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Hate groups have long called Kentucky home. But where does the state stand in comparison to the rest of the country? In this series, reporter Eleanor Klibanoff examines hate groups across the region, goes inside the playbook of one burgeoning supremacist group, and looks at how some residents are pushing back.

Southern Indiana White Nationalist Arrested On Domestic Violence Charges

White nationalist leader Matthew Heimbach was arrested Tuesday for felony domestic battery in southern Indiana, raising questions about his organization’s future and his role in the so-called “alt-right” movement -- and potentially violating his probation in Kentucky.

Police records obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center show that Heimbach was arrested Tuesday by Paoli Police and charged with domestic battery committed in the presence of a child less than 16 years old, as well as intimidation and strangulation. Heimbach allegedly assaulted his wife and his wife’s stepfather, David Matthew Parrott.

He was released from jail after posting $1,000 bond, according to online court records.

Heimbach and Parrott co-founded the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist political group that has worked to unite the “alt-right” movement. Heimbach helped plan the rally in Charlottesville, Va., last August, where 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed. A 20-year-old Florence, Kentucky native was charged with first-degree murder.

The Traditionalist Worker Party is a white rights advocacy group that is anti-capitalist, anti-semitic and anti-diversity. The group’s ultimate goal is the creation of an all-white ethno-state that people of other races would need a visa to visit.

The group’s website is down as of Wednesday morning. Heimbach agreed to a scheduled interview with KyCIR Wednesday but then didn’t answer phone calls.

“I think we can say that Heimbach’s involvement in this movement is done,” said Ryan Lenz, senior writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project. “Something will come in to fill the void, but it’s notable because it reflects a larger trend of discord and collapse that is permeating the entire white nationalist movement right now.”

Heimbach has a track record of violence. In 2016, he allegedly assaulted protesters at a Donald Trump rally in Louisville. Heimbach entered an Alford plea, which is a guilty plea where the defendant maintains innocence but admits there’s likely enough evidence to convict.

In July 2017, a judge gave Heimbach a suspended 90-day sentence on the condition that he not reoffend within two years.

This week’s arrest comes well within the two-year limit. Heimbach has a court hearing scheduled in Jefferson District Court on June 1.

Heimbachspoke with KyCIR in September about his organization’s plans to expand across Appalachia and the Midwest. He said the group planned to rely more on grassroots community engagement, with food drives, health clinics and opioid outreach efforts across the region.

But in the months since, the Traditionalist Worker Party’s efforts seem limited to headline-grabbing rallies across the country that often attract violence.

Heimbach was involvedin an altercation between members of his group and an interracial couple in Brentwood, Tenn., after a white nationalist rally in Shelbyville in October. Earlier this month, Heimbach brawled with protesters who tried to stop white nationalist Richard Spencer from speaking at Michigan State University. He wasn’t charged in either incident.

According to the police report filed Tuesday, Heimbach’s arrest was spurred by Heimbach’s affair with Parrott’s wife. Parrott told police that Heimbach grabbed him by his neck and choked him when he confronted Heimbach about the affair.

A police officer standing outside the trailer compound where the family lives said she heard Heimbach tell his wife to send the police away, followed by scuffling and yelling. In an affidavit, Heimbach’s wife wrote, “He kicked the wall, and then grabbed my cheeks, making them bleed, and threw me with the hand on my face onto the bed.” Their two children were present.

Heimbach, Parrott and Parrott’s wife all listed their occupation as “white nationalist” on the police report.

Parrott did not respond to request for comment from KyCIR, but the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that he had resigned from the Traditionalist Worker Party.

“I’m done. I’m out. SPLC has won. Matt Parrott is out of the game. Y’all have a nice life,” he told the organization.

Eleanor Klibanoff can be reached at  eklibanoff@kycir.org and (502) 814.6544.

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