WASHINGTON — In Washington, D.C., on Sunday, the so-called "alt-right" held two competing rallies led by different factions fighting over ownership of the movement and its message.
At one rally were the media provocateurs and conspiracy theorists famous for interrupting Shakespeare plays and spreading anti-Democrat conspiracy theories, like Laura Loomer and Mike Cernovich. At the other were the hard-line nationalists like Richard Spencer who are sick of the fame-seeking, and want the group to get back to defending white identity and holding Trump accountable to his most far right base.
At that second rally, held at the Lincoln Memorial, top white nationalist leaders proclaimed the difference between the alt-right and what they termed the "alt-light." The first, they said, wants political change. The latter is just glomming onto the movement for fame.
Calling anyone a member of the "alt-right" is a minefield. The movement contains many factional ideologies, along with individuals who only espouse such beliefs as a means of causing upset. But for Spencer, one of the most visible leaders of the white nationalist bent of the alt-right movement, defining the alt right is simple: It's a movement that is building a home for white identity.
"White people are encouraged to be citizens — they're encouraged to disintegrate into nothingness, or disintegrate into individualism or atomization," Spencer said before the rally. "The alt-right is really about being a part of a family, being a part of something bigger than one's individual self."
At the Lincoln Memorial "Freedom of Speech Rally," which drew over 300 attendees, the most common theme was grievance over what many felt was an assault on white males.
"When you hear the word 'diversity,' what does the word 'diversity' mean?" white nationalist blogger Mike Enoch asked the audience.
"Anti-white!" they shouted in response.
Speakers led chants of "You will not replace us" — the "you" being people of color, and the "us" being whites — and rally attendees were overheard trying to rope Lincoln Memorial tourists into discussions about declining white birth rates.
James Allsup, a right-wing YouTuber and member of the College Republicans who is careful about directly associating with the alt-right, had another vision of purpose for the rally attendees.
For Allsup, the "alt-light" conspiracy theorists and provocateurs like Cernovich are uncritical Trump hangers-on. The business of the right, he insisted, should be holding their president to task for his campaign pledges, like building a border wall or eliminating protections for children who enter the country as undocumented immigrants.
"When we see President Trump in office, it's our job to hold him accountable," Allsup said during the rally. "Since we were the ones who supported those positions, no one else will hold him accountable."
A few blocks away near the White House, the group Allsup called the "alt-light" had its rally. Even with a little star-power from its speakers — like Loomer and Jack Posobiec, who made news for interrupting a controversial performance of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar — the rally didn't pull away enough attention from the better-attended alt-right rally, and had about half the attendance. There, Spencer held court surrounded by an ad hoc security detail made up of members of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa.
Though Spencer has spent the past week on Twitter tearing into the far-right media provocateurs who he called "losers," "freaks" and "liars," he didn't give them too much attention at the rally, writing them off to a crowd of reporters before the rally.
"They're utter cucks," Spencer said.