Earlier in March—after Bristow quit the movement, but before Spencer canceled his college tour—Heimbach and the TWP acted as a security force for Spencer outside a speech to a handful of people at Michigan State University. They scrapped with counterprotesters, resulting in at least a dozen arrests—including that of Greg Conte, director of operations for an alt-right group, HuffPost reported.
The physical brawl turned into a Twitter feud between Spencer and Patrick Casey, the executive director of white supremacist group Identity Evropa. Identity Evropa participated in the violent clashes at Charlottesville. But after the deadly rally, and two leadership changes (leader Nathan Damigo quit after Charlottesville, and his successor Eli Mosely quit to join a Spencer-affiliated group before it was revealed that Mosely lied about serving in the Iraq War) Identity Evropa promoted Casey to its head and attempted to rebrand itself as clean-cut.
On Twitter, two days after the TWP got in a brawl while acting as Spencer’s security force, Identity Evropa claimed to be “explicitly non-violent” and “peacefully effecting cultural change.” In a press-friendly, but largely meaningless semantic ploy, the group denied being a white supremacist organization.
Spencer interpreted the tweet as an attack. In a tweet of his own, Spencer said he was “baffled and shocked at the behavior” of Casey, and accused him of expelling Identity Evropa members who had supported Spencer during the brawl outside Michigan State University.
The spat was the latest over the alt-right’s “optics,” a divisive subject among the movement. The Unite the Right rally was so toxic for the alt-right’s image that some members started arguing that in-person protests were bad publicity for the cause.
Currently “the biggest divide is between people who believe in online activism versus real-world activism.” Beirich said. After Charlottesville, Daily Stormer founder “Andrew Anglin, for example, posted things criticizing in-real-life protests… When PayPal and Facebook started banning accounts, he was pointing out that ‘these aren’t good things for us, taking to the streets isn’t necessarily positive, the optics were bad.’”