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Q&A for Heimbach Event

Who is Matthew Heimbach and what is the Traditionalist Worker Party?

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, Matthew Heimbach is considered by many to be the face of a new generation of white nationalists.

The Traditionalist Worker Party, in their own words, is a white nationalist group that advocates for a national socialist government for “an independent white ethno-state” and calls for secession from the US government. In their doctrine, the group says it is declaring “war on colonialism, capitalism, communism, international Jewry, and neo-imperialism. We seek, in addition to our own ethno-state, return of self-rule for Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Indian Reservations, and all remaining American territories. … Citizenship in the ethno-state must therefore be limited to white persons, and white persons alone.”

Is this the same group that has been painting on the Rock?

A local affiliate of this group has claimed credit for messages on the Rock. Several messages were signed “TWP.”

Is Heimbach speaking at UT?

The university is preparing for the event to take place. If the group decides to gather on our campus, they will be assigned to a space in Buehler Hall. UTPD has consulted with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and have determined this location will provide the safest and most secure environment and minimize disruption to other activities on campus.

How did the group reserve a room?

A group calling themselves WALNUT reserved a room at the McClung Museum using the name of a local church as a reference. After making the initial reservation, the requestor called to change the name of the contact person leading the event to that of an out-of-state man with ties to a racial separatist group.

Since then, we learned that the church is unaware of the event and has no affiliation with the person who made the request.

The Traditionalist Worker Party then began promoting the event as an address by Matthew Heimbach for the “National Socialism or Death” tour.

Why didn’t UT deny the request for the event?

UT has a number of facilities on campus that it rents to members of the public. Under the First Amendment, UT is not allowed to base its decisions about who can rent its facilities on the person or group’s viewpoint. The university is following its policy on free expression activities by non-affiliated persons.

Chancellor Beverly Davenport recently said she wouldn’t stand for racism. Why is she allowing them to come? Isn’t this a contradiction of her earlier statement?

Read Chancellor Davenport’s statement on this issue.

Did a campus group, student, or employee invite Matthew Heimbach?


Will UT charge Matthew Heimbach for this event?

Heimbach’s group is paying a standard rental fee for the room as any other group would.

How much will security cost?

The university will cover any costs associated with providing the services of the UT Police Department. The UT Chief of Police may arrange for additional resources that are needed as security plans evolve. We won’t know the final cost of this event until after the event is held.

Why doesn’t UT make Heimbach pay for security services?

The application and assessment of security fees in a First Amendment context was decided by the US Supreme Court in 1992. The court clarified that the government cannot assess a security fee on a speaker based upon the costs of controlling the reaction of potential hostile onlookers or protestors. As Justice Harry Blackmun wrote for the court in that case (Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement), any fee charged must be imposed in a content-neutral way. “Speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.”

For us, this means that Matthew Heimbach and his organization may not be held responsible for paying the costs of potential protestors, onlookers, or members of the public outside the speaking venue.

How will UT secure the event?

The safety of our campus community and visitors is the top priority of the UT Police Department and the department is preparing for this event. They oversee security for more than 250 campus events each year.

How do I get tickets?

UT has no information on tickets for this event.

What events are planned to counter this event?

The Campus Ministers Council, the Faculty Senate, and the Student Government Association have planned an event for 3:30 p.m. Friday called United at the Rock. At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 13, Your Voice Matters: A Panel on Free Speech will be held at Strong Hall. Lecia Brooks, outreach director with the Southern Poverty Law Center, will give a presentation titled Standing Against Hate and Extremism at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, February 15, in Alumni Memorial Building’s Cox Auditorium.

The campus bag policy will be in effect for Your Voice Matters: A Panel on Free Speech and Standing Against Hate and Extremism.

The Department of Geography is hosting a panel discussion, Navigating White Supremacy on Campus, at 3:40 p.m. Thursday, February 15, in Panhellenic Building Room 206.

From 11 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. Friday, February 16, faculty representing modern foreign languages and literatures, English, religious studies, history, sociology, Judaic studies, and law will hold An Anti-Nazi Teach-In: Fascism’s Past and Present in the HSS Amphitheater.

On Saturday, February 17, Multicultural Student Life is hosting United in Love: A Community Gathering from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Frieson Black Cultural Center. The Progressive Student Alliance, Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at UT, and the Women’s Coordinating Council will hold No Nazis on Rocky Top from noon to 4 p.m. in HSS Amphitheater.

What classrooms and campus facilities will be closed?

All classes and other events on the Hill are canceled for Saturday, and buildings will be locked. Affected buildings include Ayres Hall, Dabney-Buehler Hall, Science and Engineering Facility, Nielsen Physics Building, Hesler Biology Building, Austin Peay Building, Walters Life Science Building, Burchfiel Geography Building, Min H. Kao EECS Building, Dougherty Engineering Building, Ferris Hall, South College, Alumni Memorial Building, and Perkins Hall.

What roads and parking lots will be closed?

All roadways onto the Hill will close to vehicular traffic beginning at midnight Friday, including Circle Drive, Middle Drive, Estabrook Road, and Lower Drive. The 11th Street (G13) Garage and pedestrian bridge also will be closed.

Cars parked on the Hill or in the 11th Street (G13) Parking Garage after 5 a.m. Saturday will be towed. Towed vehicles can be claimed by contacting UTPD at 865-974-3114.

Protest area map

Will protestors be on campus?

Protestors are expected on campus. A secure demonstration area will be staged on the Ayres Hall lawn adjoining Cumberland Avenue. A buffer zone will be set up between Buehler Hall and the protest area. Only law enforcement officers and emergency personnel will be permitted in the buffer zone.

What are protestors prohibited from bringing?

Anyone wanting to enter the secure demonstration area will be moved through a checkpoint with metal detectors near the entrance to Circle Drive. Please be aware that law enforcement officers cannot secure areas outside the demonstration area.

The campus clear bag policy will be in effect for the demonstration area. Handheld signs and banners made of cloth, paper, or cardboard will be permitted.

Prohibited items include:

  • Firearms, knives, electrical weapons, or chemical sprays
  • Liquids or drink containers of any kind, coolers, and food. Only required medical items are permitted.
  • Poles, sticks, clubs, flashlights, umbrellas, athletics equipment, or other items that could be considered or used as an improvised weapon
  • Masks or face coverings
  • Shields or other handheld defensive barriers
  • Fireworks, noise makers, or amplified sound devices
  • Tents, canopies, or chairs
  • Unmanned aircraft
  • Animals other than ADA-approved service animals
  • Any other items that campus police determine may pose a risk to safety

Where can visitors use restrooms?

There are no restrooms available to the public.

Can guns or other weapons be brought on campus?


Why are water containers on the prohibited list?

Water bottles are not being allowed because they can pose a safety hazard for protesters. At similar events, bottles have been frozen and used as weapons.

What safety resources are available to students and visitors?

The UT Police Department at 1101 Cumberland Avenue is in close proximity to the protest area.

There are also more than 100 blue light phones throughout campus that can be used to contact UT Police in an emergency. Find a map of all blue light phones by clicking “explore campus” then clicking “safety” on the campus map.

You can report suspicious activity by calling UT Police at 865-974-3114 or by texting 69050. Type “VOLS (space)” before beginning your message.

Units from the Knoxville Fire Department and ambulances will be on standby in the event of an emergency.

What is UT doing to promote a welcoming environment on campus? How is the university providing support to faculty, staff, and students?

Students who are in distress are encouraged to call 974-HELP. The number serves to support students in crisis and as a referral resource for students, faculty, staff, and parents who have a concern about the safety or well-being of a student. Calls are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Counselors will be at John C. Hodges Library from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday for those who would like to speak to someone in person. The library will be closed to the public, and students, faculty, and staff must use their VolCard to enter the building.

Law enforcement will be stationed outside the library and at the United in Love: A Community Gathering event being held at the Frieson Black Cultural Center on Saturday.

How will information be distributed on the day of the event?

For the most recent updates on Saturday, follow the @UTKnoxville and @UTPolice Twitter accounts. If needed, UT Alert text and email messages will be sent to the entire campus community.

I am a parent/citizen. How do I sign up for UT Alert?

Visitors to campus who wish to temporarily receive UT Alerts on February 17 can text 67283 then type the keyword “speaker17feb”

Where can students go if they feel unsafe?

If you are not comfortable going out on campus, stay in your residence hall or plan to be away from campus for the afternoon. You can also go to the John C. Hodges Library from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday to speak to a counselor.

If you are out on campus and feel threatened, contact UT Police by using a blue light phone, calling UT Police directly at 865-974-3114, or texting a message to 69050. Type “VOLS (space)” before beginning your message.

What other events will be going on at the same time?

On Saturday, February 17, Multicultural Student Life is hosting United in Love: A Community Gathering from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Frieson Black Cultural Center. The Progressive Student Alliance, Sexual Empowerment at UT, and the Women’s Coordinating Council will hold No Nazis on Rocky Top from noon to 4 p.m. in HSS Amphitheatre.

Other events on campus include the Professional Bull Riders Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour at 6 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena and a men’s baseball game at 2 p.m. in Lindsey Nelson Stadium.