The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virgina left both left and right-leaning political circles stunned when an Ohio man drove his vehicle into a crowd of people, injuring dozens and leaving one person dead.
The toxic cocktail of white nationalists, known for embracing Nazi rhetoric, were countered by protesters from Antifa, a left-leaning political group who specifically targets groups and individuals connected to the alt-right. Both groups came to the rally with their boots laced and ready to fight. Police did what they could to keep the scene under control and had successfully quelled some of the fights that had begun to break out between the white nationalists and their Antifa opponents. Though tensions were running high between the groups, order was beginning to be restored to the streets of Charlottesville when a man who was later connected to the white nationalist protesters carried out his cowardly act of domestic terror.
Shortly after the man’s arrest, vigilante groups online began to identify people who appeared in photos and interviews at the rally and expose them for embracing the Nazi rhetoric that many of the white nationalist and alt-right protesters seemed to be promoting while carrying flaming torches through the streets of Charlottesville.
At the forefront of this campaign to publically shame individuals connected to the white nationalist protesters is the Twitter account @YesYoureRacist. Though the account has been active since 2012 according to Twitter, it’s only recently received mainstream attention for their coverage of the Charlottesville protests. Posting photos and video of those who attended the protest in support of the white nationalists, the man behind the account, Logan Smith, was able to crowdsource personal information such as names, places of employment and colleges the protesters attended.
Logan, who has since spoken to the North Carolina newspaper The News & Observer, says he has no intention of slowing down in exposing these individuals, in spite of receiving death threats. One man has reportedly lost his job as a result of the crowdsourcing campaign.
“… These people aren’t afraid anymore. They’re not hiding behind their hoods like they did before the civil rights era. They are out and proud. I think if they are so proud of their beliefs and proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with neo-Nazis and KKK members and white supremacists of all stripes, then I think their communities need to know who they are. They’re not random faces in the crowd, they’re your neighbors, they’re your coworker, they’re the people you pass in the grocery store.” Logan told The News & Observer in a telephone interview.
Though Logan has a personal crusade to expose white nationalists, he says he has not personally contacted employers or attempted to “out” anyone outside of his personally run Twitter profile. While many have rallied in support of Logan’s courage in exposing these people on social media, some have called it an attack on free speech. Many of the individuals featured on the page now fear that they may lose their jobs for their decisions to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with known white supremacists.
Logan showed little sympathy for their plight. “… if someone goes to a white supremacists’ rally and their employer sees them, then that’s their prerogative – and that’s something they probably should have thought about.”
There is no doubt that this will not be the last we’ll hear of Logan or accounts like his. In a piece written on the alt-right blog Breitbart, white nationalists say they found the protests in Charlottesville to be a “stunning victory” that was overshadowed by a tragic and unfortunate event. The article quotes heads of alt-right and white supremacist groups stating that the events in Charlottesville have only inspired them to focus on more campaigns to promote their message in cities across the country, particularly in the South where they strive to preserve Confederate monuments.
“It’s an assault on American freedoms. Today it’s Confederate monuments. Tomorrow it may be the Constitution or the American flag,” head of the National Socialist Movement, Jeff Schoep, told Breitbart.
With both sides of the political spectrum unwilling to give up on their campaigns to fight for what they believe is right, will the death of Heather Heyer be remembered as the first of a series of deaths on both sides resulting from these ideological wars, or will more cities be willing to shut down free speech when they believe that speech could put more lives in danger?