Since 1988, activist/journalist Daryle Lamont Jenkins, aka "The Klanbuster," has dedicated his life to monitoring the movements of the Ku Klux Klan and other White supremacist groups. In 2000, he co-founded One People's Project, a watchdog organization which maintains a database not only on hate groups but on their membership as well. It is geared towards researching and reporting on hate politics and those engaged in them in an effort to diminish their impact on society.
Despite incessant death threats, Daryle and company routinely put their lives on the line by participating in counter-demonstrations at Klan and neo-Nazi rallies. They were in Charlottesville the recent weekend when a horde of white racists marched with torches while brandishing automatic weapons and chanting racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic epithets. And they were there when Heather Heyer was murdered by James Fields (allegedly), the driver of the Dodge Challenger which mowed down 20 peaceful counter-demonstrators.
Daryle has appeared on TV talk shows hosted by MSNBC's Joy Reid and Rachel Maddow, as well as Montel Williams. And Jamie Bell is set to star in a biopic, “Skin,” about a neo-Nazi he helped leave the White Power movement. The movie's producers are currently casting the film, and are still searching for an actor to play Daryle.
Here, he recounts the events which transpired in Charlottesville, and he assesses the state of the union in light of President Trump's reluctance to condemn all Nazi and Klan sympathizers as evil.
KW: Were you in Charlottesville the weekend of the terrorist attack?
DLJ: Yes, I was, me and a crew of OPP members out of Philly, DC and New England and the South.
KW: What drew you and the One People's Project there? I assume you are always monitoring hate groups and the event registered a blip on your radar. Did you have any idea it was going to be such a huge gathering of white supremacists?
DLJ: Oh, we most certainly did. We knew months in advance it could be this bad, especially if left unchecked. There’s a podcast called “Lighting the Lamp” that is produced by one of our members. Before the rally even happened, the show was calling it the “White Nationalists' Altamont” [a reference to the Rolling Stones' 1969 concert in California where a young Black man was stabbed to death by a member of the Hell's Angels gang which had been hired to provide security during the outdoor music festival.] And that’s exactly what it was. Our sister website, Restoring the Honor, was also detailing what was going to take place prior to the day. Basically the reason why we had to be there was because the Nazis had been harassing Charlottesvile for months, ever since the town had wanted to remove the Confederate memorials from their parks. By this time, the city had already renamed the parks from the Confederate generals they were honoring, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. First, the Nazis had a rally in May, then the Klan came out in July, and now this one which they planned to be a huge gathering of pretty much every neo-Nazi, Klansmen and assorted hatemongers they could find.
KW: Were you concerned about for your safety, given the number of Nazis, Fascists, Ku Klux Klansmen and other racists descending on the city?
DLJ: Well, we are always concerned about that, whether there are 500 of them or five. This time however, the governor of Virginia did put the National Guard on standby. When we heard that, we realized that it was going to be very different than past rallies. So we just prepared.
KW: Were you at the church on Friday night when the Nazis showed up outside. I heard Cornel West say in an interview that if it weren't for the Anti-Fascists they would never have been able to leave.
DLJ: Me and the crew I came with were not there. We were still on our way down as the Nazis pulled that stunt. What I did see was Nazis at the rally get physical with the interfaith contingent of the counter-demonstration as they walked up the stairs to the park. Antifa responded to that one and put an end to that, but that was one of the many episodes of confrontations.
KW: Were you armed? How do you respond to President Trump's equating the racist demonstrators and the anti-fascist counter-demonstrators by saying both sides were equally at fault.
DLJ: I was armed. I had my sidearm with me, as [did] a number of Antifa. Happily, no one on either side felt the need to use [weapons], because I can only imagine how things would be if anyone did. Quite frankly, I think the first person that started shooting in that environment, regardless of what side they were on, would have found themselves in the worst position they could have ever been in their life because everything would have come crashing down on them. So, even though each side had firearms, using them was not the first inclination, regardless of how bad things eventually got.
KW: How did you feel when you saw the long line of White supremacists with torches?
DLJ: Well, that was also part of their first outing back in May. While I know that might be a jarring image for a lot of people to see for the first time, I have been doing this too long for it to faze me. I just saw it as a rather corny display.
KW: What sort of harassment did you experience from the White supremacists in Charlottesville?
DLJ: Most of them were verbal, but there were some that got physical, particularly when I was trying to help someone else they had attacked. That got me in a position where I got hit in the face with pepper spray, and that put me out of commission for a while, and I missed when the governor declared a state of emergency, and the police declared the rally an unlawful assembly and shut the park down.
KW: Do you blame the police pullback for what happened on Saturday when the car plowed through the counter-demonstration?
DLJ: The police have some explaining to do for sure, but the blame falls squarely on the neo-Nazis that held the rally. They were the ones pushing for a fight. They were the ones that came with the armament, the shields and automatic weapons. They were the ones that initiated fights. As I told a news outlet that interviewed me on the scene, there will have to be a reckoning for them regarding what they did.
KW: What sort of confrontations did you witness?
DLJ: It was really a lot of random swinging, groups of people basically taking their shots at each other. At one point, some Nazis were even so confused they ended up beating each other up, both thinking the other was Antifa.
KW: Were you in the vicinity when that monster drove the car into the marchers, killing Heather Heyer, and injuring so many others?
DLJ: I was at one of the churches where my car was parked, trying to get a clean shirt and sharing some food and bottled water I had in a cooler for the trip. I didn’t see the incident, but I saw the ambulances driving by. I heard that people were hurt and that they were worried that some would not make it. When I heard someone died, I kept asking people if they were sure, because I didn’t want an unsubstantiated rumor like that to go out without being confirmed. Sadly, it was. I was heated from that point on. Normally, I can make light of events like this, find something to keep my spirits up about us being out there opposing the fascists. But I could not do that after hearing about Heather Heyer's murder. I was angry as hell about it.
KW: Did you know her?
DLJ: I never met her, but I wish I had. She was local to Charlottesville. That was her town the Nazis invaded, and they killed her when she tried to defend it. I remember speaking to a group of Antifa [members] just after Trump won, saying that we have a rough road ahead and it might mean some of us will lose their lives fighting him and his efforts, because he was bringing into the White House the people who want that for this society. A lot of people have already died this year because of this scum. Heather Heyer’s death further amplified the kind of evil we fight. She was a hero, a martyr. She should be seen as such. A few months ago they renamed Lee Park – the park where the rally was held – to Emancipation Park. There is an effort to rename it once again in her memory. That should happen. Charlottesville should forever be proud of her.
KW: You've been in the forefront of the anti-fascist movement for years. How has the movement changed?
DLJ: Before Trump won, I think a lot of people thought that there wasn’t much that needed to be done. Many of us stayed vigilant against them, but even more of us felt that they could never be a real danger, not anymore. Now, they see otherwise, and we even have some conservatives who see it as well. That’s something else to note. What happened in Charlottesville was indeed a wake-up call to people across the political spectrum. Sure, we will have our political differences, but all of them will be moot if society breaks down and that scared some conservatives out there. Some conservatives are not scared, however: the Sean Hannitys, the Michael Savages, the Ann Coulters, etcetera. You have to wonder what kind of agenda they are peddling, if the only thing they know to do when they see Nazis parading in the street and killing people is to do their usual tap dance and deflections as if everyone else is to blame but their precocious fellow right-wingers. It’s not a new thing. They do it all the time whenever a right-winger engages in violence. The most insulting thing they do is to pretend that the neo-Fascists are actually on the left. Well, they were fine with the event being called “Unite the Right” before that day. Ann Coulter seems okay with her byline appearing on their websites like American Renaissance and VDARE and she is even defending the driver who killed Heather Heyer. So the attempt to pretend that it is everyone else’s fault but theirs is not just laughable but truly an affront. And given that many others on the right have said this has gone far enough, we need to start asking the hard-liners why they don’t think it has, too – and then marginalize the living hell out of them if they don’t have a good answer. regardless, the Antifa scene is about to pick up some new and unexpected recruits!
KW: How have the white supremacists you've been monitoring changed?
DLJ: With them feeling their oats, they gotten bolder and more reckless. Before Charlottesville, they thought the world was with them, or at the very least more of it than it seemed. After Charlottesville, they had that bubble burst. My monitoring changed in the sense that more people have come on board to do it. It’s not just One People’s Project. It’s the Twitter account @YesYoureRacist. It’s the website. It’s regular people letting folks know their neighbor attended that rally. And it’s those employers that told the marchers that they will indeed be replaced as far as their job goes – contrary to [White supremacist group] Identity Evropa’s “You will not replace us” chant. One creep was even publicly disowned by his family.
KW: Have these racists been emboldened and encouraged to come out from under their rocks by Donald Trump?
DLJ: Most definitely. In fact, they pushed him along well before he announced. I have to say this, too. Trump has always been a racist, but the games he is playing today have not really been seen by him in the 30 years of his public life. It angers me that someone like him had the celebrity he has enjoyed with very few calling him out on his racism. If there is any lesson we should learn from the opposition to Confederate monuments is how we have to be careful who it is we exalt in this society. Many don’t deserve it, and many of them might just get us killed.
KW: How do you expect the next confrontations to unfold?
DLJ: If Boston on Saturday was any example, a lot of the hatemongers are going to start seeing the downturn. It doesn’t mean we will not see physical confrontations at rallies anymore, but the public is making it clear enough is enough. The neo-fascists had their fun. Now it is time for them to go back under their rocks. Sure, some are going to try to maintain the momentum they still pretty much have, but more than just some people wearing black and bandanas around their faces are coming for them. That attempt to maintain will be fleeting. And I will say again, those libertarians and conservatives who give white supremacists even the slightest of validity should truly think twice about it.
KW: Finally, are you optimistic about the future?
DLJ: Always have been, always will be. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be doing this!
KW: Thanks again for the time, Daryle, and stay safe. We need you, brother.
DLJ: I most certainly will, Kam. Thank you for interviewing me again!
If you would like to support or join One People’s Project, visit: www.onepeoplesproject.com