Leaked Chats Show Patriot Front Fascists Sought Allies at March for Life

·5 min read
Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty
Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty

The fascist group Patriot Front planned its recent public appearances around anti-abortion “March For Life” rallies, leaked chat messages reveal.

The messages, released by the media nonprofit Unicorn Riot, offer a glimpse into the white supremacist group in late 2021 as it worked to make inroads with the right and rebuild itself in the public eye. Central to the group’s campaign were a pair of March For Life events in Chicago and D.C. this month, where the uniformed fascists walked alongside members of a broader conservative movement.

In messages on the chat platform RocketChat, Patriot Front leader Thomas Rousseau described the March For Life events as outreach to the largely conservative anti-choice movement.

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“Our two March For Life events are coming up,” Rousseau wrote in December. “Plans for these will be ongoing as they are largely responsive to the plans of the marchers there. The aim is to be more understated, friendly, in smaller groups, and get as many flyers out as possible. Other more regimented options are on the table as well.”

Rousseau and Patriot Front have long tried to present a clean image to the public. Patriot Front is a spin-off of the fascist group Vanguard America. That group became too unpopular after 2017’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia where neo-Nazi James Fields Jr. marched with Vanguard America before murdering an anti-racist protester with his car. Rousseau, who attended that rally, later wrested control of Vanguard America’s chat servers and launched the rebranded Patriot Front.

The new group’s message is much the same as Vanguard America’s. The new leaks show Patriot Front members deliberating over new applicants to the group, only allowing them to join if they were adequately racist. In one case, while discussing a 23-year-old applicant (“Political Ideology: Fascist”), Patriot Front members noted approvingly that he had attended March For Life events in 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Now, with Patriot Front members attending March For Life events in Chicago and D.C. this month, the group has a four-year presence at the anti-abortion demonstrations. (Messages also showed the group discussing a March For Life event in Denver in January, but it appears to have passed without a Patriot Front presence.)

The marches, one member described, were a rallying point for the group.

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“I’m giving my word to attend the MFL in Chicago,” he wrote. “Rallying the entire Mid-West will temporarily replace all other projects. Ready to get back out into the public sphere after my absence in DC.”

Others described the events as something like group retreats, with members convening at each other’s homes for extended stays before the event.

March For Life did not return a request for comment on whether Patriot Front members would be barred from future events. In a statement to Newsweek, in response to the Patriot Front presence in D.C. the organization’s president, Jeanene Mancini, said the group condemned racism.

“March for Life promotes the beauty, dignity, and worth of every human life by working to end the violence of abortion," Mancini said. “We condemn any organization that seeks to exclude a person or group of people based on the color of their skin or any other characteristic. Such exclusion runs counter to our mission which recognizes that all human lives are equal from the moment of conception: equality begins in the womb.”

Attendees of the Chicago March For Life on Jan. 8 also took issue with the group, with marchers arguing against Patriot Front’s decision to carry shields to the event. “You guys are an embarrassment,” a March For Life attendee shouted.

But later that month, the group appeared to find a warmer welcome with some attendees of the D.C. march, where people accepted their flyers, complimented their group’s flag, and told the group to “be safe out there, guys,” according to footage captured by photojournalist Zach Roberts.

“Well, as long as they’re pro-life,” a March For Life attendee told Roberts when he told her the group was a Christian fascist organization.

White supremacists have previously seized upon anti-choice rallies, particularly March For Life, to forge alliances and spread their messaging.

In previous leaked messages, compiled by Unicorn Riot and reported by Rewire New Group, fascist groups discussed strategic alliances with anti-abortion activists.

“March for life never has effect until White Nationalists join,” wrote one member of the now-defunct fascist group Traditionalist Worker Party in 2018. (Minutes earlier, he had shared a meme glorifying the Charlottesville rally.)

Other TWP messages from 2017 show group members (who used screen names like “Shoah Shekelstein” and “Haupstürmfuhrer Pepe”) volunteering to go to March For Life events. “March for life is good shit,” Haupstürmfuhrer Pepe wrote.

By January 2018, the group’s leader Matthew Heimbach, had announced the group’s plans to attend a March For Life in Kentucky.

“The gift of having children is a blessing for woman, and the entire nation, and it should be promoted as truly sacred,” Heimbach wrote on the TWP website. “It is National Socialists and National Socialists alone who truly fight for women.”

Heimbach had pleaded guilty the previous year to assaulting a woman at a Trump rally. Two months after describing Nazis as the only group “who truly fight for women,” Heimbach was arrested for battering his wife in front of their children.

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