brentwood, Tennessee.
Throughout the weekend of the “White Lives Matter” rally, rumors swirled that Nationalist Front members would show up in Antioch and hold a protest outside Burnette Chapel. However, no such protest occurred on Friday. On Saturday in Shelbyville, racist organizers announced an evening presence at the Antioch church, but this event was eventually cancelled just as the Murfreesboro demonstration had been earlier. However, the next morning, a handful of militant racists showed up outside Burnette Chapel with a banner, until the arrival of police shooed them away. The flash protest was documented by Newsweek correspondent Michael Hayden. By showing up at a church that had already experienced trauma and violence, the white nationalists made it even plainer that their movement does not care about the Burnette Chapel congregation. The racist movement just hoped to exploit a tragedy for its own agenda.
The five white nationalist protesters outside Burnette Chapel on Sunday stated to Newsweek that they were part of Identity Evropa, a racist organization that focuses on college-aged recruits. However, Identity Evropa leader Elliott Kline (AKA “Eli Mosley”) has denied that the five demonstrators in Antioch were members, claiming instead that they were “trolling” by mentioning Identity Evropa as their organization. Surprisingly, Kline seems to be correct. One of the white power protesters outside Burnette Chapel has been identified by Nebraska antifascists as Daniel Kleve of the Vanguard America, which unlike Identity Evropa is affiliated with the Nationalist Front. Although one of the Antioch, Tennessee protesters (who gave her name as “Leah”) remains unidentified, we have identified the remaining three as Justin William Burger of Douglasville, Georgia; Ian Mathis George Booton of Gibson, Georgia; and University of Central Florida student Simon Michael Dickerman. Similarly to Daniel Kleve of Nebraska, Burger, Booton, and Dickerman traveled from out-of-state to participate in the “White Lives Matter” demonstration.
Burger makes his affiliation with the Traditionalist Worker Party and the Nationalist Front clear on social media, sharing a Nationalist Front propaganda image on his Facebook page as well as a map of the United States divided into Traditionalist Worker Party regions of operation. On his Facebook profile, Burger describes himself as a “Third-Position activist/Mosleyite.” “Third Position” is a variety of fascism that emphasizes (allegedly) being pro-worker and anti-capitalist as well as anti-communist. “Mosleyite” refers to Oswald Mosley, who led the British Union of Fascists. Justin Burger manages several Facebook pages, a couple of which (“When the meme man throw in a lil extra” and “World History Daily”) have thousands of followers. In Shelbyville, Burger further demonstrated his allegiance to the Traditionalist Worker Party by carrying a TradWorker shield (see photo above.)
Justin Burger expressed antipathy toward Identity Evropa on Facebook, labeling the organization as “cucked.” This suggests that when Burger and friends stated to the media that they were with Identity Evropa, this was a ruse intended to be at the Identity Evropa’s expense. Such behavior also highlights the degree of hostility between white nationalist organizations and personalities in the wake of August’s “Unite the Right” in Charlottesville.
We first set eyes on Ian Booton at white power leader Richard Spencer’s speaking event at Auburn University in Alabama this April, where Booton stood outside glaring at anti-racist protesters. Since then, Booton seems to have further radicalized – he is currently linked to several Traditionalist Worker Party militants on social media. Like Justin Burger, Booton held a TradWorker Shield in Shelbyville (see photo above, where he is next to Burger). In one online comment before Shelbyville, Booton stated that “White Lives Matter” would be a “hell of a time” if it were “half as good as C’ville.” This comment suggests that Booton was either present at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, or that Booton received first-hand accounts from others. In another comment, Booton discusses obtaining “safety equipment and respirators” from his workplace for use at far-Right demonstrations.
On November 3, a Youtube channel for “Simon Sasquatch” posted a four-minute video of the “Defend America” racist protest outside Burnette Chapel. The video was created by University of Central Florida computer and information sciences student Simon Michael Dickerman, who also appears in footage of the protest telling the Tennessee community that “we want to speak for you.”
Dickerman’s affiliations are less clear than those of Daniel Kleve, Burger, and Bolton. While Dickerman was photographed at the Nationalist Front “White Lives Matter” rally on the day before he showed up at Burnette Chapel, Dickerman was not holding shields for a particular organization or otherwise broadcasting his affiliations. The Youtube channel for “Simon Sasquatch”/Dickerman follows the Traditionalist Workers Party channel, but also many others, such as former Identity Evropa leader Nathan Damigo, the neo-Nazi “Atomwaffen Division,” and UCF College Republicans.
Dickerman appears to have gone from being a frequenter of 4chan and a Trump supporter to a fully-fledged white nationalist and antisemite. One of Dickerman’s comments on Reddit uses the “echoes” parentheses — a shorthand developed by the far-Right TheRightStuff — to indicate that he believes that diversity is a Jewish conspiracy. The comment signs off with the Nazi salute “Hail victory.”
While the flash protest at Burnette Chapel in Antioch, Tennessee was small, it shows the willingness of organized white nationalists to harass even people they pretend to have sympathy towards. Despite the Nationalist Front canceling its plans to visit Antioch on Saturday (just as it canceled its protest in Murfreesboro) a cluster of racists — most of them clearly affiliated with the Nationalist Front — decided to go ahead with a small presence outside Burnette Chapel the next morning. Perhaps they believed that if the stunt looked bad, it could just be blamed on a rival organization.
Even if the white nationalist movement and “Alt-Right” have experienced a downturn in the months since Charlottesville, the drift of Alt-Right sympathizers such as Ian Booton toward the explicitly national socialist Traditionalist Worker Party suggests that some in the white nationalist scene are headed toward greater militancy and — if Booton’s assessment of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally as “good” is anything to go by — a greater willingness to use violence. This is no time for anti-fascists to rest easy, as there is still work to be done. Please get in contact if you have further information on Traditionalist Worker Party, Nationalist Front, or other white power organizing in our state.