Michael Joseph Chesny was separated from the U.S. Marine Corps on April 5 over his association with white nationalist organizations and has been accused of playing a role in organizing the notorious Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Before Charlottesville, Chesny and another now-former Marine, Joseph W. Manning, were arrested in Graham, North Carolina, and charged with trespassing after they climbed to the top of a building on North Main Street and hung a banner with a white nationalist symbol and slogan.
Al Jazeera reported Tuesday that Chesny wrote extensively on chat app Discord, geared at gamers, under the handle “Tyrone.” News collective Unicorn Riot published thousands of leaked messages, including ones by Tyrone in which he appeared to be heavily involved in organizing the Charlottesville rally and joked about running over protesters with vehicles, referring to a North Carolina bill which proposed a law protecting drivers who hit protesters blocking roads.
Paralegal Heather Heyer, 32, was killed Aug. 12 in Charlottesville when a car rammed a crowd of counterprotesters. Unite the Right rally participant James Alex Fields Jr. faces murder charges in her death.
Tyrone’s organizing included coordinating transportation. He advised renting large passenger vans to collect demonstrators away from the rally so they wouldn’t have to risk their own vehicles being damaged by counterprotesters like “antifa” groups. They clearly anticipated violence.
Al Jazeera quotes Tyrone posts giving demonstrators tips on impromptu weapons and precautions for keeping their identities secret.
According to Al Jazeera, a Charlottesville-based activist named Emily Gorcenski exposed, or “doxxed,” Chesny and others using Unicorn Riot’s database of leaked material. Gorcenski became a target after she asked the Charlottesville City Council to rescind the permit for the Aug. 12 rally out of fear of violence.
After seeing threats against her in the leaked message database, according to Al Jazeera, Gorcenski went to work finding the real identities of some of the white nationalist leaders. She told Al Jazeera it took about 90 minutes to expose Chesny. One of the clues was a photo Tyrone posted of the banner Chesny and Manning hung from the North Main Street building May 20 in Graham.
Police told the Times-News the two Marines climbed on top of 101 N. Main St., a building adjacent to the historic courthouse, prior to Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County’s Confederate Memorial Day rally without permission of the owner, Jason Cox, and let down a banner that read, “He who controls the past controls the future,” a quote from George Orwell’s novel “1984,” and also featured an “Identitarian” symbol and the letters “YWNRU” on the side.
The acronym stands for “You will not replace us,” the slogan chanted by demonstrators carrying torches in Charlottesville at protests of the removal of a Confederate monument in May, and at the Unite the Right protest Aug. 11 and 12. According to a protest leader, the slogan is an affirmation of being white.
There is no indication that Manning and Chesny had any connection to ACTBAC.
Some of the Tyrone messages in the database were about his court dates and cautioning others how to do the same thing without getting caught. He also posted about family matters, according to Al Jazeera, like the birth of twins, which paralleled posts Chesny made on Facebook.
Manning was a staff sergeant stationed at the Marine Corps Combat Engineer School at Camp Lejeune and an instructor in the program until he was “administratively separated” from the Corps over his arrest around late December, said Nat Fahy, representing Marine Corps Installations East.
Under a different command, Chesny appeared to be headed for a promotion to staff sergeant as his misdemeanor trespassing charge was being cleared up in Graham, but he was still a sergeant April 5, when he was separated from the Corps, Fahy said, for “his connection to white nationalist groups.”
Chesny was an explosive ordnance technician stationed at Cherry Point Air Station. He enlisted in November 2007 and became a sergeant in May 2013.
Reporter Isaac Groves can be reached at [email protected] or 336-506-3045. Follow him on Twitter at @tnigroves.
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