Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Small-Town Montana Residents Organize to Oppose Presence of White Nationalists

An image from a National Policy Institute promotional video.

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

A collection of citizens in the small resort town of Whitefish, Mont., banded together earlier this week to demand that their local town council take action to deal with the effects of the presence of a nationally prominent white-nationalist organization in their midst.

Calling themselves Love Lives Here, the group packed the Whitefish City Council chambers on Monday night to demand the council pass an anti-hate ordinance that would bar such groups from assembling in the city.

The object of their ire was Richard Spencer and his National Policy Institute, a hate group that is one of the leading exemplars of academic racism. Spencer moved his national headquarters to Whitefish from Washington, D.C., several years ago.

Spencer’s activities in Whitefish recently surfaced in the public eye due to an article in The Daily Beast describing an encounter between Spencer and former John McCain adviser Randy Scheunemann on the ski lift at Big Mountain, the resort that dominates Whitefish. According to the article, Spencer “berated” Scheunemann for “being a neocon and for believing in this whole democracy BS.”

Over 100 Whitefish residents on Monday night voiced concern that the presence of Spencer and his organization would lead to their town being identified with his brand of hatemongering.

“We are committed to co-creating a caring, open, accepting, and diverse community, free from discrimination, and dedicated to the equal treatment of all citizens,” Ina Albert, one of the Love Lives Here co-founders, said, according to a report from KPAX-TV. “The idea of hate and discrimination has no place in Whitefish, and I hope you can figure out a way to say, ‘we will not accept it in our town.’”

“This isn’t about one individual, it is about a way of thinking that is despicable,” said Brian Muldoon, a Whitefish attorney. “This community I believe is standing up strongly against the kinds of ideas that Richard Spencer and his ilk promotes … and it is time to deconstruct the ideas that are so insidious. It is time to take a very clear stance. An unambiguous one.”

The council was sympathetic and promised to take action. Councilor Richard Hildner, choked with emotion, told the audience that “hate, racism, bigotry are not community values in Whitefish.”

“I promise you I will do everything I possibly can to see that we protect the citizens of Whitefish. I want you to know you have my pledge,” Hildner added, to a round of applause.

Spencer was defiant. “I’ve been coming to Whitefish for more than 10 years now,” he told the Whitefish Pilot. “At no point have I published an opinion on local politics, held meetings with local or state politicians, or engaged in civic activism of any kind.”

“Whitefish is a place where I go to get away from it all. I have no desire to do anything that changes the community that I love, nor has my organization ever considered establishing a permanent facility or residence in Montana.”

However, according to Whitefish residents interviewed by Hatewatch, there is concern that Spencer in fact is planning to construct a large new center for his organization in the town, and part of their action on Monday was aimed at forestalling that possibility. According to the Pilot, he already is a partner in the development of a mixed-use building in the city’s Railway District, not far from Montana’s only Amtrak terminal.

Spencer denied adamantly in a friendly article in the nearby Kalispell newspaper, the Daily Inter Lake, that he was engaged in hatemongering.

“When people call you a hate group, it means they hate you,” he said. “They’re looking at a mirror reflection … They clearly think more about me than I think about them. I don’t harm anyone; I haven’t challenged or provoked them.”

He then went on to explain to the interviewer the virtues of eugenics and a white ethno-state.
Spencer has spoken frequently about creating a “white homeland” in North America, and like his Flathead Valley neighbor Chuck Baldwin, has at times suggested that racist white people retreat to wide-open spaces such as those in Montana, where relatively few minorities reside, to create it.

Last year Spencer spoke at a gathering of academic racists about his hopes for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” that would clear parts of North America for Caucasians, meanwhile suggesting that the new state welcome white refugees from Europe. Spencer advocated a “sort of white Zionism” that would infuse whites with the dream of such a homeland just as Zionism helped spur the creation of Israel. “It is perfectly feasible for a white state to be established on the North American continent. Action is the easy part,” Spencer opined, adding, “I have a dream.”

The Flathead Valley has had several brushes with right-wing extremists over the years. Love Lives Here was founded in 2010 when a group of neo-Nazis showed Holocaust-denial films at a Kalispell theater.

Several years before that, local residents organized resistance to a campaign of violent harassment of local environmentalists that was being organized in part through a right-wing radio station. The campaign came on the heels of the arrest of a local extremist named David Burgert for his plot to assassinate local police and political leaders.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Judge Tells Simcox He Can’t Rely on ‘Grand Conspiracy’ Defense in Molestation Trial

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Chris Simcox, the erstwhile border vigilante Minuteman movement leader, has been sitting in the Maricopa County Jail for over a year as he awaits trial on two counts of child molestation, one involving his own preteen daughter. But, judging from a recent court appearance, he is confident that he will win his freedom.

How? Apparently Simcox has some secret evidence.

According to a report from Stephen Lemons at Phoenix New Times, Simcox indicated during a recent court hearing on a possible plea agreement that there is previously unknown reasons for his arrest.

Documents filed by Simcox’s attorneys suggest he will attempt a defense based on claims that he was targeted for prosecution because of his high political profile, and that the charges against him are built on evidence from two daughters who were subject to “parental alienation” because of a “contentious divorce.”

However, Judge Joseph Welty of Maricopa County Superior Court apparently was not buying. Saying that Simcox was suggesting “some grand conspiracy at play,” he reminded Simcox, 53, that the evidence against him also involved victims who were not his daughters, and that the charges he faced were not political crimes.

The purpose of the hearing last week was to review the plea bargain that prosecutors had offered to Simcox earlier this year that would limit his prison time to seven years in exchange for a guilty plea. However, Simcox adamantly continued to refuse the deal, saying he intended to prove his innocence in court.

Simcox’s refusal ensures that the two victims in the case—one of them his now-teenage daughter, the second being a friend of hers who Simcox was supposed to be babysitting at the time—will be required to testify on the stand. The trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 17, but Simcox’s decision on the plea bargain probably means it will be pushed forward to January.

According to Lemons, a previous judge in the case ensured that so-called “propensity evidence”—involving previous incidents that suggest the defendant’s crime is part of a behavior pattern—would also be admitted.

As the SPLC reported in 2005, Simcox was accused by his first wife of molesting another daughter when she was a teenager, though no complaint was ever made to police. His second wife also sought custody of their teenage son because, she said, Simcox had become violent and unpredictable. His third wife—the mother of his current accuser—took out a restraining order against Simcox in 2010 when she divorced him.

If convicted, Simcox could face up to life in prison.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Montana Klansman’s Idea for ‘Inclusive’ KKK Elicits Derision

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

John Abarr has an idea for the Ku Klux Klan that has attracted a lot of attention: He says he wants to reform the hate group to make a more “inclusive” KKK open to Jews, black people, and gays and lesbians—a “Rainbow Klan,” as it were.

here’s just one problem: While Abar has had no problem attracting media coverage, his Rocky Mountain Knights of the Ku Klux Klan doesn’t appear to have followers beyond a handful, and he has zero credibility within the national Klan organizations.

Word of Abarr’s idea appeared in a story in the Great Falls Tribune, which featured Abarr holding forth on the idea of a kinder, gentler Ku Klux Klan: “The KKK is for a strong America,” he told the paper. “White supremacy is the old Klan. This is the new Klan.” The story then appeared in USA Today, and inspired a round of stories in the Washington Post, the U.K.’s Daily Mailthe International Business Times, The Forward and Think Progress.

A recent ABC News piece, however, cast a skeptical note, quoting Rachel Carroll-Rivas, co-director of the Montana Human Rights Network, who has monitored Abarr’s various activities since he distributed racist flyers agitating for “white homeland” in the Northwest, and ran for Congress as a Klan candidate.

Carroll-Rivas told Hatewatch that, as far as her organization can tell, Abarr is pretty much just a one-man bandwagon.

“We’ve seen no evidence that he has a membership or following as far as any version of a KKK group, affiliated or not,” she said. “I think Abarr primarily is pretty much by himself.”

This is not Abarr’s first foray in grabbing headlines, however. In 1989, when he was the 19-year-old campaign spokesman for white-supremacist candidate William Daniel Johnson during a failed bid for the Wyoming congressional seat of Dick Cheney, Abarr told reporters then that the Klan was “basically a civil rights organization that stands up for the rights of white people.”

Twenty-two years later, Abarr ran for Congress in Montana, though he shuttered his campaign after only six months. More recently, Abarr again grabbed headlines by holding a meeting with members of the NAACP at a hotel in Wyoming, claiming he wanted to find a way to get along with blacks.

“They’re all media gimmicks,” Carroll-Rivas said. “Clearly it’s not real. He’s just trying to figure out a way to get in there between the lines.”

The “inclusive” Klan notion is risible, she added.

“I think he’s a farce in terms of what he’s saying right now,” she said. “What he’s doing is somewhat self-promotion, but I also think he’s happy to spread the word of hate, and find a way to bring it attention.”

Indeed, Abarr’s concept was largely met with roars of laughter and general disbelief at the white-supremacist website Stormfront, where a thread devoted to the Tribune story attracted a large number of comments:
What can I say? This is the most ridiculous thing I have heard of. What next? (Corn Feed White Boy)

This is crazy, you sure this is a real kkk ? (laidbackguy71)

Even looks like a fag. Kick him out in the black part of Denver…with his “robe” on, assuming they even retain that. (Buzz)

Sounds like some pervert joined a klan under false pretenses and got tired of wearing women’s clothing behind closed doors and going to gay bars with fake mustaches. (Paladin Steel)

One group doesn’t speak for all, this is nothing but anti-Klan propaganda and anyone falling for this is a fool. (Central Michigan)
One Stormfront commenter queried among his fellow white supremacists whether any from Montana even knew of Abarr or had heard of them. One, a “white nationalist” from Columbia Falls, replied: “Nope, he has nothing to do with anyone I know.”

Carroll-Rivas observed that the reason Abarr is able to manipulate the press is that people are well aware what the Klan really stands for.

“It goes to show how strong that label still is, the KKK,” she told Hatewatch. “And I think he understands the power that that label has. And it should, because it instills fear in people, for real reasons.”