UNC-Chapel Hill officials warned of possible trouble on campus as rumors swirled of a white nationalist rally planned for Wednesday.
Kevin Guskiewicz, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, sent a message to deans and department chairs, saying word has spread that “individuals not affiliated with UNC-Chapel Hill” are planning a “Rally for Nationalism.”
“As a public university, we regularly have demonstrations from groups exercising their First Amendment rights, and our police officers are always prepared to ensure that those demonstrations transpire in a safe manner and do not disrupt our university operations,” Guskiewicz wrote.
He did not mention the expected time or location of the rally. But a student activist sent a notice to media calling attention to what they characterized as a neo-Nazi group planning to be on campus Wednesday. The students plan a counterprotest to “unify UNC” at 2 p.m. at the South Building, home to the office of Chancellor Carol Folt and other administrators.
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“Although their plans are still ambiguous, we cannot turn a blind eye given the results of the Charlottesville protest,” wrote Michelle Rolanda Brown, a UNC student and active protester against UNC’s Silent Sam Confederate monument.
She said Folt’s inaction on Silent Sam has empowered white supremacist groups to come to campus. The groups believed to be planning an appearance are Kool Kekistani Kids (KKK) and Identity Evropa, Brown said.
Guskiewicz’s message did not name the outside groups and said the university has not been able to confirm that a rally will take place, “but we are taking precautions to ensure the safety of the campus community.” He said UNC won’t provide details of the safety steps it’s taking, and added, “We hope that people will continue with their normal activities. However, if any individual on our campus feels their safety is threatened at any time, we encourage them to contact UNC Police by calling 911 immediately so that we can provide appropriate public safety measures.”
He said the proposed rally and counter-protest follow an incident last week in which a faculty member was confronted by individuals claiming to be members of the press.
The faculty member, according to emails provided by Brown, is Dwayne Dixon, a teaching assistant professor in the Department of Asian Studies. Dixon was in the news last summer and faced a misdemeanor charge for bringing a semi-automatic rifle to a KKK counterprotest in Durham. The charge was dismissed by a judge earlier this month.
Dixon was also at the Charlottesville rally last August as a member of the Redneck Revolt, a leftist organization that promotes self-defense in the fight against racism.
According to a chain of emails posted to a UNC progressive faculty listserv, Dixon described a situation where he was “pushed and restrained” by two men who chased him down a hallway in an academic building at UNC. “They were video recording me with a phone the whole time and were clearly trying to provoke a reaction they could use to smear me as a ‘violent antifa,’ ” Dixon wrote, adding, “The ambush was clearly a premeditated trap.”
He identified one of the men as Noel Fritsch, a conservative campaign consultant, who tweeted on Feb. 7 that he was “just assaulted” by Dwayne Dixon.
Dixon wrote that he received an email on Friday from a man named Kevin Cormier with the subject line, “Rally for Nationalism.”
“To protest the continuing employment of several radical left wing subversives by your department, my group (Kool Kekistani Kids) & Identity Evropa will be holding a rally this coming Wed. 21. outside your offices,” according to the email he quoted. “The only way we will stop is if the department investigates Dwayne Dixon and all his known associates.”
The emailer identified himself to Dixon as “CEO USNATS & VP Kool Kekistani Kids,” and added: “We realize that these beta male anti-intellectual Marxists enter the education system because they know that naive young kids are the only people stupid enough to buy in to the tenets of Marxism.
“Enough is enough. We demand our grievances be heard and we will confront the students to make sure they are aware of the brainwashing and lies being forced on them by your institution.”
Dixon wrote to colleagues, “This is directly related to my activism in organizing and countering neo-fascist and white supremacists threats.”
Guskiewicz’ message did not name the faculty member who was confronted but said police responded to the incident and the individuals left the campus. “UNC Police have been working with the faculty member and department personnel since the incident,” Guskiewicz wrote.
Dixon has gained attention for his activities with the Redneck Revolt.
In Charlottesville, he was among roughly 20 members, some armed, who provided security for counterprotesters when white supremacists and nationalists marched against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in a local park.
Dixon posted on Facebook in January that he took a “perverse pleasure” by carrying a specific rifle “to chase off James Fields” on Aug. 12. The post was in response to an advertisement from a national weapons manufacturer.
Fields is charged in the death of Charlottesville counterprotester Heather D. Heyer after he drove into a crowd. In an interview Tuesday, Dixon said Fields’ vehicle stopped in front of him and Dixon “made it clear he wasn’t to stay there,” but didn’t chase him off into the crowd. Afterward, Dixon started receiving hate-filled responses on various social media and other platforms. Far-right organizations also published articles contending that Dixon was responsible for Heyer’s death.
People also started to call Dixon’s department at UNC.
Dixon said he feels like the ambush and proposed rally Wednesday is part of the escalating targeted campaign against him, which includes his personal information being circulated on the neo-Nazi bulletin board site, The Daily Stormer.
If the rally and counterprotest occur at UNC on Wednesday, it could be the first test of a new free speech policy passed in December by the UNC Board of Governors. The policy, mandated by state law, sets out a range of likely punishments for anyone – students, faculty or staff – who “substantially disrupts” the functioning of an institution or “substantially interferes” with the free expression rights of others.