Many of the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville have faced a swift karmic comeuppance. Participants identified from the rally have been placed under arrest, or lost jobs from hot dog restaurants.
But one western Michigan resident, Paul Walsh, faced perhaps the most ignominious consequence of all the alt-right protestors that road-tripped to Virginia. Walsh’s medieval fantasy live action role-play group, Dagorhir Battle Games, issued a statement banning him from future events.
Dagorhir Battle Games, or just Dagorhir, is a live action role-playing game that incorporates dressing up as a medieval character and fighting with foam swords, flails, spears, etc. Founded back in 1977 by a group of college friends with a shared interest in Lord of the Rings, the fantasy sport has grown from a few dudes wailing on each other to an organization of thousands of players, with local chapters spread throughout the United States.
Dagorhir member John Hutchinson alerted the group to Paul Walsh’s attendance at the Unite the Right rally, sharing my previous news coverage that indicated that Walsh had raised money on GoFundMe to attend the rally, and asking “So is this a thing what (sic) Dagorhir should be know (sic) for? Shouldn’t the higher up possible (sic) take steps to show that we don’t condone this? This is Paul Walsh/Woody a Dagorhirm from Michigan.”
Members argued in the comments about the best way to handle the potentially poor optics. “If to (sic) many members get associated with alt right it could look as though it’s a Nazi training ground,” one user commented.
Another cautioned, “I’m not really a member of the Dag community, but I would like to point out that the Nazis and white supremacists who showed up in Charlottesville shows up with homemade shields and clubs, and used the poles of their flags as spears. I’ve seen the videos of the riots. They used reasonably well coordinated medieval skirmish tactics, utilizing a shield wall up front with ranks behind them u sing weapons to beat counter protesters and prevent any effective resistance.”
He continued, “Considering that we now have at least one widely known and identified white supremacist, who heads an organization that were seen bearing shields and using them in the previously described manner, it is safe to say that there are white supremacists and Nazis who are ACTIVELY using Dag as a personal and organizational training ground to give them an edge in premeditated race riots.”
Later that evening, at 9:49pm, Dagorhir member Kithallah Canid Somnia responded to concerns about Walsh’s involvement:
“We are currently doing everything we can to have him blacklisted on a national level. I want everyone to know that the Dagorhir I know and love does not welcome racist scum like this. He is being blacklisted from Dagorhir on a national level.”
The next morning, on August 17, the president of the 2017-2018 board of directors for Dagorhir Battle Games, David Vierling, better known to players by his character name, Graymael, issued the following statement to the public Facebook group:
“Dagorhir Battle Games Association, Inc. is founded on equality and mutual respect. Our organization decries white supremacists, Nazis, and other hate groups. They are anathema to what Dagorhir represents.
We’re looking into the legal ramifications of how to keep people who espouse hate speech out of all Dagorhir events.
We’re also researching how to deal with things like the hate speech people are reporting on the Dagorhir Unmoderated FB group.
Bear in mind, I haven’t been involved in Dagorhir administration for more than a decade, and I’ve been in my current position for less than 2 weeks. During that time, I’d been concentrating on assembling a team of website volunteers and standing up a ‘Welcome Committee’ to work with new chapters.
Please understand that some of these things will take time to do them legally and right.
Thanks for your patience and any information you can offer to help identify these thugs who have no place at our events.
Graymael/David Vierling, DBGA”
Members expressed their gratitude for the prompt response in the comments, saying “Thank you for your efforts, Graymael. I appreciate you addressing this and taking the time to do things properly,” “Atta boy Gray,” as well as, “Graymael? More like Baemael.” True to medieval epic style, their wise leader had taken up the cause of banishing a resurgent evil once more to the shadows.
This backlash from the Dagorhir community followed an equally pointed condemnation from the Detroit Red Wings. Walsh’s neo-nazi contingent, the Detroit Right Wings–an ill-conceived play on the Original Six NHL Team—soaked up a moment of the Charlottesville spotlight when its members drew the ire of the sports franchise for marching with shields emblazoned with a Schutzstaffel-inspired variation of the iconic winged wheel logo.
After his display offended the dichotomous worlds of professional athletics and amateur fantasy reenactments, Walsh deactivated his Facebook accounts. His social media activity prior to takedown of his pages reveals he was a member of groups including “The Deplorables,” “Round Up and Deport Every Illegal Alien In The USA,” and “Stop the Destruction of Confederate American History.” Also among the groups Walsh’s profile joined: Irceni Dagorhir, a group of 135 members based out of the Grand Haven area. The Facebook page for this group, too, has since been deactivated.
Paul Walsh, when he donned his LARP armor and drew his foam blade, went by the character name Kromkar. He and his fellow LARPer, Anthony Overway (who role-played as Heinz the Barbarian, “a man who towers over most at almost six and one half feet tall” and also attended the Charlottesville rally) oversaw the Irceni Dagorhir chapter operating out of Grand Haven, Michigan.
Walsh posted occasionally in Dagorhir forums under the alias of his character name, Kromkar, or Kromkar Da Yooper, inviting local LARP novices to attend his chapter’s practices, or share space in his carpool to battles. Posting in a forum thread about how to psych yourself up for a battle, Walsh answered, “Painting and garbing up gets me really excited, and the final bit is chanting ORKZ IZ GREEN! GREEN IZ BEST! Right before I hit charging distance and then WAAAGH! as I close with the enemy. I usually pick a new fighter because the look of fear on his face makes me feel like a real orc.”
In the summer of 2016, for Dagorhir’s primary annual event, Ragnarok, a week-long celebration where all Dagorhir chapters gather for contests of battle and bardsmanship, Walsh hosted one of the festival’s signature games, the Assassin’s Tournament.
According to one member, Walsh spoke regularly about his views on the genetic superiority of the white race, and joked that slavery was justified. His racist remarks alienated other players, leading to a decline in members.
A friend of Walsh who preferred to be left unidentified said that he espoused racist views as far back as high school, gradually delving further into the Internet sinkhole of men’s rights activism, “I remember him getting crazy into the whole men’s rights thing. Almost every post on Facebook was about men’s rights or ‘alpha’ vs ‘beta’ males, and all that junk.”
Before fully embracing the mantle of the alt-right, and forming the Detroit Right Wings, Walsh supported Bernie Sanders in the presidential election, before switching to Trump when he felt Sanders was too strict on gun control.
Another acquaintance from Grand Valley High School, Nealon Bradley, was not so shocked about his involvement in the alt-right. “To be perfectly honest, I’m not surprised that he became a Neo-Nazi,” he said. “He was heading towards that route, he was a hateful man in high school, he became a hateful man out of high school. Just now he has a cause for it.”