One of the largest neo-Nazi groups in the country is set to be dismantled from the inside after a black man was named as the group’s president. James Hart Stern – a pastor and activist – has a clear plan in mind for the organization, “Change it, reverse it, and ultimately destroy it.”
Stern, according to a report by CNN, is now the president of the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group which is based in Detroit.
He is taking control from Jeff Schoep, who turned the organization over to Stern – even as some of the group’s core members protested – to avoid the threat of a lawsuit against NSM for its alleged involvement in the violent incidents in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.
The NSM, Schoep, James Alex Fields – the now convicted murder – and over 20 other organizations and individuals are being sued civilly by those who were injured in Charlottesville.
In an open letter to the members of NSM, Schoep claims Stern “deceived” him. He also stated that Stern is a “paper appointment,” claiming Stern “convinced me that in order to protect our membership from the ongoing lawsuit, I should sign over NSM’s presidency to him.”
One of Stern’s first moves as president was requesting that a judge involved in the lawsuit issue a summary judgment that would find NSM liable for their part in the violence in Charlottesville.
Schoep has maintained his and NSM’s innocence, saying that counterprotesters were responsible for the violence. He also vows to regain control of the group from Stern “in a court of law.”
The situation is reminiscent of the story told in BlacKkKlansman, which is based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, a black Colorado Springs police detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan over the phone, and then had a white colleague stand in for him during in-person meetings with KKK leaders.
“The difference in my situation is I was able to use my face every day,” said Stern. “There was no deception here. This was a man (Schoep) who willingly talked to a black man and willingly signed [NSM] over to a black man.”
Stern began working toward his goal of taking over NSM in 2014. Schoep learned Stern had the prison ID of Edgar Ray Killen, a KKK leader, and started speaking with Stern to acquire the number.
They had conversations over the years, and Stern, who asserts that Schoep “made it very clear that I was not his friend,” told Schoep not to dissolve the group, convincing Schoep instead to hand NSM over to him.
While Stern understands that the group could simply form under another name, he intends to remain the owner of the NSM brand and website.
“You can call yourselves the mother chickens of turtles, for all I care,” said Stern. “But that reputation you carry as NSM, which carries fear and revere, it’s gone.”