Hate Groups Plan New Year's Defense

Associated Press, December 16, 1999
By Nicholas K. Geranios

HAYDEN LAKE, Idaho (AP) - At the dawn of the new millennium, members of the Aryan Nations say they will be hunkered down on their property, prepared to defend their whites-only compound. The leader of the World Church of the Creator says he, too, will be ready.

"We are urging our members, if they have firearms, to keep them loaded and available in case of looters or individuals of any kind who would do them harm," said the Rev. Matt Hale, leader of the East Peoria, Ill.-based white supremacist group.

Despite a recent FBI report warning of the potential for violence by hate groups, militia members and apocalyptic religious cults around Jan. 1, leaders of some of the better-known organizations say if there is any violence from them, it will be defensive only.

"If anyone needs to be on alert for terrorist acts, it's us," said Aryan Nations member Ray Redfeairn.

Indeed, law officers concede that millennial violence by hate groups is most likely to come from underground organizations they do not even know about. These people are referred to as "off the grid," meaning they live far from society, often in homes without electricity or telephones.

"The lone wolves are our greatest danger," said Roger Bragdon, acting police chief of Spokane, Wash. Law officers are also worried that believers might mistake New Year's Eve power outages and civic disruptions as signs that the United States has been invaded by foreign armies or that a race war has erupted. "If an electrical pole is taken down, they may perceive that the whole world has gone dark," said Sgt. Greg Harshman, the Spokane police expert on domestic terrorism.

Many acts of domestic terrorism - including the Oklahoma City bombing and the shootings at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles - involved people with ties to the inland Northwest.

As a result, Spokane on New Year's Eve will see "more police officers on the streets than have ever been on the streets in the city of Spokane," Bragdon said.

Not surprisingly, no hate groups contacted said they were planning violence.

Instead, Richard Butler, head of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, said from the group's rural headquarters near Hayden Lake that Americans should be wary of a New Year's Eve assault by the government on their rights. "They may use it as justification for illegal acts, like martial law," he said.

While Butler has long disavowed violence in creation of a white homeland in the West, many of his followers have not. Buford Furrow Jr., who confessed to the shootings at the Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles in August, had spent time at the Aryan Nations as a security guard.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups across the nation, said the release of the FBI report was a good idea.

"It sends the movement a message that `we are aware that can happen and will be on guard.' That eliminates two-thirds of the problem right there," said Joe Roy, director of intelligence for the center. But that still leaves the "people who are unplugged from the system and, for all intents and purposes are at war with this country now."

"Good luck in trying to find out who those guys might be," said an e-mail from Vincent Bertollini, co-founder of a white supremacist group known as The 11th Hour Remnant Messenger, based in Sandpoint, Idaho.

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