Tennessee Homeland Security Analyst: Violent Neo-Nazis “Not The Issue”

Knoxville, TN – Emails obtained by Unicorn Riot through public records requests show conversations between law enforcement monitoring events concerning the now-defunct neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party, or TWP. An email thread we received from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shows a loose timeline of various events involving TWP in Tennessee. At times, comments made by state Homeland Security analysts appear to demonstrate a bias against anti-racist protesters and in support of neo-Nazi groups.

Most of the emails seemed to concern a February 17 event at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK), where TWP leader Matthew Heimbach spoke to a group of about two dozen Nazi party members and supporters. According to UTK’s administration, TWP members booked the event by falsely using the name of a local church on the paperwork to rent the space. Tennessee Homeland Security intelligence analyst Misty Phillips noted this, telling her colleagues that TWP had “misrepresented” their “intent…during the setup of the reservations.”

Days before the event, Matthew Heimbach posted in the TWP’s official chat (whose contents we recently leaked) that he was pleased by his interactions with police regarding the event, and believed cops would use force against his political opponents. “I talked to the cops to UTK today, and they want to avoid any security issues,” he wrote. “So basically i think if the Reds act up, they are gonna get billy clubbed…so, can’t complain.” 

Heimbach’s prediction of police using force on his opponents ended up coming true, when officers violently arrested several clergy at the edge of where they had closed campus in order to provide space for the TWP event. Livestream footage by TWP members and supporters from the UTK campus event also show that the group was escorted on and off campus by a squadron of police from various Tennessee agencies.

Responding to media inquiries after the 17th, law enforcement officials involved in monitoring the event were asked to estimate how much funds were used for law enforcement that day.

Cheryl Sanders, a Major in the Tennessee Highway Patrol, estimated $25,355 total costs for law enforcement deployment associated with Heimbach UTK speaking event. She noted that her figure “includes the hotel and travel expenses for the Chatanooga strike team,” who appear to have been added to the plans last minute.

With attendance of Matthew Heimbach’s “National Socialism or Death” event estimated at about two dozen people, this means law enforcement spent roughly $1,000 for each Nazi supporter.

Almost a month later, national coverage of TWP’s campus event had subsided, local concerns posed by an uptick in neo-Nazi activity continued to be discussed. According to “situational awareness” updates shared by Tennessee law enforcement intelligence, an event was scheduled for UTK campus on March 17 which would consist of a panel discussion about racism. TWP members and other white supremacists began posting online that some of them would show up to disrupt the event, leading state law enforcement to speculate about possible “competing demonstrations” of “anti-racists and white supremacists.”

In the following discussion regarding the potential confrontation, one police analyst seemed to go out of her way to clear the name of the neo-Nazi group. “TWP is very good about communicating with the venue in which they plan to attend,” wrote Tennessee Homeland Security analyst Misty Phillips on March 13, apparently forgetting her own recent email advising that TWP had set up their UT speaking event under false pretenses.

Phillips’ next claim was even more interesting – she went on to say that “TWP typically is not the issue but rather opposing groups.”

According to her bio on a website for a police conference, Misty Phillips is an Intelligence Analyst at the Tennessee Office of Homeland Security, and “assists local, state, and federal law enforcement with analysis of information for intelligence purposes.”

While Phillips’ remarks are unsurprising in the context of police intelligence ‘fusion centers’ focusing on anti-racists while downplaying neo-Nazi violence, her claims seems to fly in the face of widely accepted facts regarding the Traditionalist Worker Party.

The TWP has been connected to stabbings in Sacramento in 2016, and has publicly advocated on behalf of accused stabber William Planer, who was a TWP party official for the western mountain region. The City of Charlottesville’s independent third-party review of the events on August 12 also found that TWP was among the groups largely responsible for the violence at Unite The Right.

Additionally, just a week before Phillips sent her email claiming “TWP typically is not the issue,” many TWP members had been prominently featured in news images showing them beating counter-protesters with their fists outside Richard Spencer’s March 5 speech at Michigan State University. What’s more, on the same day Misty Phillips’ colleagues in Tennessee law enforcement received her email dismissing concerns about TWP, the group’s leader Matthew Heimbach was arrested on felony assault charges in Indiana.

Leaked Traditionalist Worker Party Discord chats, obtained by Unicorn Riot and published earlier this month, also show the group discussed engaging in various acts of violence, and members described making molotov cocktails while staying with Richard Spencer at a rental property in Ann Arbor, MI in March 2018.

Neither Misty Phillips nor her employer, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, have responded to our request for comment as of this writing.

Read the emails for yourself below.

TBI emails re TWP

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