Two Marines are back on duty after they were arrested at a pro-Confederate rally with a banner bearing a slogan associated with white nationalists.
Sgt. Michael Chesny, 35, and Staff Sgt. Joseph Manning, 32, were arrested in North Carolina on May 20 at a “Confederate Memorial Day” rally hosted by Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County, a neo-confederate group that formed in 2015 out of opposition to a local mosque. While rally-goers waved “Confederate lives matter” posters, Chesny and Manning allegedly climbed trespassed on the roof and hung a banner bearing a white nationalist symbol and slogans associated with a white nationalist group.
“He who controls the past controls the future,” the large banner read. The phrase originates from George Orwell’s novel 1984. The banner also bore a black and yellow circle with a triangle inside, a symbol for the far-right Identitarian movement. The Identitarian movement, which practices an openly racist, anti-immigrant ideology, originated in Europe in the early 2000s. But the movement has recently gained traction with some white nationalist groups in the U.S., including Identity Evropa—a far-right group whose founder, a former U.S. Marine who robbed a cab driver at gunpoint believing the man to be Iraqi, is a self-professed Identitarian.
Chesny’s and Manning’s banner also made reference to a phrase favored by Identity Evropa. “YWNRU,” the banner read. The acronym stands for “you will not replace us,” a slogan Identity Evropa and other white nationalists chanted at a torch-lit rally in May. (Rally-goers also chanted the Nazi slogan “blood and soil.”)
Though Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County supporters were chastised by police for bringing guns to the May 20 rally, the neo-Confederate group said the two Marines were not affiliated with their organization.
“They were arrested for hanging a banner on one of the local businesses,” the group wrote on Facebook “When the police took down the banner we all cheered because we assumed it was another [labor union banner]. We thought by the wording it was 110% some anti-everything slogan. Several of us have been researching the meaning and silly as it sounds, we still can't figure out what these guys were there to express.”
After they were arrested for trespassing on the roof, Chesny and Manning told police that they were only at the rally to film counter-protesters from a local union to “show they weren’t peaceful,” police told North Carolina’s Times-News.
Neither Marine’s duty office returned The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Sunday. Spokespersons for both military bases told the Marine Corps Times that they were investigating the arrests and weighing whether to take disciplinary action.
“Once the investigation is complete, the commanding officer's action can range from taking no action and letting the civilian authorities prosecute the case, to administrative actions such as formal admonishment, non-judicial punishment or administrative separation from the service,” Mike Barton, a spokesman for Chesny’s command unit at Cherry Point told the Marine Corps Times. “The commanding officer may refer the case to a court martial if the investigation determines the misconduct was serious enough to warrant a prosecution of crimes not already handled through the Alamance County criminal court.”
“Of course we condemn this type of behavior,” Marines spokesperson Maj. Clark Carpenter told the Times-News. “We condemn any type of behavior that is not congruent with our values or that is illegal.”Carpenter said the Chesny’s and Manning’s alleged behavior did not represent the Marine Corps.“This is two Marines that behaved inappropriately,” Carpenter said. “That’s going to be investigated, and ultimately it’s an isolated incident.”
Both men were freed the day of their arrest on a $1,500 bond.