Friday, May 28, 2004

Standing up

Following up on the post about white-supremacist recruitment in the Portland area, it seems some 200 people showed up in Tigard to stand up to the haters:
City officials and experts said the rally, the first of its kind in Portland's suburbs, was necessary to make the group feel unwanted and to thwart its efforts to gain members among area residents and high school students.

"They'll take the path of least resistance," said Randy Blazak, a Portland State University professor who studies hate groups and spoke at the rally at Cook Park near Tigard High School. Blazak said it was particularly important for suburban leaders to take a stand against such groups because of the dramatic racial and economic change in their communities.

"The suburbs are where it's right in your face," he said. "The suburbs are the front lines of the changing face of America."

The rally was just a start, of course, because these people do not just crawl back under their rocks. They are fairly determined, and in fact seem to have discussed ways to disrupt the rally:
The group continued to distribute fliers the morning of the rally, Wolf said. The fliers distributed Thursday lashed out against liberal whites who, in a cartoon, were portrayed as self-haters who embraced diversity only under the influence of Jewish-controlled media.

In each incident the literature promoted a local group called the Tualatin Valley Skins and their local-access cable shows that air in Washington County, part of Clackamas County and 12 cities.

A man who gave the name Jim Ramm answered an e-mail request to the group's Web site for an interview. He explained the flier distributions were part of the process of initiating new members.

"It ain't just three or four people," he said. "We feel hate is good." Plans to disrupt the rally were discussed on the group's Web site. But members of the group, if present, did not reveal themselves at the rally.

These kinds of community efforts to stand up to white supremacists, nonetheless, are essential, because they eventually are the most effective way of blunting the work of haters, including those who operate in their traditional strongholds.

My friend Jerry Mitchell, for instance, recently filed an excellent report on the efforts of people in Philadelphia, Mississippi, to regain their tattered good name some 40 years after the notorious killings there of three civil-rights workers:
Desire to right wrong unifying force: Philadelphia residents seek new image for city

PHILADELPHIA — Dozens of residents here stood together Wednesday, black, white and Choctaw, united in the belief the killers of three civil rights workers in 1964 should be tried for murder.

For too long, they said, their town has been tarred with the brush of hate for what happened here on June 21, 1964, when a group of more than 20 Klansmen killed Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman because they helped African Americans register to vote.

For too long, they said, their town has borne the brunt of national criticism for the slayings that prompted international outrage.
For too long, they said, their town has remained silent.

"We want to once and for all call for justice," said Leroy Clemons, co-chairman of the Philadelphia Coalition, a 30-member, multiracial task force dedicated to racial reconciliation and commemorating the 40th anniversary of the killings.

Some of you may remember who Jerry Mitchell is, by the way. He's the reporter whose amazing work has led to the reopening of decades-old cases involving civil-rights-era murders, including Medgar Evers'.

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