Turning Point USA event brought extremists and politicians together in Phoenix

“AmericaFest” attracted a variety of fringe players along with conservative activists

By: - December 23, 2021 3:30 pm
Turning Point USA

Left to right: Tomas Morales, Kelli Ward, Greyson Arnold. Photo via Tomas Morales Telegram

Far-right extremists, some with white nationalist beliefs, converged and met with politicians from across the country and state at Turning Point USA’s “AmericaFest” just before Christmas in downtown Phoenix for four days.

Turning Point, which is headquartered in Phoenix, is a right-leaning organization that aims to mobilize young conservatives, primarily on college campuses, but the week’s event featured speakers that ranged across the conservative spectrum.

The major draw at the event was Kyle Rittenhouse, the acquitted shooter from Kenosha, Wisconsin who has received an outpouring of support from student conservative groups in the state, some with controversial backgrounds.

However, the event ended up becoming a major way for influencers from more extreme ideologies within the far-right to meet and interact with local and national politicians.

One of those controversial figures was Greyson Arnold, who has used his social media pages to post memes lauding Nazis as the “pure race” and lament the American victory in World War II. He also called Adolf Hitler a “complicated historical figure.”

And in one Instagram post provided to the Arizona Mirror by independent extremism researcher Arizona Right Wing Watch, Arnold posted the logo of Stormfront, the first major hate site on the internet that was founded by Don Black, the former leader of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. The logo is the Celtic Cross, a common white supremacist symbol, emblazoned with the words “White Pride World Wide.”

“God is on our side because our fight is righteous,” he declared.

Arnold was photographed alongside Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward at an event that took place across the street from the TPUSA event put on by the Republicans for National Renewal and co-hosted by a group called the American Populist Union.

Across the street, Kari Lake, Blake Masters, Kelli Ward, Sen. Wendy Rogers Anthony Kern, Rep. Mark Finchem, and Rep. Paul Gosar joined the event thrown by RNR who’s leadership team has ties to Identity Evropa. Here they are hanging with Proud Boy videographer Tomas Morales. pic.twitter.com/RhHckLv90a

— AZ Right Wing Watch (@az_rww) December 20, 2021

The American Populist Union is a “groyper” group that in Arizona is led in part by an individual who has shared anti-semetic messages that led to the removal of his Twitter account.

Groypers,” are a subset of the white nationalist community who often troll conservatives who they feel are not extreme enough. Though loosely organized and members of many different groups, groypers are almost all followers of white nationalist Nick Fuentes.

One of the main goals of groypers is to push conservatives in a white nationalist direction and one of their strategies is by presenting their views in a mainstream appearance or within mainstream organizations.

Arnold posted prior to the event that Congressman Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, said he was “interested” in attending an event called “76Fest,” a gathering of groypers that has included TPUSA speakers, despite many of the people associated with it sharing outright antisemetic posts on social media, some from Neo-Nazi accounts.

Gosar’s office declined to comment on this story. Ward did not respond to a request for comment.

Other far-right influencers were present as well and given access, such as Micajah Jackson, who took a plea deal for his role in the riot at the Capitol alongside the Arizona chapter of the Proud Boys.

Jackson was given press credentials by TPUSA, something the organization has done in the past for other local extremist organizations, where he interviewed many attendees.

Jackson holds many far-right beliefs such as claiming FBI agents engaged in “psyops” should be “exiled” and equated the pride flag to the flag used by the fascist party of WWII Italy.

TPUSA did not respond to multiple requests for comment. TPUSA and groypers have a long history as they have attacked it for not having a truly “America First” agenda that they see as “pro white.” However, the organization has lately been using the phrase and terminology much more often.

The phrase “America First” was used as far back as 1896 by President William McKinley, but it became prominent in isolationist and xenophobic circles in the 1920s when the Ku Kluk Klan adopted the phrase “America First” in the 1920s. It was later promoted by American Nazi sympathizers. And David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the KKK, would go on to use the term when describing his foreign policy platform as a U.S. Senate candidate.

“America First” has now become the rallying cry for white nationalists.

***Correction and Clarification: An earlier version of this story stated Micajah Jackson equated the transgender flag to the flag used by the fascist party of WWII Italy when it was the pride flag Jackson was comparing. 

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joined the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.