Extremism in Connecticut
The public often associates extreme
anti-government or hate groups with remote, rugged states in the Pacific
Northwest or the rural South. Despite these perceptions, extremism in
America is spread far and wide. New England is home to its share of
extreme groups and movements, just as are the Pacific Northwest and the
Connecticut -- despite its small size -- has
witnessed some of the most intensive and varied forms of extremist
activity. From anti-government "sovereign citizens" and tax
protesters to virulent hate groups like the World Church of the Creator
and the Klan, extreme ideologies have taken root in Connecticut's soil.
In recent years, Connecticut has experienced a
breadth and scope of extremist activity surprising for its size. While some formerly popular extremist groups are now on the
decline, others are growing, and are becoming increasingly active and
vocal within communities throughout the state.
The impact of the Internet and other new media will make
Connecticut, like other states, even more vulnerable to new extremist
movements that originate elsewhere.
The Ku Klux Klan
Of the different extreme groups or movements
that have operated in Connecticut, perhaps the most visible over time
has been the Ku Klux Klan.
The Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
(IE) had the greatest impact. At its peak in the early 1980s, it was the
largest Klan group in the country, with the Connecticut unit, one of the
most active IE chapters.
1986, in a major departure from Klan tradition,
James Farrands, a Connecticut Klan leader, was named Imperial Wizard..
Farrands was not a typical Klan leader; for one thing, whereas the Klan
was historically anti-Catholic, Farrands himself was Catholic and openly
recruited other Catholics. Farrands maintained other Klan traditions,
however, especially regarding confrontations and violence.
The Invisible Empire finally collapsed in the early
1990’s but a new group, the Unified Klan emerge.
Connecticut's Unified Klan (UK) conducted itself like the Klan of
By 1993, right-wing extremist groups across the
country were becoming larger and more militant, in part as a reaction to
the controversial standoffs at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992, and Waco,
Texas, in 1993. Connecticut became one of the first states in the
country to experience this resurgence in January 1994 that local, state
and federal law enforcement agents arrested six members of the
Connecticut UK on a variety of conspiracy and weapons charges.
The 1994 arrests caused Klan activity in
Connecticut to decline significantly, but it never disappeared entirely.
Near the end of the decade, in fact, the Klan showed signs of life once
more. Klan activity picked up in 1999 and 2000
It is difficult to estimate accurately the
membership of Connecticut Klansmen today. The Klan in Connecticut as
elsewhere has suffered from the trend by many would-be members or
supporters to move toward more "fashionable" racist groups
such as the World Church of the Creator
Yet while their numbers are small, the threat
posed by the Klan remains real
World Church of the Creator (WCOTC)
One of the most publicized white
supremacist groups in the United States in recent years has been the
World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), led by Matt Hale, the Church's
"Pontifex Maximus." Over the years, Church members have also
been linked to a number of violent crimes around the country. The WCOTC
thus entered the new century with a deserved reputation for hate and
The exact number of WCOTC members in
Connecticut is not known, although WCOTC members and publications have
claimed at different times several different chapters,
Just as Connecticut Klansmen engaged in
illegal acts, members or supporters of the Connecticut WCOTC chapter
committed several crimes during the group's brief history in the state.
The most brutal crime to date in Connecticut
attributed to a WCOTC member.took place in August 2000, when WCOTC
member John Barletta, an inmate, serving a life sentence for murdering
his cellmate, brutally attacked and disfigured the warden of the
Northern Correctional Institution at Somers, with a knife made out of a
Barletta's case illustrates not only the
propensity of WCOTC members for violence, but also the attraction that
WCOTC has for people who may have a propensity for violence.
"Creativity," which bills itself as a "warrior
religion" and adopts the slogan "Rahowa" (for
"racial holy war"), may easily be used to rationalize violent
acts or tendencies.
For the WCOTC, as for many other extremist groups, prisoners may be
potential recruits; Iimprisoned WCOTC embers may actively engage in a
variety of propagandizing or proselytizing activities. It is through
such efforts that prisoners such as Barletta learn about and become
attracted to groups like WCOTC. Once a member, he helped form and lead a
chapter made up of other inmates.
The National Alliance, an openly revolutionary
neo-Nazi organization one of the largest and most well-established of
all hate groups has recently established a foothold in Connecticut.National Alliance cells (called "units" or
"proto units," depending on their size) are usually better
organized and more disciplined than other white supremacist groups.
Connecticut currently has few National Alliance
members--only enough to qualify for "proto unit" status, as
opposed to full unit status. The creation of a Web page for Connecticut
members suggests there may be increased activity in the future.
'Refined' Racism: The Council of Conservative Citizens
Not all hate groups operating in Connecticut are
crudely or blatantly racist as the World. Since the 1990s, perhaps the
most prominent of these groups has been the Council of Conservative
The Council co-opts both the language and issues of
conservative causes in order to camouflage its true aim, which is to
solidify what it believes to be the eroding power base of white
Connecticut is served by the Tri-State Chapter of
the CofCC. The majority of
the tristate CofCC's membership is from New York and New Jersey, but
there is an active contingent of Connecticut members within the
organization, and it appears to be growing.
Militia groups and paramilitary organizations
New England states have played a role in the militia movement since
its inception. Connecticut
itself was a militia trailblazer of sorts for having had one of the
earliest groups that could credibly be called a militia.
Currently, the state harbors the “51st Militia,”
which maintains close ties to the racist and anti-Semitic World Church
of the Creator. Connecticut
is also home to the Connecticut Survival Alliance (CSA), an online
militia think-tank and discussion forum.
Sovereign Citizens in Connecticut
The “sovereign citizen” movement is a network of groups and
individuals who have adopted a right wing, essentially anarchist
ideology that has its origins in the beliefs of a group called the Posse
Comitatus, which first emerged in the 1970s. Often those people who have
suffered financial or other personal reverses are most susceptible to
the lure of extreme antigovernment ideology.
This has proven true for many of Connecticut’s anti- government
In Connecticut, as in the rest of the nation, bogus liens have been
one of the sovereign citizen movement’s most popular harassing tactics
for more than two decades. Bogus liens are placed not because there is any money owed, but rather simply
as a way of punishing anyone running afoul of a sovereign.
The placing of bogus liens became a popular tactic for
anti-government activists who wanted to retaliate against law
enforcement officials or other authorities.