Lois Beckett reports: When the men in black walked into her restaurant one Friday morning and sat at the round table in the corner, Brittany Porter knew exactly what they were.
Pale, skittish, aggressively tattooed, they wore black T-shirts with a cryptic white logo over their hearts. One had a razor inked along his left jaw and two SS lightning bolts dripping next to his eye like a double set of tears. One wore a handgun on his hip.
Porter went to the table, smiled and asked what they wanted. It was just after 8am. Two of the neo-Nazis ordered chicken nuggets.
On Facebook the night before, Porter read about the group of racists who were coming to eastern Kentucky to hold a rally. They had chosen an economically struggling stretch of coal country with a population that was 98% white and that had voted 80% for Trump. In their propaganda videos, the neo-Nazi leaders had talked about the scourge of drug addiction in Pike County.
At 30, Porter knew Pike County’s problems. She herself was a recovered addict, as was her friend Chrissy Wooton, another waitress at the restaurant. Neither of them trusted either political party. Wooton, whose husband is a coal miner, had voted for Trump. Porter had not.
Together, they discussed whether they should start the day by accidentally pouring coffee into the neo-Nazis’ laps.
The neo-Nazis were on their way to Whitesburg, Kentucky, where they had secured a private piece of land in the woods to hold a weekend summit with a coalition of other white nationalist groups. At the table, there were several members of the Traditionalist Workers party, including Jason, a sallow musician in a black-metal punk band who left New York City to move to a mostly white community in Indiana; Scott, who had recently been kicked out of an Irish pub in Kentucky for celebrating Hitler’s birthday; and Gabe, diffident and a little shy, with long eyelashes and the white power tattoos on his cheek.
Porter and Wooton watched from distance, swooping in now and then to refill the coffee cups. But they were too curious to stay quiet. Porter said people on Facebook “were talking a bunch of crap”. They were saying that the group was the Ku Klux Klan.
The event the men were attending did, in fact, have KKK members on the list of potential guests. But the men at the table laughed and grinned. They were a political party, Matthew Heimbach, the group’s 26-year-old leader, explained gently. “Our motto is faith, family and folk,” he said. Heimbach was the most famous man at the table: the one who was being sued for shoving and shouting at a young black protester at a Donald Trump campaign rally last March, and who had recently filed legal papers saying that Trump, who had reacted to the protesters by shouting “Get ‘em out of here!”, should be held responsible for his behavior. [Continue reading…]