Two men have been removed from the Army National Guard after activists revealed that they are members of a religious group with ties to white supremacy.
An Alabama National Guard spokesperson confirmed to The Hill that they are currently investigating Brandon Trent East, but that it could not comment on ongoing investigations.
“The Alabama National Guard is committed to being an organization that is characterized by equity and inclusion and one that is reflective of this great nation we represent, where all individuals have dignity and worth,” the spokesperson said.
East told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Alabama National Guard sent him a separation notice earlier this month. A spokesperson for the Georgia National Guard said Dalton Woodward is also no longer a member, The Associated Press reported.
The activist group Atlanta Antifacists published a report earlier this year finding that East and Woodward were leaders in the Norse pagan group Ravensblood Kindred. The group is part of the Asatru Folk Assembly, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed a hate group.
Haralson County Sheriff Eddie Mixon also forced East to resign as a jailer, the AP reported.
A spokesperson for the Alabama National Guard said East has 45 days to contest the findings. East said the Army has recommended a general discharge, a step down from honorable discharge caused by conduct not in line with military standards, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Woodward’s unit returned from deployment in Afghanistan in June, and an investigation into his connections with white supremacist groups ended in October.
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East has denied that he is racist, saying he has an interest in worshiping the way his ancestors traditionally did. He added that he minimized his contacts with white supremacists on social media, staying away from those who are “Hitler worshipy.”
“The whole race thing started with me finding Asatru or Odinism or whatever you want to call it and seeing that as a better option than Christianity as a spirituality,” he said, the AP reported.
Both of the men attended a 2017 speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer at Auburn University. Photos show East carrying a sign that said “the existence of our people is not negotiable,” and Woodward carried a sign saying “We have the right to exist,” according to the AP.
“I just went there because at the time I heard he was talking about the recent removal of Confederate monuments. That’s something I wanted to hear,” East said. “And it turned into a something a little worse, obviously.”