An earlier version of this article gave Justin Lamar Burger’s name as “Justin William Burger.” We apologize for this error.
Update 11/08/17: The fifth and final participant in the Burnette Chapel protest (who gave the name of “Leah” to media) has been identified as Florida resident Haley Olivia Copeland.
Justin Burger (Douglasville, Georgia), Ian Booton (Gibson, GA) and University of Central Florida Student Simon Michael Dickerman in Far-Right Flash Protest at Burnette Chapel
On Sunday, October 29, white nationalists held a five-person flash protest outside the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee (about twenty minutes from Nashville.) A month earlier, gunman Emanuel Kidega Samson targeted Burnette Chapel, killing one congregation member and wounding seven more. A note left in the shooter’s car allegedly mentioned Dylann Roof, the white supremacist responsible for 2015 massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. White nationalists have now seized on the Burnette Chapel shooting for propaganda purposes, for a couple of reasons. First, the mention of Dylann Roof in the note left in Samson’s vehicle could be used to build a “revenge” narrative around the Antioch shooting — a narrative which is helpful to white nationalists. Second, Emanuel Samson was born in Sudan but spent most of his life in the United States. Far-Right commentators such as Alabama-based League of the South publicist/“Alt-South” blogger Bradley Dean Griffin have seized upon the Antioch shooting to increase racist and anti-immigrant sentiment. The shooting is also useful to white nationalists because it can be used to draw false equivalencies and to deflect attention from their own movement’s role in radicalizing Charleston murderer Dylann Roof.
The Burnette Chapel attack was referenced frequently by the Nationalist Front –- a racist umbrella grouping involving the National Socialist Movement, League of the South, Traditionalist Worker Party, Vanguard America and others –- as it organized for its “White Lives Matter” demonstration in Middle Tennessee on Saturday, October 28. Apart from flash mobs, the “White Lives Matter” rally was the first major street demonstration by white nationalists in the US, since the bloody and disastrous “Unite the Right” rally in Virginia this August. Nationalist Front organizers had initially planned to demonstrate in both Shelbyville and Murfreesboro on Saturday the 28th, but after their forces were outnumbered in Shelbyville, Nationalist Front organizers abruptly canceled their second demonstration in Murfreesboro, where a large counter-protest awaited them. On Saturday night following the dismal Shelbyville rally, members of the racist and fascist Traditionalist Worker Party assaulted an interracial couple at a pub in Brentwood, Tennessee.
Throughout the weekend of the “White Lives Matter” rally, rumors swirled that Nationalist Front members would show up in Antioch and hold a protest outside Burnette Chapel. However, no such protest occurred on Friday. On Saturday in Shelbyville, racist organizers announced an evening presence at the Antioch church, but this event was eventually cancelled just as the Murfreesboro demonstration had been earlier. However, the next morning, a handful of militant racists showed up outside Burnette Chapel with a banner, until the arrival of police shooed them away. The flash protest was documented by Newsweek correspondent Michael Hayden. By showing up at a church that had already experienced trauma and violence, the white nationalists made it even plainer that their movement does not care about the Burnette Chapel congregation. The racist movement just hoped to exploit a tragedy for its own agenda.
The five white nationalist protesters outside Burnette Chapel on Sunday stated to Newsweek that they were part of Identity Evropa, a racist organization that focuses on college-aged recruits. However, Identity Evropa leader Elliott Kline (AKA “Eli Mosley”) has denied that the five demonstrators in Antioch were members, claiming instead that they were “trolling” by mentioning Identity Evropa as their organization. Surprisingly, Kline seems to be correct. One of the white power protesters outside Burnette Chapel has been identified by Nebraska antifascists as Daniel Kleve of the Vanguard America, which unlike Identity Evropa is affiliated with the Nationalist Front. Although one of the Antioch, Tennessee protesters (who gave her name as “Leah”) remains unidentified, we have identified the remaining three as Justin Lamar Burger of Douglasville, Georgia; Ian Mathis George Booton of Gibson, Georgia; and University of Central Florida student Simon Michael Dickerman. Similarly to Daniel Kleve of Nebraska, Burger, Booton, and Dickerman traveled from out-of-state to participate in the “White Lives Matter” demonstration.