Among the groups leading the recent Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, Virginia was the League of the South – an Alabama-based theocratic, neo-confederate group that has long advocated for southern secession. League leader Michael Hill was among the scheduled speakers for the planned rally to save a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from removal from a public park. While the rally was cancelled, the League’s presence was well documented by cameras and video. Amidst the televised brawls, some League members were strikingly visible, thanks in part to the white shields with black crosses they carried into the fray. Most notoriously, longtime Florida state chapter leader and League Chief of Staff, Michael Tubbs, a former Green Beret, was ID’d by the Southern Poverty Law Center, based on photos and videos, as on the scene when an African-American counter protester was viciously clubbed, apparently by League members.
Recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia and at the 2017 annual conference of the League of the South held in Wetumpka, Alabama in June, bear out PRA’s warning in 2014 that threats of violence from the League of the South need to be taken seriously. The League’s involvement in Charlottesville, and several other public struggles over the removal of Confederate monuments from public spaces, suggests that these will continue to be symbolic and actual battle grounds of choice – perhaps with escalating levels of violence.
We reported in 2014, that Hill had published an essay titled, “A Bazooka in Every Pot,” that advocated for the deployment of death squads featuring “three-to-five-man” units with a hair-raising mission: “The primary targets will not be enemy soldiers,” Hill wrote. “Instead, they will be political leaders, members of the hostile media, cultural icons, bureaucrats, and other of the managerial elite without whom the engines of tyranny don’t run.”
Hill followed-up with another essay in which he calls on the young men of “Christendom” to become “citizen-soldiers” in the battles against the tyranny of our time. He saw himself and his comrades as part of a long line of such men, invoking historic battles with Islamic armies going back to the Battle of Tours in the 8th century. His role models for warriors for Christendom, however, are the White Westerners who fought against Black liberation movements in Southern Africa in the 1970s. “So if Western men in past times were willing to fight for their civilization in remote areas of the world,” he asked, “shouldn’t we expect them to be just as willing to fight for that civilization here at its very heart—the South?”
Unsurprisingly, the League is a political home for violent, would-be revolutionaries who intend to make their vision a reality. Michael Tubbs, for example, was arrested in 1989 with arms, explosives, and a hit list that included newspapers, television stations, and businesses owned by Jews and Blacks. He served four years in prison, but Hill and other league leaders nevertheless allowed Tubbs to stay on as a League leader in Florida, saying he’d “paid his debt to society.”
Hill and Tubbs formed a secret paramilitary unit in 2014. But by the League’s 2017 annual conference, Hill revealed that they are now openly forming an army. While it is unclear how far along they may be in creating a fighting force of any consequence, Hill spoke convincingly about his intentions in his speech titled, “The War Has Already Begun!” In it, he declared that we are currently in a period of relative calm before the storm of a race war in the United States. He claimed, to applause, that over the past 40 years, “the number of black on white violent crimes and murders has been astronomical. There is a war against YOU, White men and White woman (sic) in the streets of our cities!” (Unsurprisingly, keynote speaker David Duke, a longtime leader of far right, white supremacist factions sounded similar themes.)
Hill said that the current war has essentially been going on for two generations and it began with that “accursed thing called the Civil Rights Movement.” He spoke nostalgically of a time when the South was “White man’s land” and of the need to take it back as a “righteous cause.”
He spoke of how White culture, “stretching back into the mist of antiquity, is that of a warrior.” Being a warrior is a “calling,” he said, and he wanted the warriors at the conference to emulate confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and his “favorite,” Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. The latter was, of course, a winking reference to the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, and was greeted with knowing laughter and appreciative applause.
He went on to speak of needing to learn to organize, and to train in the necessary skills for the war. To that end, he noted that the present war is not like traditional wars, but that the battlefield is “everywhere” and the enemy is legion and “does not necessarily wear a uniform, and sometimes you can tell the enemy because the skin he is wearing becomes his uniform.”
He insisted that after the Confederate flags and statues currently at issue, “when they finish with the stone and the fabrics… they are coming after you. Don’t ever doubt that.” He characterized those who will come for them “as the children of the father of lies” and that his audience and allies beyond are the children of “the living God.” He said that they are living in a biblically prophesized scenario in which God’s people fight it out to the end with the forces of Satan. But they will win.
He spoke openly about how the League has created a body he calls the Southern Defense Force, and that it will be not just a modern Confederate army but will actually be the “Army of the True Living God.” In closing he offered-up what he calls an Old Testament vision of “destroying the enemies of our land, our people and of our God.”
If the League members on the scene in Charlottesville acted with a wanton aggression, it might be because Michael Hill has long been preparing them for battle with what he sees as “demonic” forces, particularly Black people. Tubbs is featured in cell phone videos taken at the scene of one of the bloodiest incidents of the mob violence at the march. The beating of a young African American and Charlottesville public school employee, Deandre Harris, according to the SPLC, was carried out by members of the Florida chapter of the League of which Tubbs is still chapter president. “I was chased and beat with metal poles,” Harris wrote on Facebook. “I was knocked unconscious repeatedly. Every time I went to stand up I was knocked back down. If it was not for my friends that I came with I would have been beaten to a pulp.”
One does not have to believe that the small League of the South and their allies are capable of being the military arm of political secession, let alone an effective End Times Army of God, to recognize that they are intent on and capable, as we have seen in Charlottesville, of wreaking havoc in the furtherance of their perceived war with much of the rest of society.