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White nationalists target UT, other colleges in 'National Socialism or Death' tour

Traditionalist Worker Party members at a rally in Shelbyville, Tennessee. PHOTO: FOX 17 News Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A white nationalist group says they intend to "retake our college campuses," by traveling to universities and explaining the ideology of National Socialism.

One of those campuses includes the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

According to Matthew Heimbach, the spokesman and co-founder for the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP), the group is efforting to kick off their "National Socialism or Death" tour at UTK on February 17th.

In a post on the TWP website, Heimbach says students will see how White National Socialists "want peace."

"Students of Color will be able to understand how White National Socialists want peace and cooperation between the races, how we desire for them to be empowered within their own nations and communities, and how we together can fight against the forces of multiculturalism and globalism that are destroying all unique ethnic communities and cultures," Heimbach writes.

The TWP was among the groups present during the 'Unite the Right' rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia which led to violence and resulted in the death of Heather Heyer.

The group was also among those in attendance at a rally in Shelbyville, Tennessee which was held after Charlottesville and was dubbed the "White Lives Matter" rally.

As for the planned rally at UTK, nothing is set in stone from the university's standpoint. Just over one week ago, Chancellor Beverly J. Davenport released a statement after the university's iconic Rock was painted by racial separatists.

Davenport acknowledged white supremacist groups are targeting colleges and universities, adding "Even though the First Amendment to the Constitution protects hate speech, that does not mean we must remain silent about it."

Also, the room Heimbach and the TWP reserved for the event was possibly made under false pretenses and under the guise of being a local church.

FOX 17 News spoke with UT's Vice Chancellor of Communication Ryan Robinson, who says the group "misrepresented the nature of the event and their affiliations."

Below is the full statement from Robinson on behalf of the school:

"Last month, an individual reserved a room on our campus for an event using the name of a local church as the host.

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 citizen with ties to a racial separatist group.

In the past few days, this group began promoting the event.

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

We have serious concerns that this group misrepresented the nature of the event and their affiliations. To our knowledge, no one at the University of Tennessee invited this group to campus.

We will continue to investigate the situation and work with law enforcement as we evaluate our next steps."

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