Founder of white nationalist group plans to speak at UT in February

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - The founder of a white nationalist group that's been painting slogans on the rock at UT is coming to campus.

Chancellor Beverly Davenport issued a response last month.

Related: UT students raise concerns over message on the Rock

WATE 6 On Your Side was sent what is apparently a flyer for an event at UT showing Matthew Heimbach, flanked by white pride and Traditionalist Worker Party symbols, as the main speaker.

University leaders say in an email they have serious concerns that this group misrepresented the nature of their event and their affiliations. UT says last month an individual reserved a room using the name of a local church as the host.

After making the reservation, the university says that person called to change the name of the contact person leading the event to that of an out of state man with ties to a racial separatist group.

Since then, the university says the church is unaware of the event and has no ties to the person who requested the room.

Heimbach says he was invited to speak on campus by an organization he says is working on getting their charitable status called WALNUT, which stands for White Advocacy Leadership Networking Unity Teams.

Heimbach says their goal for this event is simply to answer questions and introduce themselves to the community, at the same time raising awareness about issues that are impacting white working class people.

"We announced that this is going to be a speech primarily on the opioid epidemic and poverty, and really putting forward solutions for problems that are facing Appalachia. So that's what the topic of my speech is going to be, so yes, that was publicly announced what the event was going to be," he said.

WATE 6 On Your Side asked Heimbach if they told the university that they were with WALNUT and the Traditionalist Worker Party. 

"No because it's a public space. Not that we have anything to hide, obviously because I'm giving an interview about it, but it's just the requirements for the application just stated individual, a discussion of what the event was going to be, what we're going to talk about, and how big of a space we needed."

Heimbach says he's very aware there's been controversy and upset over his chapter's involvement on campus. He says that's why everyone is welcome to listen, have civil discussions, or protest his speech.

The group did not give a firm answer about which auditorium or room they'll be holding the event in.

UT adds they will investigate and work with law enforcement as they evaluate the situation..

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