Symbols with Neo-Nazi ties displayed outside store in Fredericksburg, VA
FREDERICKSBURG, VA (WWBT) - Symbols outside of a downtown Fredericksburg business have prompted protests throughout the week.
Inside and outside of McLeather LLC on Princess Anne Street, you'll find images such as the Black Sun, Life Rune and three interlocking triangles known as the Valknut. It has also flown a Confederate battle flag.
"At the beginning, I don't think a lot of those symbols were in their window, but after the protests in Charlottesville, they started to fly the Confederate flag, like the day after. That was a pretty direct message" explained Kat Littleton, member of the activist group Solidarity Formation FXBG. "They have since taken it down and replaced it with Odin's Raven Flag, which is highly associated with white supremacist groups."
Many of the symbols seen at the shop are ancient, but have been used in modern times by white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
But, the ADL also says the images are used in ancient pagan religious practices not connected to racism, and the store's owner claims that is his purpose. He says he is a part of Odin's Chosen, an ancient Nordic religion.
Odin's Chosen is led by a man who says he is called Volbriecht, and is the priest of their religion. Volbriecht feels the controversy surrounding the business is a misunderstanding and that the symbols are there to represent their religion.
He says people take what is "good and traditional and turn it," something that infuriates him.
"You have to understand, no, it's not about hate, I hate no one," Volbriecht explained. "This is where they take the controversy, this is where it comes down, because we believe in legacy, our heritage, our blood lines. It's not about who is better or worse."
Volbriecht says they are located inside of McLeather as an "outreach," and wants people to come in, speak with him and learn, no matter what they believe.
"Yes we're traditionalists, we believe in traditional marriage, we believe in going out there and upholding the law of our land, having pride in our country," he said. "The difference between hate and having pride in your ancestry, you're not judging other people's ancestry you're acknowledging your own."
Solidarity Formation, along with another community organization, Free By Running, wrote in a post, why they feel the community should protest Odin's Chosen, "We won't stand for any hatred or racist in our community and it was great to see youth and local shop owners out on the streets yesterday letting them know that we are here. Different colors, belief, everything."
Protesters say the man's Facebook page, Odin's Chosen Virginia, often has racist posts, including some praising Adolf Hitler.
Volbriecht says his page has been hacked several times since January, because he has "met different people," so the posts - that have since been removed - were not from him.
"We are just folk people. We just want to be left alone. We're here to teach, yes, but we don't want controversy," he said. "If you're polite, respectful, and want to learn, I am going to be open, regardless of your ethnicity, regardless of your ancestry."
"This is a city of community, our downtown is active, open, family-oriented and supportive of everybody, and this doesn't match that at all," said Littleton. "[We want to] get the Odin's Chosen group out of the building and off of our main street, at the very least get all of the white supremacist symbols out of the window."
Littleton says after seeing protests Wednesday outside of the store, others have mobilized, planning to protest again Friday outside of McLeather LLC and Odin's Chosen.
"We want our community to feel safe," said Littleton.
Fredericksburg police say they have been monitoring the store and its social media postings and have alerted Virginia State Police.
But officials say they can't shut a business down for these kind of sentiments unless there are threats, and no threats have been discovered thus far.
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