A torchlight rally by white supremacists that descended into violence in Charlottesville in August drew participants from at least 35 states and spoke to the ability of the self-described alt-right fringe movement to mobilize adherents nationwide, the Anti-Defamation League said in a new report Sunday.
The analysis of 200 participants came one day after Richard Spencer, the leader of the demonstration on Aug. 11 and 12, returned Saturday with fewer than 50 followers to the home of the University of Virginia as it celebrated its bicentennial and posted a video of a planned, 10-minute “flash mob.”
Spencer called Saturday’s protest — where demonstrators chanted, “We’re going to come back again” — a success, but the event was far smaller than August’s “Unite the Right” rally, which drew an estimated 500 to 600 participants, the ADL report noted.
As reported in media accounts, the August event drew supporters from across the country. The individuals identified came mostly from the eastern United States, but included some from as far away as Alaska, California, Arizona and Washington state. Only 7 percent were women, reflecting studies that the movement is mostly young and male.
Oren Segal, head of ADL’s Center on Extremism, said in a statement that “the willingness of so many people to commit both time and financial resources to travel to Charlottesville points to a movement energized and actively capitalizing on a perceived window of opportunity to spread their message and recruit new members.” He added: “It’s also a demonstration of the alt-right’s successful transition from a largely online phenomenon to a ‘real world’ movement.”
The ADL said it found that the Unite the Right event was the first association by most participants with white supremacy. Others, the report said, are part of a core group of white supremacists that travels across the country attending events and several of these individuals have been arrested at other rallies or protests this year.
The August rally drew five times as many people as any similar event in the past decade, the ADL said.
ADL chief executive Jonathan A. Greenblatt said his group will continue to track members and mobilize mayors and other national, state and local officials, saying, “Our leaders have a responsibility to show action in the face of this hate.”
The group said, for example, that Virginia will hold its first meeting Tuesday in Richmond of a Special Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.