East is part of a small group of adherents of fringe religious sect whose posts on Facebook and other social media platforms show broad and numerous white supremacist and neo-Nazi leanings. The Georgia National Guard is investigating another member of the group, Dalton Woodward, a guardsman currently deployed in Afghanistan.
Spokesman Lt. Col. Jeff Freeman said the National Guard takes such reports seriously.
“That’s not what we’re about,” he said. “That’s for sure.”
Mixon was less concerned about his employee, despite pictures posted on Facebook in 2017 showing the two men attending a speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer at Auburn University, carrying signs stoking fears of "white genocide." In bragging about the experience, they signed off with the Nazi salute "hail victory."
When asked about his jailer’s participation in the event, Mixon said he can’t fault someone for listening to another viewpoint and said he often listens to people with whom he disagrees.
“The only way I had an idea is to go listen to them,” he said. He added that the Spencer trip was “way before he became an employee here. … I’m sure during our younger years we have all done some foolish things.”
The AJC specifically asked Mixon whether he was comfortable with posts made on Facebook common among white supremacists, including a popular "It's OK to be white" meme the group shared from an overtly racist page.
“I don’t think it is for me to answer,” the sheriff said. “I think it’s OK to be white. It’s OK to be black. It’s OK to be who you are.”
Social media posts on Facebook and elsewhere by East and Woodward were initially discovered by leftist activist group Atlanta Antifascists, which republished them online. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution independently reviewed those and other social media posts made by the men on their personal social media accounts or on their shared Facebook page.
Mixon said he didn’t personally interview East. “My jail administrator has talked to him,” the sheriff said.
According to their Facebook profiles, East and Woodward have been friends since attending Cedartown High School in the middle part of this decade. It was during that time they became interested in religious practices known variously as heathenism, Odinism or Wotanism centering on ancient Norse and Germanic gods.
Hate group watchdogs like the Anti-Defamation League stress that while heathenism isn’t fundamentally racist, some branches embrace a “folkish” or tribal philosophy with an emphasis on ethnic purity that attracts white supremacists.
Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow with the ADL’s Center on Extremism, said the type of Wotanist paganism expressed by East and Woodward is explicit in its white supremacist beliefs with connections to American racist ideologues going back decades.
The fact that East and Woodward are working in law enforcement and the military should raise “considerable concern,” he said.
“All the armed services have regulations that prohibit white supremacy,” he said. And having a white supremacist as a correctional officer not only harms the image of a law enforcement agency, it can create security concerns, he said.
“White supremacist Norse paganism certainly exists within the prison environment and is fairly widespread among white supremacist (gangs),” he said.
East and Woodward started their own group, which calls itself Ravensblood Kindred and a Facebook page where they post messages with ethnocentric, undemocratic and outright racists meanings. “Equality is a false god,” one post on the Ravensblood page proclaimed.
Neither man responded to requests for comment made through email or Facebook messages. East’s father also declined comment.
Last month, the group announced it had established a presence on a Russian social network popular with American white nationalist groups fleeing the scrutiny of Facebook.
The Ravensblood page also makes use of several ancient Celtic symbols, including the "black sun" symbol adopted by Hitler's Nazi regime. The ADL said such symbols have long histories and "should be analyzed carefully in the context in which they appear."
In an unsigned post, the group denied being racist, saying instead they supported "the spiritual reawakening of our Folk, who are the Native European peoples, aka white people.
“This does not mean we hate other races. We encourage all races to get in touch with the native spirituality of their ethnic group!” the post said.
East shared more about his interests on his Instagram and Twitter profiles.
"New book!" East wrote on Instagram last fall, posting a photo of the cover of "For My Legionaries," a memoir written in the 1930s by a Romanian fascist and antisemitic agitator and republished by an extremist press that specializes in reprinting Nazi and antisemitic texts. He also posted the cover of another book by Julius Evola, an Italian philosopher whose work questioning human equality is highly regarded by the extreme right.
The Ravensblood group appears to be extremely small with just a handful of adherents, but it has received repeated accolades from Asatru Folk Assembly, an ethnocentric group with its own extremist connections.