04.24.13

Riding Along With a Towson University Student’s ‘White Patrol’

After torpedoing a CPAC panel on race relations with comments about ‘his people,’ a young white supremacist is conducting patrols ‘to protect’ white classmates at Baltimore’s Towson University. Caitlin Dickson rode along with the man the Southern Poverty Law Center calls ‘the future of organized hate.’

He should be the most hated man on campus. But even his would-be adversaries have only nice things to say about Matthew Heimbach, the 22-­year-old founder and leader of the Towson White Student Union (WSU), a non­-university-affiliated group that is doing its part to stop the “genocide against the European people.”

“He’s really polite,” says Jonathan Smith, president of the Black Student Union at Towson, a public university of more than 20,000 students in Baltimore County, Maryland. The number of white students at Towson reflects the demographics of Baltimore County, making up 68 percent and 65 percent of the two populations, respectively. Yet while 26.8 percent of Baltimore County residents are black, only 13 percent of Towson students are. “He doesn’t want diversity, but I’ve never felt like he’s trying to belittle me or not want to be in my presence. We’ve just talked and chilled.”

It’s Heimbach’s views on race, not his pleasant demeanor, that have lured several reporters to this suburban college town in the past month. Back in March, the White Student Union went from a local news story to a national one when one of its members suggested, during a panel at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, that the Republican Party might benefit from segregation, and that Frederick Douglass's slave master did him a favor by providing him food and shelter. Since then, Heimbach and his crew have stayed in the spotlight with their announcement that they’d be patrolling the campus to combat what they claim is a prevalence crime targeted by black males against white females. As far as everyone else at the school is concerned, the talk of scouring the campus for crime so far has been just that: talk. But last week, Heimbach invited The Daily Beast, Vice magazine, and CNN (who ended up sending its reporter to Boston instead) to tag along on a patrol.

Heimbach is, indeed, polite. Chubby, with black, buzzed hair and dark, beady eyes, he speaks with a Southern inflection and sprinkles the word “ma’am” into his explanation of how he “awakened to the essential displacement of our people.” The oldest of three siblings, Heimbach was raised by two public-school teachers in the small town of Poolesville, Maryland. Heimbach credits the writings of conservative commentator Pat Buchanan with inspiring the creation of the White Student Union.

“I’m Jewish and they’re white supremacists,” said one student. “They’re neo-Nazis. They just want everyone to be as unhappy as they are right now.”

“Buchanan talks about how whites are being displaced, becoming a minority in this country,” says Heimbach. “He talks about how growing secularism goes hand in hand with the destruction of European culture.” From Buchanan, Heimbach was introduced to Jared Taylor, founder of the magazine American Renaissance and proponent of “race realism,” which argues that every race is inherently self-interested, and other advocates of “white nationalism.”

“I’ve always been put off by skinheads and neo-Nazis and the Klan because they don’t advocate a positive message,” Heimbach says. “They don’t advocate any solutions, really, but they also advocate hatred. I’m allowed to love my people.”

Heimbach attempted to create a White Student Union at Poolesville High School but was shut down—despite, he claims, having 400 signatures of support—when the school deemed the endeavor racist. During his two years at Montgomery College, a community college outside Washington, D.C., he headed a chapter of the conservative youth organization Young Americans for Freedom. Before the start of his first semester at Towson in 2011, he helped form the now-defunct Towson branch of the Youth for Western Civilization, a former non­profit organization founded in 2006 in opposition to multiculturalism and affirmative action at American colleges. Towson revoked Youth for Western Civilization’s campus privileges in March 2012 when some of its members scrawled “White Pride” in chalk across the school’s Baltimore campus. At the time, Heimbach came to the group’s defense saying, “White pride is no different than gay pride or black pride.” Frustrated by what he calls “blatant double standards in our society,” Heimbach submitted an application for approval for his White Student Union during the first week of fall semester, 2012. It was rejected.

It turned out to be a blessing, he says, giving the group freedom that the university chartered Youth for Western Civilization never had. He practically celebrated his induction into the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map. “Members of the Towson White Student Union were pleased to find this morning that the left wing Southern Poverty Law Center has decided that our stand against the genocide of the European people from the face of the earth, demographic displacement of Europeans from our homelands, discrimination in the workplace, and a call to end foreign influence over our domestic affairs has made us such a threat to the Left that they put us on the Hate Map,” he posted proudly on the group’s blog.

The SPLC, for its part, has called Heimbach “the future of organized hate.”

While Heimbach seems to revel in the attention, Bilphena Yahwon, who founded Be the Change Towson after the White Student Group attempted to get university approval, is troubled by the national media attention her school is generating. “WSU is not affiliated, supported, or endorsed by the university. Some students don’t even know it exists,” she said. “They’re not even a group, just a few individuals who are being obnoxious.”

Towson University President Maravene Loeschke agrees. At a Unity Rally on campus earlier this month, she praised students for “coming together around the core values that we all share,” denouncing Heimbach as “one student out there giving a lot of misinformation.”

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One member of the Towson White Student Union shows off his white, Southern pride with a collage of bumper stickers. (Caitlin Dickson)

But what is described by Yahwon and Loeschke as “a few individuals,” only one of whom is actually a Towson student, is, according to Heimbach, a 57-member group of students (both undergraduate and graduate), community members, and students from nearby schools. Members must take an oath of conduct that includes a pledge to “defend, honor, and further knowledge of the Christian religion and create a future for the European people,” and participate in at least one event every two weeks.

As of last week, the Towson campus police said it wasn’t aware of the WSU conducting patrols, and Smith scoffed at the news coverage. Yet Heimbach says they’ve done six patrols since announcing their plans last semester. They don’t claim to have witnessed or thwarted any real crimes, but say they that on their last patrol they came across two girls who were visibly intoxicated and sent them home in a cab. Preventing girls from getting raped is one of the main goals of these excursions and their plan, in the event of any real crime, is to call the police. And while Heimbach has cited the “very large problem of black­-male­-against-­white-­female crime” at Towson as justification for campus patrols, the university insists it has one of the safest campuses in the University System of Maryland, offering the latest report that shows Towson with the lowest crime statistics per capita among Maryland schools.

Heimbach and five others are gathered at the Red Robin in Towson for pre-patrol beers and burgers. Four of the people there are “executive members” of the White Student Union—meaning they help organize and lead the group. Heimbach sits proudly at the head of the table, sporting a tight-fitting Youth for Western Civilization T-­shirt and two necklaces: one a short chain with a small medallion that hits his collarbone and the other a cross with a circle behind it that sits right on his chest. He introduces his team by first name only. Paddy, a Towson junior from Baltimore, is his right-hand man. Short but built, his head shaved, he speaks calmly but passionately about his desire to see the creation of a white “ethno­state,” free from the ruin of multiculturalism. To Paddy's right is his fiancée, Addie, a senior from Nashville who deplores feminism and credits Paddy with introducing her to the movement. Next to her is Ken, a 43­-year-­old who drove from Delaware to participate in his first patrol.

I hitch a ride to the campus with Shane, a 26-­year-­old member of such organizations as the Maryland League of the South, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Southern National Congress. He doesn’t live or go to school in Towson, a city he says is overrun with outsiders. As he opens the door to the passenger's seat for me, Shane nods to the back of his white Dodge pickup truck that is covered in bumper stickers that read “Native” and “Go home Yankee!” scattered throughout a collage of Confederate flags. “This is what you're going to be riding in,” he warns.

Everyone reconvenes in a parking garage on campus to read a passage from the Bible and say a prayer before setting out on their mission. Other than the fact that a few of them are carrying large Maglite flashlights, they look just like a group of friends out for an evening stroll. If it weren't for the cameraman running backward ahead of them, drawing attention at every step with his glaring light, they might have managed to carry out the entire patrol without anyone looking twice.

“That's the White Student Union guy,” sophomore Bria Brown says to her friends, all of whom are black, spotting Heimbach as the posse passes through the student union. “I recognized him from the news.”

Brown's friend, fellow undergrad Ebony Spiller says she probably wouldn't have even noticed Heimbach and his crew walking by if not for the camera. She says she finds the idea of patrols pointless, figuring that they were just attention seekers. But Jonathan Adejoh, also a sophomore, disagrees. "I definitely would have noticed them," he says. "They look weird, kind of freaky. It's intimidating."

Meanwhile, Heimbach heads for the Black Student Union to ask if any of their members want to join the patrol, crossing paths with members of the Jewish fraternity AEPi on the way. A ruckus erupts as one student becomes distraught. "I hate them," he declares, pacing back and forth, his face red. He declined to give his name. "I'm Jewish and they're white supremacists. They're neo­-Nazis. They just want everyone to be as unhappy as they are right now." Back outside, Paddy and Addie discuss what happened with the frat boys.

"Most of the venom that is spewed at us comes from our own people, which I think says a lot," says Paddy. "I think it says that whites today have been brainwashed into complete and utter ignorance." He and the others don't seem to be aware of the fact that the young men they'd just encountered were Jewish. The WSU does not recognize Jews as white.

Paddy and Heimbach insist that the White Student Union is a peaceful organization, focused solely on preserving white culture. But it's obvious that Heimbach likes to instigate. He makes a point of picking at a "Kony 2012" sticker on a pole. Later, he scrawls "Hitler" on a piece of poster board in the library under the question, "Who is your favorite author?" He poses for the cameraman with his arms crossed in front of a chalk board that says, "Take back the night."

Around 9:30 p.m., the group decides to call it quits. It’s Monday, after all, and the campus is relatively quiet. Heimbach’s girlfriend—who says she is supportive but doesn’t want to be involved with the WSU for fear of negative backlash—meets up with the group on the walk back to the cars. They reconvene at a restaurant, where, over ice cream sundaes and $2 beers, they talk about the patrol and the “drug deal” they may have just witnessed (a person handed something suspicious to someone else through a dorm window).

It’s hard not to wonder whether the media have given Heimbach undeserved notoriety. His views on race and the impending threat against white culture are shocking, at times confused, and, to many, offensive. Still, those who recognized him during the patrol—and even the student who grew angry at the sight of him—knew who he was. Not because he’s used violence, intimidation, or harassment against other students but because they’ve read and watched countless interviews with him. But even if he is all talk, some people are listening.

“He just seems like a nice person,” said Yahwon. “It’s really hard to believe that he’s promoting these ideas.”