Citizens of Cadillac, Michigan, left a town hall meeting recently with positive strategies to combat hate and the activities of local neo-Nazis, after the white supremacists attracted attention by taking part in community cleanup efforts.
Betsy Kellman, the head of ADL's Michigan office, spoke at the July 21 meeting after community members became concerned over a certificate of thanks signed by the mayor of Cadillac and given to the local chapter of the National Socialist Movement (NSM), a Minnesota-based neo-Nazi group whose members participated in the cleanup of an area park in May.
Copy of the certificate awarded to the NSM by the mayor of Cadillac
During the cleanup, the neo-Nazis wore swastika armbands and other Nazi regalia and stopped to take group pictures, including some where they gave the "Heil Hitler" salute. They posted pictures of the event to their Web site, including the signed certificate of appreciation.
Members of NSM give Nazi salute as they participate in cleanup of a local park in Cadillac
Mayor Ronald Blanchard, expressing its concern. Town leaders said the issuance of the certificate was a mistake. Community members asked city leaders to apologize for issuing a certificate to the racist group. The city council passed a special resolution to uphold diversity and promote tolerance in the community, but city leaders said that they would not denounce an organization based on its ideological beliefs.
ADL wrote a letter to
Subsequently, Betsy Kellman was invited to speak at a July 21 meeting, which was attended by about seventy-five people, including clergy and school administrators. The ADL offered to provide anti-bias education and training to city officials. Community members also formed a task force to combat hate in the community and agreed that teachers in Cadillac schools would participate in ADL's A World of Difference Institute, a nationally recognized initiative to provide educational programs to assist in eliminating prejudice, anti-Semitism and bigotry.
NSM's involvement in the Cadillac cleanup is not the first time that it has tried to exploit community clean-up efforts to attract free publicity. Earlier this year, NSM participated in an adopt-a-road program in Oregon and a road sign was erected near Salem acknowledging their participation. Such actions are not uncommon among white supremacist groups.
NSM members wearing swastikas and other Nazi regalia at a barbecue after the cleanupCadillac, attracting about 50 white supremacists. The group, which says on its Web site that it is "brutal and ruthless" to its enemies, has also announced recruitment plans.
In addition to the cleanup, the Michigan NSM chapter has distributed racist flyers and in July held a "white unity" barbecue in
In recent years, NSM has grown in membership and influence, with dozens of chapters across the country. Part of the reason for the group's growth has been its appeal to racist skinheads and other young white supremacists, who join in NSM activities ranging from literature distribution to armed paramilitary training.