Harold Ray Crews maintains a law practice that focuses on family law and real estate, projecting small-town propriety, but he’s active in a violent white supremacist group.
The tidy, one-story brick office complex on North Main Street in downtown Kernersville might seem like an unlikely setting for a self-conceived revolutionary white supremacist.
Crews, the North Carolina state chairman for the neo-Confederate group League of the South, came to national notoriety in October when he persuaded a magistrate in Charlottesville, Va. to take out an arrest warrant for felony unlawful wounding against DeAndre Harris, a young, black man who was brutally beaten by a mob of white supremacists in the entrance to the Market Street Parking Garage during the Aug. 12 Unite the Right rally. The beating was captured on video and widely reported.
Despite its innocuous-sounding name, the League of the South is one of the most virulently racist far-right organizations in the United States, promoting a subset of fascist ideology known as Southern nationalism that seeks a white homeland in the states that make up the former Confederacy. As a part of the Nationalist Front coalition, the League has banded together with three neo-Nazi groups — the Traditionalist Worker Party, National Socialist Movement and Vanguard America — to hold rallies in Pikeville, Ky. in April, and then Shelbyville, Tenn. in October. The four groups also provided the shock troops for the violent Unite the Right rally that took place in Charlottesville in August under the leadership of alt-right celebrity fascist Richard Spencer.
As recounted in a 207-page independent review of the events in Charlottesville by the Hunton & Williams law firm, at around 10:45 a.m. on Aug. 12, “a massive column of hundreds of Unite the Right demonstrators” led by the League of the South and the Traditionalist Worker Party marched along the southern perimeter of Emancipation Park, towards a line of clergy. When other counter-protesters rushed to stand with the clergy, the report says, “Unite the Right demonstrators pushed forward with their shields and hit the counter-protesters with flagpoles. Open source video footage shows demonstrators violently jabbing the poles at counter-protesters’ faces. The counter-protesters fought back and tried to grab the flagpoles away. Eventually, the [Unite the Right] demonstrators pushed the counter-protesters away with brute force and a cloud of pepper spray.”
Later, after the police declared the rally an unlawful assembly, the report said the same group of League of the South and Traditionalist Worker Party members marched about three blocks eastward to the Market Street Parking Garage, while exchanging insults and projectiles with counter-demonstrators.
Describing a fight that broke out in front of the parking garage, the report says, “From our review of the ample open source video footage of this confrontation, it appears that a counter-protester attempted to yank a flag away from a Unite the Right demonstrator who resisted and fought back. During that struggle, a second counter-demonstrator named DeAndre Harris rushed in and used a club — possibly a Maglite flashlight — to strike the alt-right demonstrator’s head or shoulder.”
The League of the South website identifies Crews as the person who was hit by the flashlight. Soon afterwards, Harris was knocked down in the entrance of the parking garage and beaten, “sustaining several fractures, cranial lacerations and internal body injuries,” according to his lawyer.
Harris’ lawyer S. Lee Merritt has denied that his client was responsible for Crews’ injuries. Merritt released a statement in mid-October to the effect that “Harris and Crews had a brief encounter when Harris observed Crews appearing to spear an associate with the sharpened end of a Confederate flagpole. Mr. Harris swung the flashlight in the space between the flagpole and Mr. Crews, failing to make contact before the brief scuffle ended.”
Harris is due in Charlottesville General District Court on Dec. 14 for the unlawful wounding charge.
Crews declined to comment for this story. “I don’t speak to the media under any circumstance,” he wrote in an email to Triad City Beat. “Do not contact me again.”
Crews maintains an active Twitter presence. Some of the content in his feed reflects the cheeky ironic-but-not-ironic style of the alt-right, including a retweeted meme spoofing LGBTQ equality that declares, “I support same-race marriage.” Others express ominous condemnation of perceived enemies: “If you favor illegal immigration/amnesty then you’re a traitor and deserve everything that’s coming to you.”
Crews describes himself in a YouTube video as a typical “Jesse Helms Republican” who was active in the Young Republicans during his undergrad years at Appalachian State University and then a member of the Federalist Society while he studied law at Campbell University, where he became a practicing Catholic. A resident of Walkertown, he said he became disillusioned with conventional politics while volunteering sporadically with his “county GOP organization” from 2000 to about 2004. He said the tensions between the grassroots and “moneyed establishment,” and between the limited-government and social-conservative wings of the party eventually pushed him towards so-called Southern nationalism.
Brian Miller, the chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party, said he’s been active with the county organization since 1980, and “has never met or heard of or had any conversation with” Crews.
“The white nationalist movement is counter to all of the beliefs of the Forsyth County Republican Party and the Republican Party as a whole,” Miller said. “People in this world are free to interpret anything they want, including the Christian religion or nationalism. We do not support or agree with any of the white nationalist or segregationist agenda.”
In contrast to the far-right activists who call themselves patriots and extol the Constitution, Crews expresses no love for the founding tenets of the US political system.
“America is no more than a social construct from which I know in my heart of hearts I am excluded,” Crews says in his video. He says his extremist politics are based on identity, including ethnicity and religion, and like others in the League of the South he expresses disdain for so-called “propositions,” or political principles that transcend identity.
Michael Hill, the League’s president, outlined the group’s ideology more bluntly in a talk at the organization’s 2013 National Conference that plainly recycled the Nazi slogan “blood and soil.”
“We’re not wedded in the League or in the true South to a universal proposition,” Hill said. “Equality, democracy, the universal rights of man — all of these poisonous things that have been foisted upon us we’ve been conditioned to think are good. No, we are wedded to a real historical order, based on, as I said, blood and soil, kith and kin.”
In Hill’s speech during the 2017 National Conference — posted to YouTube by Crews and provocatively titled “The war has already begun!” — he prepared members for “a fourth-generation war to the maximum” in which “you can know the enemy because the skin he’s wearing becomes his uniform.”
Hill scoffed that “heritage, not hate” apologists who try to portray the Confederacy as a kind of multicultural utopia are wasting their time trying to win over adversaries.
“These people know what the Confederate flag stands for,” Hill said. “They know what those monuments in New Orleans stand for. They stand for you. And when they finish with the stone and the fabric, they’re coming after the flesh.”
Crews also maintains a semi-regular podcast, where Hill and other League figures are frequent guests. During a recent episode on Nov. 15, Crews and Brad Griffin, identified on Twitter as the League’s “public relations chief,” enthused about the recent Nov. 11 nationalist rally in Warsaw, Poland, where white supremacists carried signs declaring, “Pray for an Islamic Holocaust” and “Pure Poland, White Poland.” The conversation reveals a preoccupation among league members with reaching out to white people with mainstream values — “normies,” in alt-right parlance — and both Crews and Griffin express confidence that holding firm to extremist rhetoric will gradually expand the window of acceptable discourse.
“If it looks like we’re prevailing — the hard right — then they’re gonna fall in line,” Crews said. “And so, when most normies out there — they’ll fall in line, too. You see this repeatedly over history, where you have a small minority who make history, and the eternal normie just falls in line and pretty much accepts everything that the radical [proposes].”
In another recent podcast, Crews and Griffin groused that President Trump has failed to deliver much for his populist-nationalist base other than symbolic gestures like his Twitter war against the NFL.
“We’ve got to appeal to those disillusioned Trump voters,” Crews said, “who’ve not received immigration reform, build-a-wall-deport-them-all, haven’t received the NAFTA repeal and trying to restructure the economy to benefit the working man.”
Crews and other League leaders are playing coy about the organization’s next move, but Hill said in a recent podcast their next event will be independent of their Nationalist Front coalition partners. He added that the League is “trying to present an image of an activist boots-in-the-street-boots-on-the-ground organization.”
Crews told Hill during an episode of the podcast in early November that he was trying to reorganize his law practice to free up more time to travel for League events.
Befitting an activist ready to make a clean break from US political norms, Crews tweeted on Nov. 4: “A revolutionary political movement ought to be formed as a DAO (decentralized autonomous organization). This allows maximum security but still has an accepted ‘chain’ of command.” He explained further: “Members can remain anonymous. There is not a set command control which could be subverted or captured, which differs from cell orgs.”
Crews’ law practice in downtown Kernersville shares space in the Hart Complex with an architecture firm, a naturopathic health center and a boutique clothing store. On a recent Saturday, holiday shoppers strolled the bustling strip for the “Christmas Around the World” festival, sponsored by the Kernersville Chamber of Commerce. A short block north of Crews’ law office they poured into an airy wine bar that also specializes in cocktails and craft beer, subdivided into stalls for a holiday market stocked with everything from vintage Carhartt pants to local pottery.
The holiday shoppers browsing local made goods likely had no idea that a lawyer with an office on the strip spends his free time making podcasts to promote the establishment of a white Christian ethno-state in the US South.