Controversial right-wing group says it won’t hold torch march at Marshall Park

Chanting "White lives matter!"You will not replace us!" and "Jews will not replace us!" several hundred protesters carrying torches marched in a parade through the University of Virginia campus in August.
Chanting "White lives matter!"You will not replace us!" and "Jews will not replace us!" several hundred protesters carrying torches marched in a parade through the University of Virginia campus in August. For The Washington Post

Citing safety concerns, Anticom, a right-wing group, has tweeted that it no longer plans to hold a “March Against Communism” in December in Marshall Park.

The group tweeted the news Thursday morning shortly after 7:30, but Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said it is still attempting to reach the organization to get more information.

Anticom was dealt a blow Wednesday night when Richard Spencer, the white nationalist who had been advertised as the speaker who’d be headlining the rally and a follow-up torch-lit march, announced in a series of tweets that he was pulling out.

“Regarding the Charlotte (rally), I happily agreed to speak back in the spring, when the rally was planned for a private, hotel venue,” Spencer tweeted. “This got changed to a public university facility, due to the hotel pulling out. Then the location was changed again to a park. ... Open-field rallies are dangerous at this point, but still possible. But we can’t trust Charlotte’s municipal authorities.”

Spencer, who organized the so-called “Unite the Right” gathering in Charlottesville, Va., that devolved into a violent riot, tweeted more about his safety concerns.

“I handle my own security,” he wrote. “I worry about the safety of others in an open-field situation.”

So, he tweeted, he notified Anticom organizers that “I have to cancel my appearance.”

News of the planned Charlotte rally began to spread last week, as Anticom called on people to “bring your torches, guns, armor, gear and flags” to Marshall Park on Dec. 28. The group promised speakers, including Spencer and Augustus Invictus, who has been called a Holocaust denier by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

As of Wednesday, CMPD said Anticom had not contacted police or responded to the department’s inquiries. Police received more than 600 emails and phone calls about the march, police said. Officials from the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation also said late Wednesday that they had no record of talking to the group.

It was unclear Thursday morning if Anticom still hoped to have any event in Charlotte – either an uptown march or a rally in a private venue.

Anticom, short for Anti-Communist Action, was started earlier this year. It describes its mission as defending communities against “leftist terrorists and rioters.” It appears to have adopted its name as a sort of a right-wing answer to Antifa, a left-wing anti-fascist group with roots, some have said, in Anti-Fascist Action, a group founded in the 1980s in the United Kingdom.

In addition to the Marshall Park rally, Anticom indicated it was also planning a night-time march with torches in uptown Charlotte – a scene that would be reminiscent of the Charlottesville rally, during which many marchers chanted anti-Semitic slurs and a Nazi slogan, “Blood and soil.” The riot there left one counterprotester dead, and nearly 20 others injured. Two Virginia police officers also died in a helicopter crash during the events in Charlottesville.

When Anticom announced the rally and march last week, its plans were quickly condemned by local public officials and others who feared there would be a repeat of the violence in Charlottesville.

Critics of Anticom’s event also charged that the group was using its anti-Communism as a mask for white supremacy and racism. Counterprotests were immediately created after people learned about Anticom’s event.

“We don’t want Charlotte to be Charlottesville, and I think we should show a united front,” Jibril Hough, who created one counterprotest, told the Observer last Saturday. “My intention is to call people from different backgrounds together to show a united front against racism and white supremacy.”

Another counterprotest, called “Unity March for Charlotte” and organized by the group Indivisible Charlotte, said on Facebook that its location was still to be determined. About 400 people said they would be attending on Facebook, with 1,700 more marked as “interested.”

State Rep. Chaz Beasley, D-Charlotte, went to Twitter to objected to the Anticom event.

“Make no mistake – this isn’t an ‘anti-communist’ rally at all. The speakers include prominent neo-Nazis,” he tweeted.

Also on Twitter, state Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Charlotte, said Anticom is “a white nationalist group using very thin cover.”

LaVendrick Smith; 704-358-5101; @LaVendrickS