The gathering, which took place at a picnic shelter along the French Broad River in July 2017 and was billed as "Meet Your Local Redneck," functioned as a sort of coming-out party. After months of firearms training and partially successful efforts at community gardening, the Carolina Mountain chapter of Redneck Revolt was ready to unveil its program to allies in Asheville's far-left activist community.
Wearing uniform red kerchiefs around their necks, sleeveless shirts, tattoos, and looks ranging from shorn-haired punk to bearded mountain man, they mingled easily with their left-wing friends: anticapitalists from Industrial Workers of the World, Democratic Socialists of America interested in responsible handgun ownership, a representative of an LGBTQ self-defense outfit called the Pink Pistols, and hardcore communists. They grilled chicken and gathered in a circle with banjos, fiddles, and guitars to sing "Solidarity Forever."
Redneck Revolt is a national network of antiracist militias founded in July 2016. Four chapters sprang up in North Carolina in 2017, although only one remains in the national network today. Assault-style rifles in hand, Carolina Mountain, with members from Asheville and Boone, played a key role in responding to the violent white-supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville on August 12.
The arrival at the July picnic of three members of the Asheville-based far-right militia American Pit Vipers didn't come entirely as a surprise—a couple Redneck members had invited them after encountering them at a July 2 impeachment rally in Asheville. Both sides were wary of each other but eager to talk. Considering the deepening polarization and escalating tension surrounding Donald Trump's presidency, each worried that they could find themselves on opposite sides of a firefight.
Carolina Mountain's hospitality set the tone for the impromptu summit. A handful of members leaped to their feet and greeted the right-wing militiamen with handshakes and wide grins. Seated across the picnic table from each other, three to three, the conversation was friendly but intense, more like a spirited bar chat than a court-ordered mediation. One of the Pit Vipers wore an American flag-patterned do-rag and a black T-shirt with Arabic-style lettering that read, "Go fuck yourself." He flashed a genial smile.
One Carolina Mountain member from Boone broke away from the huddle to provide an elated report.
"It's going well," he said. "We probably disagree on ninety-five percent of things, but they're about community defense and we're about community defense. The next time we see each other is going to be in the streets, and we're both going to be armed."