COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – As President Donald Trump continues to stoke outrage over the white nationalist rally that led to the death of a young woman by failing to outright denounce the neo-Nazis who organized the event, the history and future of white nationalism in Colorado is coming under new scrutiny.
The mayor of Colorado Springs said Tuesday the city won’t provide any support or resources to a conference set for next year planned by “patriotic immigration reform” group VDARE, which also sympathizes with white nationalists, according to its website.
VDARE is set to host the three-day conference at Cheyenne Mountain Resort next April, and among the contributing writers to its website is Jason Kessler, the man who organized the Friday-Saturday gathering of neo-Nazis, KKK members and other white nationalist groups.
After protesters effectively shut down Kessler’s rally Saturday, one of the men linked to the groups, James A. Fields Jr., allegedly drove his car into a group of those protesting the nationalists, killing one woman and injuring 19 others.
At a press conference the next day, Kessler was drowned out by chants of “Shame!” and was forced to run off under police cover when protesters started approaching him and shouting in his face.
On June 19, Kessler published an article on the website titled “Yes, Virginia, There Is Such A Thing As White Genocide.”
Also set to be at the conference, whose tickets currently cost $225 for the three-day event, will be VDARE editor Peter Brinmlow and former U.S. Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado, who most recently ran for both president and governor, failing in his quests each time.
The conference’s website the conference will “celebrate the shifting political tides and discuss the way forward for patriotic immigration reform and American national identity.”
The website goes onto say that VDARE’s “experts have spent the last 20 years offending the mainstream by championing patriotic immigration, striving for a renewed American identity and challenging oppressive Cultural Marxism.”
After Heather Heyer was killed over the weekend, allegedly by Fields, VDARE ran stories saying Fields acted in self-defense, questioned the people protesting Nazis, and wrote that Charlottesville police “openly attacked” the white nationalist rally.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers got ahead of the gathering, which is still 8 months away, on Tuesday.
He said the city “does not condone hate speech in any fashion” and said it wouldn’t “provide any support or resources to this event.”
“The city remains steadfast in its commitment to the enforcement of Colorado law, which protects all individuals regardless of race, religion, color, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation to be secure and protected from fear, intimidation, harassment and physical harm,” Suthers continued.
He added that the city “does not have the authority to restrict freedom of speech” or to tell private businesses which events they are allowed to host.
“That said,” he added, “I would encourage local businesses to be attentive to the types of events they accept and the groups they invite to our great city.”
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office added that its deputies wouldn’t be participating either unless their presence is requested by the Colorado Springs Police Department for some reason.
President Trump took the opposite tone in a Tuesday news conference that was supposed to be about American infrastructure, but turned into him again failing to denounce the white nationalists for the violence over the weekend, conflating them with people who were there to protest Nazis and white supremacists.
Trump said there was “blame on both sides” and said he waited to talk about the Charlottesville incident because he “wanted to make sure…that what I said was correct.” He said knowing the facts “is a very, very important process” to him.
"You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now,” Trump continued.
The fight over a resurgence in white national groups comes at the same time as a push over the past year to get Confederate monuments and statues removed from sites across the country. Hopes that a Confederate statue on the University of Virginia’s campus would be removed is part of what brought the white nationalist groups there on Friday in the first place.
Since Colorado only became a territory in 1861 at the onset of the Civil War, it didn’t have as much involvement in the war as much of the rest of the U.S. that existed at the time.
There was a Confederate recruiting post at Mace’s Hole near Pueblo, and Colorado volunteers stopped a Confederate company from getting into Colorado at the Battle of Glorieta Pass in what is now northern New Mexico. The Southern Poverty Law Center has said there are 16 groups classified as "hate organizations" that operate in Colorado.
According to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group of descendants of Confederate soldiers, there are at least four monuments in Colorado dedicated to Confederate soldiers: the Confederate Monument at Greenwood Cemetery in Canon City; the marker in Beulah commemorating a skirmish between opposition parties; several markers in the Roselawn Cemetery in Pueblo; and the monument in an Aspen cemetery where both Confederate and Union soldiers are buried.
Attempts to reach VDARE Monday and Tuesday for comment were unsuccessful.
Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.