One moment from August 12, 2017 that was discussed repeatedly during the course of the Sines trial was the march by members of League of the South (LOS), the Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP), and the National Socialist Movement (NSM) – groups that formed a coalition known as the Nationalist Front (NF) – from a parking garage on Market Street in Charlottesville to what was then called Emancipation Park about two blocks away (the park was previously named Lee Park and has since been renamed once again as Market Street Park). The conflict that occurred when that particular bloc of far right demonstrators clashed with counter-protesters was one of the most dramatic and widely documented events in an already tense and tragic day.
The NF bloc clearly came prepared to fight: many members of LOS and TWP wore helmets and carried uniform police riot shields. A number of them also had flagpoles that quickly became weapons (a practice that was frequently discussed on message boards beforehand). That day in Charlottesville, there were also antifascists who brought helmets, shields, and sometimes flagpoles, but as the NF members approached the park, they were confronted by a line of people who were simply locking arms with little to nothing to protect them. This fact makes the footage of that moment all the more gut-wrenching to watch. Ultimately, the NF groups all made their way into the park.
In November 2016, Richard Spencer’s public profile took on a new degree of notoriety when The Atlanticreleased video of a speech he gave at the annual conference of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank then under Spencer’s leadership. The comment that yielded the most headlines came at the end when he cried out “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” as he raised a cocktail glass with a straight arm at a high angle to a cheering audience and at least a few Nazi salutes.
The phrase hail victory is, of course, historically linked to that gesture insofar as it is a translation of the German Sieg heil. That pairing of signs – one verbal and one corporeal – was also commonplace among alt-right participants. In a previously recorded deposition that was presented during the Sines trial, former Identity Evropa member Samantha Froelich was asked if she had heard “either Sieg heil or hail victory discussed within the alt-right.” She answered, “yes, at every social event I went to, that was said” and explained that it was associated with “the Roman or Nazi salute.” She even described a joke that was passed around among Identity Evropa members “where you would ask if you’ve seen my friend Kyle. ‘Did you see Kyle?’ Sieg heil? I hope you understand the wordplay here. And then you would do the Sieg heil and say, ‘Oh, he’s right over there’ and point your finger. ‘He’s about this tall’ [indicating a Nazi salute] and that was – that was the joke, is that you’re Sieg heil-ing in plain day.” Continue reading “The Sanctifying Language of the Alt-Right”