Matthew Heimbach is an American white-nationalist leader who co-founded the now-defunct Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP) and briefly served as the community outreach director of the National Socialist Movement (NSM).“Traditionalist Worker Party,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 27, 2018, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/traditionalist-worker-party. Heimbach has sought to unite U.S. white-nationalist groups and bring them into the public mainstream. His efforts have included co-creating the Nationalist Front umbrella group and the promotion of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Heimbach has previously claimed to reject violence, though he encouraged his followers to attack protesters in Charlottesville. He has been linked to other violent incidents as well, including a 2016 assault on a black protester at a political rally.Vegas Tenold, Everything You Love Will Burn (New York: Nation Books, 2018), 157; Brett Barrouquere, “Days after guilty plea, Matthew Heimbach re-emerges in new alliance with National Socialist Movement,” Southern Poverty Law Center, September 24, 2018, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/09/24/days-after-guilty-plea-matthew-heimbach-re-emerges-new-alliance-national-socialist-movement. Heimbach has claimed white unity is key to improving the economic and social position of white people who have been “left behind” while minorities have prospered.Vegas Tenold, Everything You Love Will Burn (New York: Nation Books, 2018), 38, 166-169. Heimbach has declared he is acting as an advocate for white European Americans much like the NAACP does for African Americans.Vegas Tenold, Everything You Love Will Burn (New York: Nation Books, 2018), 33-48. However, on April 1, 2020, Heimbach claimed he was leaving the neo-Nazi movement as he believes all members of the working class need to work together to address longstanding political, social, and economic problems.Brett Barrouguere, “Two Prominent Neo-Nazis Recant, but Their Actions Sow Doubts,” Southern Poverty Law Center, May 14, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2020/05/14/two-prominent-neo-nazis-recant-their-actions-sow-doubts. In July 2021, Heimbach announced he was restarting the TWP to focus on economic disparity and a violent revolution against the global elite.Mark Greenblatt and Lauren Knapp, “Extremist Heimbach To Relaunch Hate Group, Says He Supports Violence,” Newsy, July 20, 2021, https://www.newsy.com/stories/extremist-heimbach-to-relaunch-hate-group-supports-violence-3/.
Heimbach’s platform is based around the idea that the white race has been disadvantaged because of globalism and multiculturalism, which he has largely blamed on a global Jewish conspiracy. Heimbach claims white unity is necessary because the Jews hate all white people equally.Vegas Tenold, Everything You Love Will Burn (New York: Nation Books, 2018, 63, 200. The U.K. government has warned that Heimbach’s anti-Semitic rhetoric could incite violence and banned Heimbach from entering the country in October 2015.Jessica Elgot, “Theresa May bans US segregationist from UK for ‘neo-Nazi’ remarks,” Guardian (London), November 4, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/04/theresa-may-bans-us-segregationist-from-uk-for-neo-nazi-remarks. Heimbach envisions an amicable separation of the races as illustrated by his oft-used slogan “Stop the hate, separate.”Vegas Tenold, Everything You Love Will Burn (New York: Nation Books, 2018), 33-48. To accomplish this, Heimbach has pushed for unity between otherwise disparate white-nationalist groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Hammerskin Nation, and the NSM. He has pushed these groups—with mixed results—to soften their explicitly racist rhetoric and abandon vilified symbols like the swastika in order to appear more mainstream.Vegas Tenold, Everything You Love Will Burn (New York: Nation Books, 2018), 200-201, 208-222. Though he claims to reject violence, he has described violent groups such as the Aryan Terror Brigade as “part of the big White Advocacy tent.”“Matthew Heimbach Embracing Hard-Core White Supremacy,” Anti-Defamation League, October 4, 2013, https://www.adl.org/blog/matthew-heimbach-embracing-hard-core-white-supremacy; Mark Potok, “The Little Fuhrer: Matthew Heimbach Goes All the Way,” Southern Poverty Law Center, October 7, 2013, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2013/10/07/little-f%C3%BChrer-matthew-heimbach-goes-all-way.
Heimbach first gained national attention while attending Towson University in Maryland, where he created the White Student Union, a group unaffiliated with the university that sought to stem the “genocide against the European people.”Caitlin Dickson, “Riding Along With a Towson University Student’s ‘White Patrol,’” Daily beast, April 24, 2013, https://www.thedailybeast.com/riding-along-with-a-towson-university-students-white-patrol. In 2013, the White Student Union created nightly patrols to seek out so-called “black predators.”“White Student Union,” Vice, December 25, 2013, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/znqpye/white-student-union. That April, Heimbach attended the annual conference of the ethno-nationalist magazine American Renaissance in Tennessee. There he met Matt Parrott and his stepdaughter, Brooke, whom Heimbach would marry the following year.Tony Rehagen, “Matthew Heimbach Has A Dream—A Very Different Dream,” Indianapolis Monthly, April 2017, https://www.indianapolismonthly.com/features/white-space/; Marwa Eltagouri, “White nationalist leader Matthew Heimbach arrested on domestic battery charges,” Washington Post, March 13, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/03/13/white-nationalist-leader-matthew-heimbach-arrested-for-domestic-battery/?utm_term=.9680702f43da; Allie Conti, “White Nationalist Matthew Heimbach Is Going to Jail,” Vice, May 15, 2018, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/mbkadb/matthew-heimbach-the-white-nationalist-in-that-bizarre-love-triangle-is-going-to-jail. After graduating from Towson in the spring of 2013, Heimbach and Matt Parrott transformed the White Student Union into the Traditionalist Youth Network (TYN) to promote what they considered traditional European values.“Matthew Heimbach,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed October 22, 2018, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/matthew-heimbach.
In 2015, Heimbach and Parrott created the TWP as the political arm of the TYN. They registered the TWP as a political party with the intention of endorsing political candidates who shared their ethno-nationalist values.“Traditionalist Worker Party,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed September 27, 2018, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/traditionalist-worker-party. The TWP claimed to actively fight for a white homeland in order to secure the future existence of the white people. The TWP rejected atheism and secularism while claiming its members came from the “traditional faiths of the European people.” The TWP promoted the interests of white Americans who had been “abandoned by the System and actively attacked by globalists and traitorous politicians.”“Party Platform,” Traditionalist Worker Party, accessed August 24, 2017, http://www.tradworker.org/platform/. The party was based in a southern Indiana compound owned by Parrott. Parrott and Heimbach lived with their respective spouses in the compound and encouraged other followers to join them.Shay McAlister, “S. Indiana white nationalists working to shut the door on multicultural America,” 2016, WHAS 11 ABC, http://www.whas11.com/news/special-reports/s-indiana-white-nationalists-working-to-shut-the-door-on-multicultural-america/373394558.
In 2016, Heimbach and NSM leader Jeff Schoep created the Aryan Nationalist Alliance (ANA), to unite U.S. white-nationalist groups. The ANA platform recognized fundamental differences in both approach and ideology among its member groups but unified around the idea that all national problems—“from street crime to anti-White governmental policies, to attacks on our sovereignty and faith”—could be solved with the creation of a white nation.Vegas Tenold, Everything You Love Will Burn (New York: Nation Books, 2018), 157. ANA rebranded as the Nationalist Front in November 2016.“National Socialist Movement/Nationalist Front,” Anti-Defamation League, accessed October 15, 2018, https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounders/national-socialist-movementnationalist-front.
In August 2017, Heimbach promoted and attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He and his TWP followers were involved in physical altercations with protesters during the rally. Heimbach also reportedly ordered followers to tear down police barricades in Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park where the rally was held.Robert King, “This Indiana man is in the middle of the 'Unite the Right' rally in Charlottesville,” Indianapolis Star, August 12, 2018, https://www.indystar.com/story/news/2017/08/12/unite-right-white-nationalist-rally-charlottesville-erupts-violence/562095001/.
The TWP collapsed in 2018 following Heimbach’s arrest and Parrott’s resignation. On March 13, 2018, Heimbach assaulted his wife and Parrott in their Indiana home after the pair discovered Heimbach was having an affair with Parrott’s wife. Heimbach was charged with misdemeanor battery and felony domestic battery in the presence of a child under 16.Marwa Eltagouri, “White nationalist leader Matthew Heimbach arrested on domestic battery charges,” Washington Post, March 13, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/03/13/white-nationalist-leader-matthew-heimbach-arrested-for-domestic-battery/?utm_term=.9680702f43da; Thomas Novelly, “White nationalist Matthew Heimbach arrested after trailer park fight over alleged affair,” Courier-Journal, March 14, 2018, https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/2018/03/14/white-nationalists-matthew-heimbach-david-parrott-trailer-park-fight-affair/423366002/. Parrott resigned from the TWP shortly after and took down the group’s website.Brett Barrouquere and Rachel Janik, “TWP chief Matthew Heimbach arrested for battery after affair with top spokesman's wife,” Southern Poverty Law Center, March 13, 2018, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/03/13/twp-chief-matthew-heimbach-arrested-battery-after-affair-top-spokesmans-wife. It remains to be seen if other leaders will arise to revive the TWP.
The March 2018 assault led to Heimbach’s 90-day incarceration for violating the terms of his probation related to a 2016 arrest. In March 2016, Heimbach was charged with harassment and misdemeanor assault after he shoved a black protester at a rally for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump in Louisville, Kentucky. Heimbach has claimed that he acted “pursuant to the directives and requests of” Trump and his campaign.Kenneth P. Vogel, “White nationalist claims Trump directed rally violence,” Politico, April 17, 2017, https://www.politico.com/story/2017/04/donald-trump-rally-violence-237302. In July 2017, Heimbach pled guilty to assault charges and received a suspended prison sentence, a fine, and an order to attend anger management classes. The suspended sentence was conditional on Heimbach maintaining a clean arrest record for two years.“White nationalist pleads guilty in Trump rally case,” Associated Press, July 19, 2017, https://apnews.com/ee14f79ada6947e38e90ee9cac33d999. In May 2018, Heimbach was sentenced to 38 days in the city jail in Louisville, Kentucky, for violating the terms of his probation.Jason Riley, “White nationalist who harassed woman at Trump rally ordered to serve 38 days in jail,” WDRB.com, May 15, 2018, http://www.wdrb.com/story/38193191/white-nationalist-who-harassed-woman-at-trump-rally-ordered-to-serve-38-days-in-jail#.WvsW4CjYV28.twitter. Heimbach is still subject to a civil lawsuit related to the 2016 incident.Andrea Diaz, “Trump did not incite violence against protesters at a 2016 campaign rally, court rules,” CNN, September12, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/12/politics/trump-wins-dismissal-lawsuit-kentucky-trnd/index.html.
Since the TWP’s collapse, Heimbach has continued to promote his version of ethno-nationalism. In September 2018, he became the NSM’s community outreach director. Departing from NSM’s traditional rhetoric and signifying a shift in NSM’s tactics, Heimbach publicly stated his intent to engage with “communities of color” in what NSM leader Schoep declared a “new era of National Socialism.”Brett Barrouquere, “Days after guilty plea, Matthew Heimbach re-emerges in new alliance with National Socialist Movement,” Southern Poverty Law Center, September 24, 2018, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/09/24/days-after-guilty-plea-matthew-heimbach-re-emerges-new-alliance-national-socialist-movement.
On December 9, 2019, Heimbach was listed as the sole incorporator of the National Socialist Charitable Coalition (NSCC)—an organization that solicits mail and donations for those convicted or accused of murders, hate crimes, and similar offenses. The NSCC claims to not promote “a political agenda” and offers no opinion on the guilt or innocence of inmates. However, the rhetoric employed throughout the site often downplays the severity of terror attacks. Among those listed in the inmate database are: Robert Bowers, the perpetrator of the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue massacre; Dylann Roof, who carried out the 2015 Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston; and James Alex Fields, who ran over anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville in 2017, ultimately killing one woman.Peter Smith, “Website seeks support for those accused of hate crimes, killings,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 2, 2020, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2020/03/02/Website-seeks-support-for-killers-others-accused-of-hate-crimes/stories/202002210127. According to the NSCC, Bowers allegedly “shot several congregants,” without mentioning the number of deaths or injuries, and also reiterates Fields’s defense that the Charlottesville killing was an accident. On February 24, 2020, Heimbach surrendered the charity, leaving his former partner, Parrot, as the lone contact for the organization.Brett Barrouguere, “Two Prominent Neo-Nazis Recant, but Their Actions Sow Doubts,” Southern Poverty Law Center, May 14, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2020/05/14/two-prominent-neo-nazis-recant-their-actions-sow-doubts.
Heimbach announced that he was leaving the neo-Nazi movement on April 1, 2020. However, some critics doubted the authenticity of Heimbach’s statement given ongoing legal proceedings concerning his violent role during the Charlottesville rally.John Eligon, “He Says His Nazi Days Are Over. Do You Believe Him?,” New York Times, April 4, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/04/us/jeff-schoep-white-nationalist-reformer.html. Heimbach claimed his decision was based on “redefining my community as all members of the working class, instead of just White members of the working class, redefines fundamentally the political, social and economic solutions to problems we all face.”Brett Barrouguere, “Two Prominent Neo-Nazis Recant, but Their Actions Sow Doubts,” Southern Poverty Law Center, May 14, 2020, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2020/05/14/two-prominent-neo-nazis-recant-their-actions-sow-doubts. n February 2021, he told Ohio television station WKRC he had sobered up and his sympathies had shifted toward communism and leftist politicians like U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. He told WKRC that the divisions between people were not race driven but based on economic disparities. As such, he said he would work with Black Lives Matter or any other racial group to fight against the economic gap. “The capitalist class that rules this country does not care, fundamentally,” he said.Duane Pohlman, “Can a man turn 180 degrees and renounce fascism?,” WKRC, February 4, 2021, https://local12.com/news/investigates/can-a-man-turn-180-degrees-and-renounce-fascism. Heimbach was scheduled to speak at a Medicare For All rally in Muncie, Indiana, that July. National organizers canceled the rally after receiving complaints about Heimbach’s participation.Robin Gibson, “Outrage over divisive speaker apparently cancels Muncie march plans,” Star Press, June 30, 2021, https://www.thestarpress.com/story/news/local/2021/06/30/outrage-over-divisive-speaker-apparently-cancels-muncie-march-plans/7813895002/.
In July 2021, Heimbach announced his intentions to relaunch the TWP. He told the website Newsy he was drawing inspiration from Marxism and Bolshevism to support global revolution. Heimbach told Newsy he did not “particularly like Judaism as a religion.”Mark Greenblatt and Lauren Knapp, “Extremist Heimbach To Relaunch Hate Group, Says He Supports Violence,” Newsy, July 20, 2021, https://www.newsy.com/stories/extremist-heimbach-to-relaunch-hate-group-supports-violence-3/. Heimbach also called for President Joe Biden and former presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush to be tried for crimes against society. He pled the fifth amendment—protection from self-incrimination—when asked if it is permissible to kill the U.S. president. According to the report, Heimbach intended to relaunch the TWP that month.Mark Greenblatt and Lauren Knapp, “Extremist Heimbach To Relaunch Hate Group, Says He Supports Violence,” Newsy, July 20, 2021, https://www.newsy.com/stories/extremist-heimbach-to-relaunch-hate-group-supports-violence-3/.
On November 23, 2021, a U.S. District Court in Charlottesville found Heimbach and other organizers of the Unite the Right rally liable in a civil suit that alleged they were responsible for injuries to counter-protesters. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on two federal conspiracy charges. The two dozen defendants in the lawsuit included Parrott, Richard Spencer, event organizer Jason Kessler, and neo-Nazi podcaster Christopher Cantwell, among others. The jury awarded plaintiffs more than $25 million in damages.Neil MacFarquhar, “Jury Finds Rally Organizers Responsible for Charlottesville Violence,” New York Times, November 23, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/23/us/charlottesville-rally-verdict.html; Ellie Silverman, “Neo-Nazi told leader of group at deadly 2017 Charlottesville rally: ‘We’re all doing it together,’” Washington Post, November 4, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/11/04/charlottesville-lawsuit-nazis-heimbach-trial/. According to Heimbach’s testimony during the trial, he had proposed the uniform of khakis and polo shirts for the rally. In a June 5, 2017, message to Vanguard America commander Dillon Hopper, Heimbach referred to the two of them, National Socialist Movement leader Jeff Schoep, and League of the South leader Michael Hill as the leadership of the far right. Heimbach said the Charlottesville rally would bring them together with other far-right leaders.Ellie Silverman, “Neo-Nazi told leader of group at deadly 2017 Charlottesville rally: ‘We’re all doing it together,’” Washington Post, November 4, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/11/04/charlottesville-lawsuit-nazis-heimbach-trial/. The jury held Heimbach liable for $500,000.Mark Morales and Steve Almasy, “Jury finds Unite the Right defendants liable for more than $26 million in damages,” CNN, November 23, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/23/us/charlottesville-unite-the-right-trial-deliberations-tuesday/index.html. After the jury announced its decision, Heimbach claimed he is a single father of two sons, working paycheck to paycheck, and will never be able to pay the damages. He accused the plaintiffs’ lawyers of wasting $20 million “to try and play Whac-A-Mole with public figureheads.”Denise Lavoie and Michael Kunzelman, “Collecting $26M award vs. white nationalists may be tough,” Associated Press, November 24, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/race-and-ethnicity-racial-injustice-charlottesville-4a50a14dff0f862b3b09da09054a690d.