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.
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.
On Sunday, February 19th of this year, anti-racists removed nine white power stickers which had recently been placed around Georgia State University (GSU) campus in Atlanta. With one exception — propaganda for the white nationalist Traditionalist Worker Party being spotted for the first time — it was a typical evening, since removing racist propaganda from GSU as well as Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State University campuses had become almost routine by this stage. Indeed, anti-racists had become so efficient at removing white supremacist materials that many GSU students only noticed anti-racist messages around campus, without realizing that some of these had been placed in direct response to far-Right and racist “white pride” materials.
This article provides context about recent organized bigotry on GSU campus, by discussing its precursors: white nationalist efforts at Georgia State University from late 2015 until the end of last year. Our focus is racist agitation by Patrick Nelson Sharp, who made headlines when he tried to form a White Student Union at GSU when he began there in 2013. Sharp graduated GSU with a bachelor’s degree at the end of 2016. White nationalist activism at GSU during this time was not limited to Patrick Sharp’s efforts, but Sharp was at the center of plenty of it, enough that by telling his individual story we can also tell the larger story of racist campus activism.
We believe it is important to write about Sharp’s activities, even months after Sharp has left Georgia State campus. Although Sharp himself has left, his playbook is in use by racist organizers still a part of the student body. Just as Patrick Sharp’s 2013 White Student Union at GSU (later the “Atlanta Area White Student Union”) first tried to mimic Matthew Heimbach’s White Student Union at Towson University in Maryland, current far-Right racist organizers at Georgia State University may be improvising around themes played earlier by Sharp.