No Signs of Hate Groups in New York, Mayor Says

New York Times, August 13, 1999
By Jayson Blair

NEW YORK -- Seeking to allay concerns prompted by the shootings at a Jewish community center in Los Angles, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his police commissioner, Howard Safir, said Thursday that the Police Department had no evidence of any organized hate groups operating in New York City.

The officials did say, however, that the city was increasing security in some Jewish neighborhoods, at synagogues, yeshivas and other gathering places.

"We have no indication that there are any organized neo-Nazi groups operating in the area, in New York City," Safir said at a news conference in Brooklyn. Later in the day, the commissioner and the mayor repeated that assertion at a City Hall news conference.

But it was disputed by numerous organizations that track neo-Nazi and hate groups as well as some federal law-enforcement officials. They said a number of hate groups had presences in New York, including the Knights of Freedom, a white supremacy group that has chapters across the country, and the World Church of the Creator. Members of the World Church were linked this year to arson at three California synagogues and shooting attacks in July in which two people were killed in Illinois and Indiana.

"It is well known that there are hate groups and small neo-Nazi cells operating in New York City," said Chip Berlet, the president of Political Research Associates, a company based in Somerville, Mass., that tracks extremist groups. "They may not be as visible or large, but it does not mean they are not there."

Marilyn Mode, the deputy police commissioner for public information, said isolated supremacy-oriented hate groups or isolated individuals with those views could be operating in the city. But, she added, "there is no evidence that we are aware of, or that the FBI is aware of, of one of these supremacy-type groups operating in New York City."

The City Council speaker, Peter Vallone, called for a city-financed center that would track hate crimes and the people who commit them.

Berlet said hate groups might be less visible in New York City and on Long Island, partly because of the diversity in the metropolitan area as well as a reluctance to admit publicly to racist views.

Ed Sedarbaum, the associate director of the Anti-Defamation League's regional office in New York City, agreed.

"We can't let ourselves be reassured just because we don't see large armies in New York City," he said. Sedarbaum said that last year, fliers were distributed by the World Church of the Creator in Greenwich Village and by the Ku Klux Klan in Brooklyn. In the last three years, he said, fliers from the National Alliance, another white supremacist organization, were found in all five of the city's boroughs, and the group also hung a white supremacist banner on a Staten Island overpass last year.

Officials from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, said that of the 13 extremist groups now operating in New York state, six were operating in the five boroughs, up from three in the city at this time last year. In New Jersey and Connecticut, the law center said, there are 13 active extremist groups, up from 11 in the preceding year.

In New York City, the center said, there is a cell from the World Church of the Creator; a chapter of the Anglo-European American Society, a white supremacist group; a chapter of the House of David, a black separatist group; the National Association for the Advancement of White People, which is based in Brooklyn, and the Knights of Freedom.

Although swastikas were discovered on buildings in Brooklyn and Manhattan on Thursday, police said that bias crimes in general were down 19 percent so far this year and that anti-Semitic bias crimes were down 31 percent.

On Thursday, Safir said senior police officials from the intelligence division have met with officials from the FBI, and so far, they have been unable to find any connections between the suspected Los Angeles gunman, Buford O. Furrow Jr., and any individuals in the city.

At City Hall, the mayor and other lawmakers called on the state Legislature to pass a hate crime bill that would prescribe harsher penalties for bias-related offenses. The state Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, approved such a bill in January, but the Republican-led Senate let the legislation die, as it has done every year for the last decade.

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