Meet the Secessionist Group Waiting for the Collapse of US Empire So the "South Can Rise Again"
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Since its bookish beginnings as a group dominated by academics in 1994, the League of the South (LOS) has been obsessively driven to glorify Southern history and culture, pining for the independence denied the region by federal troops 150 years ago.
But over the years, the neo-Confederate group’s platform grew to be distinctly racist, with the goal of building a theocratic South defined by “the cultural dominance of the Anglo-Celtic people and their institutions,” as its president, former Stillman College professor Michael Hill, once put it. At the same time, its early rhetoric angrily demanding that the rest of the country treat the South with more respect was replaced with explicit calls for a second secession from the “ungodly” North.
Now, the LOS agenda appears to be evolving even further, this time away from the ivory tower. Beginning in 2007, when its national conference was titled “Southern Secession: Antidote to Empire and Tyranny,” each year has seen further and more militant dedication to that idea. The theme in 2008 was “Surviving the Empire’s Collapse” — an idea of survivalist resistance that similarly has since been echoed each year with increasing enthusiasm.
During its national conference this July in Abbeville, S.C. — the self-proclaimed “birthplace and deathbed of the Confederacy” — the LOS continued in the same vein of preparing for the day the federal government collapses and the South rises again. “The mantra [that] violence, or the serious threat thereof, never settles anything is patently false,” Hill said in a prepared speech that was later posted on the group’s website. “History shows that it indeed does settle many things. Please don’t forget this — your enemy hasn’t.”
For two days at the conference, more than 100 members sat through workshops delivered with end-of-days flair and focused on surviving the unrest to come. Pastor John Weaver, former “chaplain-in-chief” for the Southern heritage group Sons of Confederate Veterans and a member of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, gave lessons on basic gun safety. Franklin Sanders, considered the LOS’s No. 2 man, encouraged members to invest in silver and gold — the idea being that when the government collapses, so will the Federal Reserve. There were also training sessions on how to stock and maintain a home pantry, lessons on how to hunt and track, and calls for members to buy shortwave radios and begin using them instead of telephones.
Hill said much to suggest that a physical fight is brewing. “He who is willing to die for a cause will defeat one who isn’t,” he told his listeners. “Always act as if you are fighting in the last ditch for the survival of all you hold dear.” Later, Hill added, “We are already at war — we just don’t know it.”
For a group that initially defined itself as a kind of political club for culturally concerned intellectual Southerners, this apparent embrace of survivalist paramilitarism comes as something of a surprise. But in many ways, the conference marked the culmination of a long and steady march toward the extremist fringe.
For years, in fact, there have been hints of hard-line militancy from some key LOS members. At a meeting of the LOS’s Georgia chapter in March, Hill had compiled a list of supplies to keep for the day the “Evil Empire” toppled. He encouraged members to stock up on assault weapons (AK-47s are preferred because they require less maintenance) and plenty of ammunition. He said a family would need 400 rounds of ammunition to last in the woods for two days, and he even recommended the style of bullets — deadly hollow points. He also recommended families equip themselves with tools to derail trains and a deer-hunting rifle with a scope.