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A group of notorious white nationalists met secretly in historic Lancaster County barn in 2020. Why here?

Editor's note: this story originally ran on Oct. 30, 2021.

Mike Peinovich walks confidently onto a stage as a large audience chants his name, their voices echoing off the weathered sides of a historic barn.

“Mike! Mike! Mike! Mike!”

He quickly shakes the hand of a man standing at the podium, pats him on his back and pulls a copy of his speech from his jacket pocket.

Quieting his supporters with a wave, Peinovich dives into a 30-minute speech declaring the establishment of a political party whose platform is to preserve and protect the white European majority in the United States.

“The white race is under attack,” Peinovich said, rallying the crowd. “We are announcing the formation of a new political party, a new political vehicle that is going to fight for you, for white rights, for our people in America and the world.”

The new party’s enemy, he said, “is capitalism, Zionism and the international Jewish oligarchy. These are the people that are oppressing us.”

That rally announcing the creation of the National Justice Party, captured in a video posted online by its organizers, happened right here in Lancaster County 14 months ago. It was held in a historic barn on Millersville Pike just outside Lancaster city.

The gathering of some of the nation’s most notorious white supremacists here, which went largely unnoticed at the time by neighbors and law enforcement, suggests the group sees this traditionally conservative region as fertile ground for recruiting new members as the population grows more ethnically and politically diverse, experts said.

“You cannot have a nation of justice, a nation of liberty, without a white majority forever,” Peinovich announced to raucous applause from the crowd in the barn, also stating that “races don’t necessarily need to mix together all the time.”

That the National Justice Party chose a small, suburban Lancaster County barn to launch its organization also raises scores of questions - some of which can be answered and some of which remain a mystery despite months of research and reporting for this story.

All of those questions, however, circle back to Charles Bausman, a figure with ties to the “Stop the Steal” movement who has spent much of his adult life in Russia. Bausman quietly settled in Lancaster, the home of his ancestors, in late 2018, months after penning a lengthy essay on the “Jew taboo” that drew international backlash.

National Justice Party founding council

The founding council members of the National Justice Party on stage at an Aug. 15, 2020, rally at the Bausman farm on Millersville Pike in Lancaster County. From left: Joseph Jordan, Chairman Mike Peinovich, Tony Hovater, Michael McKevitt, Greg Conte, Warren Balogh and Alan Balogh. 

Why Lancaster?

While it’s unclear what role Bausman intends to play as the group travels the country seeking new members -- and potential influence in electoral politics -- Bausman, who is the publisher and editor of the pro-Kremlin website Russia Insider, openly discusses his ties to the party’s founding members and his general support for many of their political and social views.

Their criticism of Jews is “fair and well-reasoned,” Bausman said, although he also said the nascent political party’s members are not as Christian-centered as he would like.

[Who’s Charles Bausman? A closer look at the pro-Putin blogger who moved to Lancaster]

Both Peinovich and fellow party founder Joseph Jordan, using the respective pseudonyms of “Mike Enoch” and “Eric Striker,” have published essays on Russia Insider. Bausman made appearances on Peinovich’s “Fash the Nation” podcast, he said in an October 2020 interview with LNP|LancasterOnline. (Bausman's ties to alt-right media platforms run by Peinovich and others was first reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center in early Oct. 2020.)

And soon after Bausman purchased the nearly five-acre property at 1630 Millersville Pike for $450,000 in 2020, he allowed white nationalists to list it as a home address.

Party founder Gregory Conte is currently living at the property, Bausman said in an interview with LNP|LancasterOnline this month. William Von Diez, a former leader in the white supremacist group Identity Evropa, registered to vote in Lancaster County in February 2020, with the farm listed as his address.

Norman “Trey” Garrison, who had been editor of The Lancaster Patriot before LNP|LancasterOnline’s reporting identified him as the host of a white-nationalist podcast on Peinovich’s “The Right Stuff” network, is also listed as living on the property in court papers related to his recent DUI case.

[Who's behind Lancaster Patriot? An alt-right podcaster from Texas, investigation shows]

Neither Peinovich nor Conte responded to requests for comment.

In an October 2020 interview, Bausman lied to LNP|LancasterOnline about his knowledge of the party rally and his association with other white nationalists. He said he did not know where the Peinovich speech was given and denied being in attendance.

“Not that I'm aware of,” Bausman said last year when asked if the event was in Lancaster County. “I think something in the speech said something about New England.”

When confronted with contrary evidence in an interview earlier this month, Bausman initially continued to deny the event was hosted on his property. But he eventually conceded that “one of (The Right Stuff members) said, ‘Can we use your barn for an event?’ and I said, ‘Fine with me.’”

[How we confirmed a barn in Lancaster County was used for a 2020 white nationalist rally]

He also said he was at the barn for Peinovich’s speech and that there were about 100 people there.

“I didn’t want to draw attention to a situation where other people can get in trouble,” he said, explaining why he’d initially concealed his connection with the event.

Aerie Perliger, a professor of criminology and justice at the University of Massachusetts who researches political extremism and far-right politics, said the August 2020 gathering of white nationalists in Lancaster County was an example of overlapping political grievances and racial tensions. As communities become more culturally and ethnically diverse, he said, some worry that will translate into political diversity, creating support for more liberal values that could jeopardize their conservative majority.

The danger, Perliger said, is that political polarization can help one group “dehumanize the other side or portray the other side in absolute terms that sometimes can justify even violence.

“If you believe the other side wants to see the destruction of America, if you believe the other side is not really part of your community, is not part of what America should be, it's easy for them to marginalize other groups and in some cases even justify violence against other groups,” he said.

Most activities by white nationalists have been happening in blue states with substantial rural areas, Perlinger said, adding he is not surprised the party chose Pennsylvania for its launch. The party also lists its mailing address as a post office box in Butler, a city in rural western Pennsylvania.

Lancaster County political leaders and law enforcement, however, said they were shocked to learn the rally was held here.

“I unequivocally condemn white supremacy and this gathering in the harshest terms possible,” said Iber Guerrero Lopez, vice chairman of the Lancaster Township board of supervisors. “There’s absolutely no room for white nationalists in Lancaster Township, and quite frankly, to advance white racial superiority is a poor, pathetic, and an evil use of the first amendment.

“It’s a sad day when you find out that hate and bigotry were welcomed onto the property in question. Lancaster Township will always be an inclusive, welcoming and tolerant municipality; that type of disgusting ideology has no home here.”

The township manager, Bill Laudien, said officials there learned of the rally from an LNP|LancasterOnline reporter researching this story. “We condemn in strongest terms the hate filled rhetoric that we have heard. There is no place for this in our community or any other community,” he said.

Diane Topakian, chair of the Lancaster County Democratic Committee, said she was disturbed to learn about the rally and the party’s beliefs.

“All Americans should be horrified by these beliefs. We must use every opportunity to oppose this rhetoric and be vigilant,” she said.

Republican Committee of Lancaster County chairman Kirk Radanovic voiced similar distaste.

“These comments are absolutely appalling and disgusting,” he said. “We join with our Jewish friends and neighbors to strongly condemn the creation of this party, and the comments at this event. We continue to be proud of the work President Trump did to support the Jewish community and our allies in Israel. Those who attended this event and those who will join this party, are not welcome in the Republican Party or in Lancaster County."

The Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, when contacted for this story, was unable to provide information on whether the party or its founders are monitored by statewide law enforcement.

Bausman barn

This is the barn at 1630 Millersville Pike in Lancaster Township Friday, Oct. 22, 2021.

The diversification of Lancaster County

Lancaster County, particularly the urban core including the city and surrounding municipalities, has become increasingly diverse in recent decades, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2000, Lancaster Township’s population was 84.1% white. Two decades later, in 2020, only 57% of the nearly 19,000 residents were white, according to census data.

The suburb has also tipped blue after decades of voting for Republicans. A majority of voters there backed Democrats Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden in the last two presidential contests, for example; in 2000, they backed Republican George W. Bush.

The county has followed the same trend, albeit more slowly. Republicans made up 61% of registered voters 20 years ago; they make up 51% today.

Alexander Reid Ross, a doctoral fellow at the United Kingdom-based Center for Analysis of the Radical Right and author of “Against the Fascist Creep,” has been following the activities of Peinovich and other National Justice Party members for years. He said he sees the group as part of a broader effort to shift America toward right-leaning, populist governance like that of Victor Orban’s Hungary.

“They’re trying to create a populist radical right party in the United States that’s more hard line than the Republican framework,” Ross said. “I think they’re doing Lancaster because they’re trying to cultivate a rural following, because that’s effectively what (Prime Minister Victor) Orban did in Hungary … get a diehard following in rural areas and use that to subvert the liberalism of the urban core and then single handedly dismantle the institutions of liberal democracy.”

Ross was referring to the definition of liberalism as the political philosophy that values individual rights, civil liberties, democracy and free enterprise, not the definition meaning left-leaning politics.

Bausman barn

The barn at 1630 Millersville Pike in Lancaster Township is surrounded by trees Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. The barn was the site of a white nationalist rally in August 2020.

National Justice Party & its founders

Carla Hill, the associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said the ADL has been tracking the party since August 2020 and had tracked many of its members before then.

She said the group espouses typical white-nationalist ideology; the party believes immigration must be curtailed or stopped to ensure whites retain a majority because that’s how the country was founded.

“Our concern would be this very vitriolic antisemitism that they express,” she said.

The ADL is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization founded in 1913 to combat antisemitism.

Party chairman Peinovich was a speaker at the 2017 “Unite the Right'' rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he introduced former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke. Peinovich said in a 2017 interview with The New Yorker that he had an “intense, personal antipathy for Jews” and repeatedly has been photographed and videotaped preforming the “Sieg Heil” Nazi salute.

Party founder Jordan, who writes under the name “Eric Striker,” once wrote in The Daily Stormer that “the Jew is the virus that launches many infections against our national body’s White blood cells ... we must eliminate this virus before it brings about our Demise.” The Daily Stormer is a white-supremacist website that and message board that often includes advocacy for a second genocide of Jewish people.

Other members have made more explicit connections between their beliefs and the kind of antisemitism and white supremacy espoused in Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Greg Conte, the party founder now living at the Bausman farm, used his channel on Telegram - a messaging service created by a Russian entrepreneur - to praise American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell. In another message to his 1,400 subscribers, he wrote, “It’s sad that Hitler didn’t win.”

In a speech at a July gathering of the party, party founder Warren Balogh uses the phrase “hail victory,” which is the English translation of the Nazi chant “Sieg Heil.” Balogh attended the Bausman farm rally and was introduced on the stage alongside his father, Alan Balogh.

As he introduced the party’s platform at the Bausman farm rally, Peinovich made no attempt to hide the party’s view that whites are superior and Jews are to blame for society’s ills.

He called former President Donald Trump, who he admitted previously supporting, “the most Jewish president ever” who is “in the pocket of Jared Kushner and Zionist Jews.” Trump was a fake who did nothing to help the white people he vowed to support, Peinovich said.

“There's one other huge problem with the GOP,” Peinovich said at one point in the speech.

“Jews?” a crowd member yells.

“You beat me to it,” Peinovich laughs. “Now they’re the party of Zionism.”

In laying out the party’s principles, which include promoting the rights of white workers and implementing “true” immigration reform, he calls for a “legal designation” declaring the United States a “European-majority country.”

“We need to unify as a race and as a people and fight for our prosperity and for our rights and for our right to this country which we founded!” he said.

Mike Peinovich at Lancaster rally

National Justice Party chairman Mike Peinovich spoke for half an hour at a rally Aug. 15, 2020, at the Bausman farm in Lancaster County announcing the creation of a political party. 

What’s next?

Hill, the Anti-Defamation League researcher, said the party has spread its message mainly through its podcasting network and posting their speeches online, but that they haven’t taken much public action beyond that.

However, party founders have made some notable connections within white-supremacist circles, she said. The party’s recent involvement in a documentary connects them with groups which, the ADL said, “consider themselves vigilante soldiers standing guard against a perceived existential threat to their ‘white future.’”

They also appear to be connected to Thomas Rousseau, the leader of the white nationalist group Patriot Front, who has been keeping a low profile for the past few years but was seen in a video of the party’s meeting on July 24.

“So if they have the ear of these active clubs and the ear of Patriot Front, that's some of the most active groups,” Hill said. “It makes them have more influence.”

Although Bausman said Conte is still living at the property on Millersville Pike, most of the group’s members seem to have moved on from Lancaster County. Recordings of recent speeches show their meetings are being held somewhere in the Midwest. While it’s difficult to gauge the size of the party’s membership, the group’s Telegram channel had fewer than 9,000 followers as of this week.

Peinovich, in a documentary released earlier this month, said the goal of the party is to gain support by focusing on divisive social issues like race and LGBTQ issues. They hope to nominate candidates for elected office and usurp the Republican Party as the voice of conservatives.

“We want to agitate,” Peinovich said. “Because right now, we don’t have much power.”

What success will they have as a political party?

Ross, of the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right, said he is skeptical if that is their real goal.

“I think what they really want to do is promote a law-and-order framework that assembles around antisemitism in order to then force the Republican Party to embrace open antisemitism as well, or at least to kind of move toward the antisemitic framework.”

COMING MONDAY: A look at the pro-Russia blogger's activities, online and in person, between the 2020 election and the Capitol riot.

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