Before James Allsup was a burgeoning celebrity of the so-called “alt-right,” traveling the country to promote white nationalism and criticize multiculturalism, he led a takeover of his college’s young Republican organization.
Things “changed dramatically,” when Allsup was elected president of Washington State University’s College Republicans in 2015 according to Jansen VanderMeulen, who graduated in 2016.
“His crew of Republicans were very much more in the mold of the president,” said VanderMeulen. “James imitates the president in his rhetoric. He has very much taken on a Trumpist tone.”
VanderMeulen attended College Republican meetings semiregularly and describes himself as “more conservative than liberal.”
On Saturday, Allsup attended the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, to document events and deliver a speech in support of the protesters. Images of Allsup and the rally circulated, setting off a barrage of criticism on social media, including demands that the university expel Allsup.
In a video taken by Allsup and subsequently published online, he’s seen walking through a street in Charlotesville with a group of protesters brandishing Confederate flags and yelling obscenities at bystanders.
Allsup calls the Confederate flag a “symbol of heritage.”
At one point, Allsup and his group encounter Richard Spencer, a leader of the white nationalist movement. Spencer, or a member of his entourage, calls Allsup over and asks him to help clear traffic.
“Richard, Richard, thank you, thank you, thank you,” Allsup said.
In a news release, the College Republican National Committee decried the events at Charlottesville, calling them “vile, racist and cowardly.”
Allsup resigned as the president of WSU’s College Republicans on Monday. On Twitter, he said his resignation was planned, but that he “expedited” the process.
The national committee called “on leaders in our organizations who may support or condone these events to resign immediately.”
“WSU CRs had no involvement in #UniteTheRight and they as a group should not be held accountable for any individual’s alleged actions,” Allsup wrote in the tweet.
In a statement released Monday, the WSU College Republicans repudiated the violence in Charlottesville and seemed to distance themselves from Allsup’s participation.
“We know that James Allsup was at the event, but he was not representing the WSU College Republicans,” they wrote. “We do not have details regarding his purported participation in the rally.”
The rally dissolved into violence as protesters and counterprotesters clashed. One woman was killed when a man, pictured earlier with the white nationalist protesters, drove his car into a crowd of people, and two state police troopers assisting with public safety died in a helicopter crash.
Allsup did not respond to a request for comment, and his phone appeared to have been disconnected Monday.
In an opinion piece of the Daily Evergreen, Hayley Hohman, a former president of the College Republicans, said Allsup and what he represents “are not Republican at all.”
“Their hateful and incorrect rhetoric is a stain on the general party and represents instead a separate movement built on fear and xenophobia,” she wrote in April 2016.
Allsup is well-known among alt-right circles. He has nearly 15,000 Twitter followers and about 150,000 YouTube subscribers.
Much of this publicity came from his time as the president of WSU’s College Republicans.
“Up until (Allsup’s election) the College Republicans were a pretty moderate group,” VanderMeulen said.
That changed under Allsup’s leadership.
“It has become a group that has intentions beyond just sharing common space with common ideas,” said WSU’s Jordan Frost, the student body president. “And it has now become a group that, I believe, tends to seek out opportunities to enrage people.”
That included organizing a Trump Wall event in October. Allsup was also attacked during President Trump’s inauguration. In early May, Allsup filmed a video that was later edited to add racist commentary. Allsup also arranged for controversial former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at WSU. The event was canceled due to weather.
Following Saturday’s violence, a photo circulated of Allsup standing in a group that included Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
In a statement released Monday, a spokesman for McMorris Rodgers said “The Congresswoman is sickened by what took place in Charlottesville this weekend and that anyone from Eastern Washington would participate in white supremacist activities.”
McMorris Rodgers “does not know the WSU College Republican President,” according to the statement, and takes photos with numerous College Republican groups.
In an April Daily Evergreen article, Allsup said he communicates “with people from her office on a fairly regular basis.”
The increasing polarization of WSU’s campus isn’t unique to the Palouse, said Cornell Clayton, a professor of government and the director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute of Public Policy and Public Service.
“I think WSU reflects the broader trends nationally at public universities,” Clayton said.
“College Republicans and College Democrats have become much more polarized over the last decade or so,” he added.
Clayton said over the last year or so, far-right elements on WSU’s campus have become “much more vocal.” The “Trump Wall” project was a clear example of that change, Clayton said.
Sometimes, Clayton said, people relate the current political situation to the 1960s student protests. He thinks it’s different for one main reason.
“Campus protests in the 1960s were much broader based,” he said. “They were about a number of political issues.”
That is in sharp contrast to current rhetoric which focuses on identity politics, Clayton said. Clayton doesn’t think those things are unimportant, he said. But there are larger issues that could unite – like income inequality – rather than divide people, he said.
Allsup distanced himself from the more extreme elements in Charlottesville in an interview Saturday.
“I disavow Nazism,” he said, referring to some protesters who chanted Nazi slogans and wore Third Reich iconography to the rally in an interview Saturday. “It’s not particularly valuable to go around with those kind of symbols – its bad optics to wear that stuff.”
According to a WSU spokesperson, Allsup is not enrolled for the fall semester, although there is still time to enroll.
“On the same day we welcomed Cougs to their new home in Pullman, we heard and saw the most vile and dehumanizing beliefs and actions of human history surface yet again,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “I was heartbroken.”
Online he’s railed against globalism, college safe spaces, immigration policies and trumpeted nationalism.
“I do not think James Allsup is representative at all of the WSU student body,” said VanderMeulen.
However, late Friday night, WSU’s new College Republican president Amir Rezamand railed against critics of the so-called alt-right and seemed to predict the coming of violence in a Facebook post.
“I think the political world is slowly coming to realize a rather simple fact,” he wrote. “It’s a really, really bad idea to piss off lonely white guys with above average intelligence and below average social skills.”
Responding to a request for comment on Monday via Twitter, Rezamand wrote of the post: “I provided a historical background to the rise of the alt-right. Everything I stated was in regards to the factors contributing to the radicalization of nerdy white men, hence the ‘high IQ, low social skills’ quote.”
Also Friday, Rezamand tweeted: “God, I wish I was in Charlottesville right now.” He wrote Monday that he “would like to clear the air” about that tweet.
“If I was in Charlottesville, I wouldn’t be holding a tiki torch. I wouldn’t be clad in black wielding a bike lock either,” he wrote. “Political violence does nothing, solves nothing… There needs to be a centrist voice in matters that end up devolving into political violence.”