White Supremacists Treated Trump’s New Jersey Rally as Fertile Recruiting Ground

Trump supporters wait in line to get inside of a rally in Wildwood, New Jersey, on Jan. 28, 2020. (Photo: Jared Holt)

A young ​white man with cargo pants tucked into his boots walked up and down the line of people who had waited in the cold for hours ​hoping​ to get inside President Donald Trump’s rally in Wildwood, New Jersey, Tuesday evening, ​handing them flyers​ for a white nationalist organization. With the organization’s logo patched across the front of his khaki baseball cap​, he took no strides to hide his affiliation.

​The red, white, and blue paper square​d flyers advertised Patriot Front, which the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as an “image-obsessed” white nationalist hate group with chapters across the United States, and decr​ied “foreign wars.” Vox senior politics reporter Jane Coaston pointed out that other members of Patriot Front have attended progressive anti-war rallies and passed out materials, attempting to cloak their anti-Semitic beliefs that the U.S. government is a “Zionist occupied government” in vague rhetoric to avoid immediately alarming attendees. On Tuesday afternoon, one member of Patriot Front handed this reporter such a flyer.

​Patriot Front was founded by ​Thomas Rousseau, a former member of the neo-Nazi group Vanguard America. Vanguard America was an organization James Fields, who murdered anti-racist protester Heather Heyer at the 2017 Unite the Right gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, marched with, according to the SPLC.​ Like Vanguard America, Patriot Front calls for the formation of a white ethnostate, leveraging the powers of the government to enforce a white super-majority in America.

[Left]: A young man distributes Patriot Front flyers outside a Trump rally in Wildwood, New Jersey, on Jan. 28, 2020 (emphasis added). [Right]: A flyer advertising Patriot Front that was distributed at the rally (contents blurred).

Patriot Front was not alone in its right-wing extremist representation outside of Trump’s rally on Tuesday. Daryle Lamont Jenkins of the anti-racist organization One People’s Project identified a man outside the rally believed to be Dan D’Ambly of the New Jersey European Heritage Association, which the Anti-Defamation League considers a white supremacist group. D’Ambly also attended ​the 2017 Unite the Right gathering, according to ​One People’s Project.

Even as some white supremacists have soured on Trump through his time in office, it seems that they still consider his devoted fan base to be fertile ground for ​recruitment and garnering sympathy for their causes. Not much seems to have changed since 2016, when former KKK leader David Duke encouraged his followers to volunteer for the Trump primary campaign as a way to meet like-minded people. Federal officials have recently made high-profile arrests of white supremacists who have planned and threatened violence, but that apparently hasn’t deterred extremist groups like Patriot Front from attempting to organize in public.

“Those kinds of individuals have maintained a presence at Trump rallies across the country. We have always known about the relationship they have with Trump, mostly because they have never been shy about touting that relationship or support,” Jenkins said. “It would have been surprising if we didn’t see them there.”