Posted: March 1, 2002
White Supremacist Groups Join Forces, Then Break Off
Over the last year the two most extreme and virulently racist and anti-Semitic groups in the United States have demonstrated unprecedented cooperation with each other, particularly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, but of late have pulled apart after one of the groups upstaged the other at a recent rally.
A York, Pennsylvania, rally, held in January 2002, was just one of a series of events in which the neo-Nazi National Alliance (NA) and the white supremacist World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) joined forces. However, fallout from the York rally has resulted in discord between the two groups.
The York rally was the brainchild of Matt Hale, head of the WCOTC, who has exploited racial trouble spots for publicity and attention. York was chosen because of the arrest last year of Mayor Charlie Robertson, a former police officer, and eight other white men charged with murdering a black woman during the city's 1969 race riots. Two black men have been charged with murdering a white policeman during the same time period.
Yet this rally was different from others promoted by Hale because it was not billed solely as a WCOTC event. On the contrary, Hale and the neo-Nazi National Alliance (NA) jointly publicized the event. He and NA representative Billy Roper issued enthusiastic statements encouraging their respective members to attend, hailing the upcoming rally as "an historic occasion that you don't want to miss," and asserting that it would unite pro-white groups for the "salvation of White people of America."
Cooperation between the NA and the WCOTC was not preordained. Both originated in the 1970s and shared similar ideologies, but they attracted different adherents. Whereas the original Church of the Creator appealed to young neo-Nazi skinheads, the National Alliance was more interested in recruiting a broader base of middle-class, educated followers.
As time passed, however, the NA and WCOTC memberships became less strikingly different. A number of factors contributed to this change. In 1993, the Creators suffered a major blow when founder Ben Klassen committed suicide. The group floundered until Hale became the leader in 1996. It continued to attract young racists, but Hale himself--intelligent and well educated, with a law degree from Southern Illinois University--represented exactly the sort of person the NA hoped to attract. Meanwhile, in 1999, William Pierce moved into the skinhead arena when he purchased Resistance Records, a white power music company. Most of the customers of the company and its related magazine, Resistance, are young neo-Nazi skinheads.
Beginnings of cooperation between NA and WCOTC
Although the constituencies of the NA and the WCOTC have overlapped in recent years, there are still key differences between the two groups. The NA remains a highly centralized organization that requires approval for actions and literature distribution, while the WCOTC operates under a much looser structure. Pierce requires potential leaders to attend leadership conferences twice a year whereas WCOTC leaders need to meet minimal requirements. Yet despite the differences between the groups, individual followers often move easily from one to the other, depending on the kind of structure and leadership they are seeking.
Perhaps aware that his clientele of racist skinheads might find the looser structure of the WCOTC more appealing than the NA, Pierce has reached out to Hale in the last two years. In the Winter 2000 issue of Resistance, Hale was interviewed about his efforts to get the Illinois Supreme Court to reverse the decision of the committee that denied him a law license. In December 2000, WCOTC member Eric Owens created the "Ben Smith Scholarship" (in honor of a WCOTC member who committed suicide after killing two and wounding nine in a 1999 shooting spree), whose recipient was to be confirmed jointly by WCOTC and Resistance Magazine. Additionally, Hale wrote an article in the Winter 2001 issue of Resistance, in which he spoke of the "urgent need" for individuals "to work within the legal system for our 'Cause,' to become lawyers and wage our struggle in the courts." Consequently, since the spring of 2001, the "institutional" cooperation between the WCOTC and the NA steadily increased.
One event that may have catalyzed the two groups to increase their ties was a March 10, 2001, speech that Hale gave at public library in Wallingford, Connecticut, at which a number of NA members showed up to demonstrate support for Hale. He chose Wallingford because of the controversy there the previous year over its mayor's refusal to give city workers a paid holiday for Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Giving speeches about race issues in community-based venues such as a library is a relatively new strategy for Hale and has resulted in a great deal of publicity for his group. The speech and accompanying rally in Wallingford attracted a number of counter-demonstrators and a violent altercation broke out between the two sides. Hale succeeded in garnering media attention, and the NA was also pleased with the publicity and the confrontation with anti-racist forces.
Mutual appreciation between key players
One of the keys to the growing relationship between the two racist groups may be the rise within the National Alliance of Billy Roper, the group's Deputy Membership Coordinator. After the Wallingford rally, Roper told an NA follower that Hale appreciated the support from NA members. Roper also pointed out his similarities with Hale: "He and I are about the same age and have quite a few friends in common, and we're both dedicated to the cause." Roper could connect with Hale in a way that the older Pierce could not. Nor did Roper, who headed no organization of his own, represent a threat to Hale in the way that Pierce did.
At the end of March, the Lumpkin County (Georgia) unit of the NA invited Georgia WCOTC members to join them in an anti-immigration rally. A few days after that rally, Roper touted Hale as "an extremely intelligent, charismatic and courageous pro-White leader, whom I respect personally." By mid-April, Roper announced that Hale had "specifically invited" NA members to attend another public meeting in Pontiac, Illinois. NA members joined Hale and the WCOTC at yet another public meeting in Illinois in early June. In July, Roper invited WCOTC members to join the NA at a rally at the German embassy in Washington, D.C., to protest the "lack of free speech in Germany."
These "formal" invitations to attend each other's rallies marked a new turn in the relationship between the two groups, signaling ties considerably closer than the loose connections and occasional collaborations of the past. Nor was joint attendance at rallies the only sign of cooperation. Increasingly, literature from the NA and WCOTC turned up in the same neighborhoods. NA leaders also began recommending WCOTC literature to members and an article on recruitment, written by David Pringle, the head of the NA unit in Anchorage, Alaska, appeared on the WCOTC web site. In the article, Pringle addressed his recommendations to both NA and WCOTC members. He asked if they had read Klassen and Pierce's main tracts and admonished them to remember what Pierce or Hale has told them.
The growing collaboration between the NA and the WCOTC was strengthened further by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Both Hale and Pierce saw the attacks as opportunities to fuel the flames of anti-Semitism, and both made statements blaming Jews and U.S. support for Israel for the attacks. The two groups also blamed Israel for the attacks in flyers that were identical except for the name and address of the groups.
In November 2001, the NA invited WCOTC members to attend an "Americans Against Terrorism" rally at the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., to protest the U.S. government's support of Israel. Members from both groups showed up for that rally and for a similar one held at the Israeli embassy in December. Additionally, in December, Hale asked his followers to participate in a raffle being held by the NA to help an NA member get out of jail.
One factor that helped to bring members of the NA and WCOTC together was that they were able to see themselves as brothers-in-arms against common foes. Both anticipated violent reactions from counter-demonstrators at their events. Before the November rally at the Israeli embassy, Roper bragged, "The last time the National Alliance held a demonstration in D.C. a few months ago [in July] there was violence and fighting in the streets and bloodshed." The earlier rallies set the stage for the violence that broke out at the rally in York. In addition to the NA, the WCOTC, and the Eastern Hammerskins, members of Aryan Nations and the National Socialist Movement came to the rally to show their support. There was a large turnout for both the white supremacists and their anti-racist opposition. Approximately 200 white supremacists were met by about 350 counter-demonstrators. Hundreds of police tried to keep the two groups apart but their efforts were not successful. A number of violent confrontations took place and once again the media focused significant attention on the event.
After the York rally, NA and WCOTC members posted numerous reports on the event to the Internet. These posts indicated a growing unity and respect between NA and WCOTC members, along with significant support from other white supremacist groups. A member of WAR (White Aryan Resistance) who attended the rally mentioned that Tom Metzger, head of WAR, sent "best wishes" and hoped Hale would "give 'em hell!" A number of the attendees at the rally praised both Hale and Roper and the event seemed to inspire them to collaborate further. August Kreis, a leader in Aryan Nations, stated, "I left York a changed man no longer caring for ANYTHING non-white…. If our race does not wake up and fight back as a whole there will be no future for the White Race in this country or anywhere!"
Even before the York event took place, the leader of the Lumpkin County (Georgia) unit of the NA was planning a "Nationalist Rendezvous 2002," to which he invited every major leader of the white supremacist movement in the United States, including William Pierce, Billy Roper, Matt Hale, David Duke, and Tom Metzger.
NA/WCOTC cooperation: Implications and obstacles
Although the NA and the WCOTC have moved towards each other, the groups still have a different membership and agenda. The racist skinheads in and out of prison who belong to the WCOTC have taken up the battle cry, "RAHOWA" (signifying Racial Holy War). They lack the discipline and respectful appearance that the NA demands from its members. While Pierce has been reaching out to hardcore skinheads through Resistance Records, he nonetheless expects those who appear publicly to maintain a conservative demeanor. Pierce disdains the use of blatant Nazi symbols and paraphernalia. While the NA requires appropriate dress and a "professional" appearance at rallies, WCOTC members (including Hale) often wear Nazi insignia or give Nazi salutes. The NA's dress code has caused some dissension among WCOTC members. A WCOTC member responded angrily to an NA leader's statement that all those attending an NA-sponsored anti-immigration rally wear a "shirt and tie; and look serious and professional." He wrote, "This 'professional image' crap will put off and run off the very people who have the courage to get out into the street and unabashedly stand up for our White Race."
In a January 2002 broadcast on RAHOWA Radio, Hale praised the solidarity between the WCOTC and NA at the York rally and made the unlikely claim that many NA members are also adherents of "Creativity." However, his speech also pointed to possible discord between the two groups. Hale said that "white skin" should be the only prerequisite "uniform" of the rank and file at these rallies, a possible reference to the dress code that NA imposes on members and others attending its events.
The willingness of NA and WCOTC members to cooperate has caused other major tensions, as well. Despite the fact that Pierce, who tightly controls the NA, has allowed the two groups to join forces, he has made it clear that he does not want NA members to belong to any other group. In the January 2002 National Alliance Bulletin, he reiterated the point, stating that the NA "certainly will not become stronger by 'uniting' with weak or defective organizations-and that includes virtually every 'movement' group." Pierce also said that the NA is the only organization that has the goals, ideology, and tactics for carrying out a white-power revolution in the U.S. He suggested that if NA members want to belong to an organization that is interested in being part of the "movement" they should resign from the NA. He laid down the policy of the NA with regard to other groups: the NA "will act independently of other organizations" and "will not engage in joint activities with other organizations." However, Pierce--and this may have been one of the reasons he accepted cooperation with the WCOTC for a time--did not discourage recruiting individual members of other organizations into the NA. Word of his new guidelines has already alienated others in the white power movement, however, and may make it harder for the NA to reach out to members of other groups.
Pierce points to "egoism" as the only reason that anyone would want to form another organization rather than join the NA. And it was probably the fact that the NA was upstaged by the WCOTC in York that made Pierce insist on new guidelines for his members. Although Billy Roper was scheduled to speak along with Hale in the York library, Roper never made it inside.
Pierce is a long-established leader on the far right who enjoys worldwide recognition among extremists; his novel, The Turner Diaries, is considered a blueprint for armed revolution among white supremacists both in the United States and Europe. He is clearly not willing to relinquish his role as the leader on the racist right. At the same time, it is hard to imagine that Hale would give up his own leadership position. If these two groups were truly to link together, neither Pierce nor Hale would be willing to take a back seat.
However, for a short time, Pierce and Hale seemed to have decided that they needed each other to help build the white power movement and take advantage of publicity. Both leaders seek to build a reputation for their groups as dedicated white supremacist cadres. However, it seems that Hale had more to benefit from his liaison with Pierce's organization than the other way around. Hale may have believed that his group's alliance with the NA, as well as Pierce's increasing age, would enable him to inherit the mantle from Pierce. In his radio broadcast, Hale also told listeners that groups joining to fight a common enemy was "glorious" and that "power attracts people."
Yet it appears that Pierce was only willing to allow this alliance of convenience until he felt that there was no longer an advantage to be gained. Whether Pierce's stated guidelines permanently affect the cooperation between the NA and the WCOTC remains to be seen, but for now the recent upstaging by Hale's group has pushed Pierce into asserting the NA's hegemony in the white supremacist world.