A former U.S. Marine who allegedly helped organize last year’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, graduated from Claremore High School in 2000, The Frontier has learned.
Michael Chesny, 36, was “administratively separated with a General Discharge on April 5 due to his affiliation with white supremacist hate groups,” according to records provided to The Frontier by the Marines. He left the Marine Corp on April 11 after being given time “to tend to administrative matters,” Nat Fahy, Director of Communications Strategy and Operations for the Marine Corps, said.
A recent Al Jazeera story states that Chesny had used the alias “Tyrone” in an online anonymous chat service to organize the Charlottesville rally. That rally, called “Unite the Right,” culminated in one person being killed and 19 injured after a white supremacist rammed his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters. Dozens of others were injured in separate clashes that day between the protesters and counter-protesters.
Chesny, records show, enlisted with the Marines in Nov. 2007, and entered service through the Oklahoma City Marine Entrance Processing station.
Oklahoma court records show Chesny was cited numerous times between 2006 and 2007 in Oklahoma for various traffic infractions. In 2007 he was charged in Washington County for driving with a suspended license. Records show he pleaded guilty and was given a two-year deferred sentence.
Fahy released the following statement in response to the Al Jazeera story.
“Association or participation with hate or extremist groups of any kind is directly contradictory to the core values of honor, courage, and commitment that we stand for as Marines and isn’t tolerated by the Marine Corps,” Fahy said in the statement. “The guidance to Marines is clear: participation in supremacist or extremist organizations or activities is a violation of Department of Defense and Marine Corps orders and will lead to mandatory processing for separation following the first substantiated incident of misconduct which is what occurred with these former Marines. Bottom line, there is no place for racial hatred or extremism in the Marine Corps because our strength is derived from the individual excellence of every Marine regardless of background.”
Months before the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Chalottesville, Virginia, last August, Chesny and another Marine, Joseph Manning, were arrested for trespassing after climbing a building and unfurling a banner to protest the removal of a Confederate monument.
The banner read “YWNRU” (You Will Not Replace Us,) which is a slogan associated with white nationalist group Identity Evropa. The group is widespread, and as recently as April 11 posted racist flyers in Tulsa.
Chesny entered an Alford plea (a legal term meaning he did not admit to the crime, but accepted there was enough evidence to convict him) to the trespassing charge, and was sentenced to time served — allegedly just eight hours in jail he had spent before being released on bail.
But his troubles were apparently just beginning.
The “Unite the Right” rally kicked off in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 11 with an aim of stopping the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from the city’s Emancipation Park.
Protesters and counter-protesters clashed, leaving dozens injured. The afternoon of April 12, as the rally continued, a man, identified later as James Alex Fields Jr., drove his car through a crowd of counter-protestors. One woman, 32-year-old Heather D. Heyer, was killed.
After the rally, a non-profit group called “Unicorn Riot” published an archive of messages from a “Discord” server (a chat service that allows anonymity) showing how the rally that led to Heyer’s death was organized.
One organizer, identified in the chat as “Tyrone,” gave “detailed advice on how to fight in the streets of Charlottesville, and also posted a raft of racial slurs and statements pledging support for neo-Nazi causes and organisations,” according to an Al Jazeera story published earlier this week.
“Tyrone” also made statements like “F— islam,” instructed people how to turn a flag pole into a weapon used for impalement, and posted an image of a man armed with a firearm captioned “I am actually a US Marine who was born to kill,” according to the story.
For months, Tyrone’s identity was secret.
But a Charlottesville woman named Emily Gorcenski, who had fought to have the city revoke a permit granted to the rally’s organizers last year, began trying to match aliases from the Discord chats to real people.
Gorcenski told Al Jazeera it took “about 90 minutes” to link “Tyrone” to Chesny.
“Tyrone posted a photo of this banner that appeared at a May 2017 rally in support of a Confederate statue in Graham, North Carolina. On June 6, 2017, he told others on Discord that he’d been “caught” hanging it from the top of a building,” according to the story.
The banner was the same one Chesny was arrested and convicted for unfurling a few months prior to the “Unite the Right” rally. Gorcenski told Al Jazeera she did a reverse image search of the banner and found it was linked to a news story of Chesny and Joseph Manning’s arrest.