Daryle Lamont Jenkins sat quietly in a leather chair in the lobby of the National Press Club, dressed in a blazer and khakis. It was Saturday, Halloween, and he watched as people in masks and disguises walked by and filed into the hallway beside him, and then down into a ballroom.
The costumes, Jenkins knew, weren’t to celebrate the holiday. They were to shield their identities from people like him.
Jenkins is an anti-racism activist and the founder of One People’s Project, sort of a scrappier version of the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to its mission statement, One People’s Project is “dedicated to researching and reporting on right/far right/racist individuals and organizations in the widely successful effort to make their lives miserable—much to the glee of everyone else!”
Its slogan: Hate Has Consequences.
One People’s Project goal is not unlike that of Anonymous, but instead of wreaking their havoc digitally (with claims that might not be true), Jenkins puts boots on the ground. He goes to where hate lives, which this weekend happens to be a quiet conference near the White House.
Inside the National Press Club on this particular day, Jenkins had hit a jackpot: an “all-day, one-track conference” for the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist group or, according to their website, an “independent think-tank and publishing firm dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of European people in the United States and around the world.”
They called the event, “Become Who We Are.”
For the 175 attendees to get to the ballroom, where they would discuss their heritage and tackle the subject of whether or not Jews are white, they would have to pass by Jenkins, the only non-white person at the press club on Saturday morning who didn’t work there. He was taking mental notes on—and video footage of—every one of them.
Jenkins travels the country attending events like this for One People’s Project, which he founded in 2000 in response to a white supremacist rally being held in Morristown, New Jersey. The group is now based in Philadelphia, where Jenkins lives. They have no office or official workspace, just a P.O. Box. Jenkins and his 30 volunteers, whose identities he won’t reveal citing concerns for their safety, never get paid for their work, Jenkins said.
This method of eradicating hate that breeds in the undisturbed fringes of society—on obscure websites, or at quiet weekend conferences near the White House—by getting a good look at it up close stands in stark contrast to what Anonymous did just a few days before Jenkins found himself at the press club. On Oct. 28, the vigilante group vowed to unmask 1,000 Ku Klux Klan members and associates, but when they began to follow through by first releasing the phone numbers and email addresses of of 80 people allegedly connected to the KKK, people were skeptical of the validity of the information. Even a KKK leader said Anonymous was distributing bad information, and the group soon denied that it was behind the stunt.
Jenkins, who is 47 years-old, described growing up in Somerset, New Jersey, with a father who taught black history. From the time he was 10 years old, he said, he studied racism almost anthropologically. He wondered, “where did everybody who hated us go?” and soon found his answer in news articles, and then on daytime talk shows.
“You’d see ’em on Jerry Springer, you’d see ’em on Donahue.” Jenkins said he started compiling their names like how some kids might collect baseball cards.
One People’s Project’s goal is similarly to gain information about the individuals who attend conferences like the one held Saturday, but it’s not just for Jenkins to keep for himself anymore. If an individual associated with a white supremacist group is in a position of responsibility or prominence in their community—say, a professor or a police officer—One People’s Project will out them and attempt to strip them of their good reputation.
The group has a “Rogues Gallery” on its website, an alphabetical list—complete with photos—of people they claim to know to be white nationalists.
One People’s Project is not polite in its pursuit.
Jenkins gleefully told me that when a white supremacist dies, “we don’t say rest in peace, we say rot in hell,” and they pen facetious obituaries commemorating the death.
He was sued once for shutting down a conference, by David Yeagley, a comanche activist. Yeagley won and Jenkins was ordered to pay $50,000, but before he could, Yeagley died, in March 2014.
Because of the internet and how quickly information is distributed, white nationalists are now reluctant to rally on the street like they did in the past, for fear that their picture could be taken or name reported and spread across the web like wildfire, Jenkins said. It’s just not easy to demonstrate against non-whites on the weekend and go back to your day job on Monday anymore.
“Now they resort to these conferences,” he told me, chuckling at the white men walking by in suits and ties. “We think they’re gonna cause more damage than any knucklehead burning a cross.”
What Jenkins meant was, the knucklehead burning the cross is likely to be dismissed as a knucklehead by most sane people, but there’s a chance that the neatly dressed young man coming to Washington for a conference could infiltrate politics or business and exact his influence on the powerful—or worse, gain power himself.
After Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, murdered nine people at a black church in South Carolina, Jenkins said he began to look at organizations like the National Policy Institute with new concern.
“We said, look, we are going to have to pay closer attention to those that are in the boardrooms, trying to advance themselves politically and academically,” he said.
Not surprisingly, lurking outside fascist confabs has made Jenkins quite a few enemies. As we sat together in the lobby, young white men nodded at Jenkins or took photos. One of them remarked, mockingly “where’s your belt, Daryle?” as he walked by.
“They come at me, they will say all kinds of things about me,” Jenkins said. “They complain about me being fat. I get that a lot, a lot. They’re going on message boards, or they’ll actually call me and leave messages.”
Jenkins claims he’s been physically intimidated, too, and that once the FBI called him to inform him that it’d thwarted a plot to bomb his parents home.
The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website (that once inexplicably labeled this reporter a “probable Jewess” and “plastic surgery addict”) called Jenkins an “obese black queer” and “the obese, homosexual negro.”
People continued to file into the ballroom, one of them holding a red Donald Trump MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hat.
“I’m just gonna sit here all day,” Jenkins said, “or at least as long as I can.”