The shootings a year ago at Jewish centers in Overland Park brought attention to the white nationalist movement, which authorities say has been responsible for an increase in violence in recent years.
Here is the landscape of the movement, whose members include white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Klansmen. The most prominent groups have all seen change — some growing, others evolving.
The Knights Party
Rachel Pendergraft describes her childhood in northern Arkansas as fairly routine.
“I went to a school right outside of Harrison,” she said. “I was editor of my school paper, I was a varsity cheerleader, I did all the things that normal high school kids do.”
“Our school would travel to another school to a ball game, and sometimes they’d say, ‘Hey, that’s the Klan girl,’” she said. “Everybody knew who I was. And sometimes guys would want to date me.”
Today, Pendergraft is a mother, a grandmother and the highest-ranking woman in the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
Led by national director Thom Robb, the Klan — which now calls itself the Knights Party — is based near Harrison, Ark., and is among the oldest Klans in the country.
Robb, Pendergraft’s father, has tried to make the organization appear more mainstream. They don’t use titles like “grand dragon” and “imperial wizard.” (Those sound “hokey,” Pendergraft said.) They changed their name to the Knights Party in recent years and downplay the Christian Identity ideology, which teaches that Jews are satanic and blacks are inferior. They still have cross lightings and get “robed up,” but only once a year at their fall conference.
Robb and Pendergraft said they changed the organization’s name because so many groups were using the KKK label.
“The name Ku Klux Klan is public domain,” said Pendergraft, the Knights’ national organizer. “There are people out there that use the name that act very un-Christian, very derogatory. So we wanted to do what we can to separate ourselves, not from people in the movement, but to brand ourselves.”
Pendergraft said women play a major role in the Klan.
“There’s been a lot of very prominent women in the white nationalist movement,” she said. “But the media like to give this idea that the movement is about male dominance, keeping women in their place. It’s not.”
Robb, now almost 70 and a great-grandfather, insists his group doesn’t hate anyone.
“We don’t hate people,” he said. “We do want to preserve our people, our heritage and our blood.”
Hilary Shelton, the NAACP’s Washington bureau director, said such comments are ridiculous.
“They say, ‘We love our own people,’ but the reality seems to be that ‘we hate everybody else,’” Shelton said. “They say, ‘We’re just watching out for good white people,’ but it’s at the expense of everyone else.”
Robb also says his group doesn’t condone violence. But it has associated with those who do, including leaders of the Aryan Nations, whose members have been involved in bombings, bank robberies and murder.
Robb, a longtime Christian Identity pastor, runs the Christian Revival Center at the Klan headquarters. They have church on Sunday, operate a leadership school for adults called Soldiers of the Cross Training and run a youth academy administered by Billy Roper, former leader of White Revolution, a neo-Nazi organization. Roper folded his group in recent years and joined forces with Robb. The Knights Party also has 24-hour Web programming that contains a mix of its own shows and old-time radio shows.
One program, “White Youth Focus,” is geared toward teens and described on the Knights’ website as “the top spot for racially aware young people to get their news.” The host is Roper, a former high school history teacher.
Pendergraft’s son, Andrew, once had a show as well, which is still available on the website. On one episode, the then-10-year-old Andrew talked about baking Christmas cookies at a conference.
“And my mom taught us about the frosting and when you put different colors in it, the white frosting, it can never be white again,” said Andrew, who is now a teen. “Which is how it is when you race-mix, pretty much.”
Robb got his start in the Klan after moving to Arkansas from Arizona in 1971.
“I felt that Arizona was going to be invaded by illegal aliens, and I wanted to raise my children in a rural area, and we felt we wanted to be centrally located in the United States to be easily accessible to as many people as possible,” he said.
Robb joined the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 1979 after hearing leader David Duke speak. He became national director in 1989.
Robb said his Klan promotes a message of “white Christian revival.”
“Contrary to what a lot of people might think, we’re not sitting here blaming Negroes for all the problems in America, we’re not blaming immigrants, we’re not blaming Mexicans,” he said. “We feel the problem with our people is our people. They’ve walked away from the message of our Scripture. Our people need to reclaim the love for who they are and their heritage and their culture.”
Robb said there is a strong need for his organization.
“In 1965, this country changed its immigration laws, and we became flooded with aliens coming from Asia, coming from South America. The racial complexion of the United States has changed. We were 92 percent white, and now we’re going to be less than 50 percent white by the year 2042.”
One of their slogans is “stop white genocide.”
“We feel like there is a program, not a conspiracy, but that some people feel the world would be better off if there’s no white people,” Pendergraft said. “We feel they have a very strong influence in the schools and different social groups. And if we don’t warn our people about that, it will be too late.”
Robb and Pendergraft said that despite the negative connotation linked to the Klan, they have never considered dropping their association.
“The primary reason I joined the Klan was because it has a bigger bang for the buck,” Robb said. “The name recognition.”
Someday, Pendergraft said, “there’s going to be a watershed moment in which white people look for someone to stand up for them. And they’re not going to give a darn what the so-called baggage of the Klan is.”
But what about the history of violence associated with the Klan?
“Even if everything is true — which we would contest — so what?” Robb said. “That doesn’t change the fact that white people are facing genocide. That’s the issue we’re concerned about today.”
Robb and Pendergraft said they’re not trying to take over the world.
“God made all races; he also put people into their own specific locations, into their own domain,” Pendergraft said. “We had our domain, and now everyone wants in our domain. I’m not against nonwhites and I don’t hate them. They’ve got China, they’ve got Africa, they’ve got these other countries. That’s great. Let them have them. We want our little piece of pie. We want our own slice of heaven.”
Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
Frank Ancona lives across the street from the fire station in the middle of Leadwood, Mo.
In December, members of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan gathered at his house for an annual Christmas party.
“And we had a cross lighting right in my backyard,” said Ancona, the Klan’s imperial wizard. “The police kept their eye on us, and people were driving by and taking pictures, but we didn’t have a single incident.”
The group does a cross lighting about every quarter with a reusable cross.
“The cross is wrapped with a few layers of burlap that is soaked in a mixture of kerosene and diesel,” Ancona said. “We call it Klansman’s cologne.”
One cross can last about a year, he said.
The group draws a distinction between those events and cross burnings, which Ancona said are meant to intimidate.
A cross lighting, he said, is “a Christian ceremony.”
“It’s very touching,” he said. “It’s almost like a revival at a church. You kind of come away feeling on fire for Christ, and you want to go out and spread the word.”
The NAACP’s Shelton doesn’t buy that.
“The context of the burning of the cross is one that was utilized as some of the most hateful activities against nonwhite Americans that have been done,” he said.
“And it’s not as if they don’t know what it means.”
Today’s Klans may say their ceremonies are different, “but what else is discussed at those cross lightings?” Shelton said.
“They don’t just get together and sing a passive song and light that cross. The context of the issues that are discussed are much more damaging and dangerous.”
Compared to many Klans, the Traditionalist American Knights is a fairly new organization — it’s been around for about a decade — but it appears to be one of the most active.
The group’s national headquarters is in Park Hills, Mo., about an hour’s drive southwest of St. Louis. Ancona shares a name with a car dealer in Olathe, but the two are not related or connected in any way.
Ancona describes his Klan as a Christian organization and a fraternal order.
“The only things secret about the Klan are that our rituals and ceremonies are only for members to see,” he said. “That’s part of the mystique of being a member.”
He says his Klan is not a hate group: “How can you be a Christian organization and hate other people?
“I’ve actually taken a lot of heat from other white nationalists because of that,” he said. “I’m called an N-lover and a Jew, blah, blah, blah. I’m doing everything I can to hold it to the principles it’s supposed to be by.”
But the group’s website is filled with race-based language, including this statement: “This Order will strive forever to maintain the God-given supremacy of the White Race.”
It also says: “This does not mean that we are enemies of the colored and mongrel races. But it does mean that we are organized to establish the solidarity and to realize the mission of the white race.”
Ancona, a self-employed contractor, says his organization has members from every state except Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah. Missouri contributes many members, he said.
“Missouri’s always been a strong Klan state,” he said. “Kansas, not so much.”
Although Ancona claims thousands of members, actual figures are impossible to come by for such groups, which don’t share their membership lists. Watchdog groups say the numbers are grossly overstated.
He said the group’s membership is “pretty diverse.”
“We’ve got a few business owners, we’ve got RNs, we’ve got delivery drivers, we’ve got factory workers,” he said. “And people with various educational backgrounds, definitely with master’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees.”
Ancona said he doesn’t buy into Christian Identity, although some members “kind of believe in that to a certain extent.”
“I don’t have anything against Jews,” he said.
He said he has worked hard to let people know that his Klan isn’t associated with neo-Nazis.
“I see a lot of younger folks going toward this Nazi movement,” he said. “But it’s not the Klan’s philosophy.”
Ancona said his organization does not condone violence. Those who do, he said, “are not following the Klan doctrine.”
But earlier this month, authorities in Florida arrested three members on charges of conspiracy to commit murder. The suspects, current and former employees of the Florida Department of Corrections, allegedly plotted to kill a former inmate after his release from prison. The murder allegedly was to be in retaliation for a fight between the inmate, who is black, and one of the corrections employees.
Ancona’s Klan also drew media attention last fall during protests in Ferguson, Mo., when members distributed fliers as the city awaited a grand jury’s decision on whether to indict the officer who shot and killed an unarmed, 18-year-old black man. The fliers warned that they would not tolerate violence by protesters and would use lethal force if necessary to defend themselves.
Critics said the Klan was trying to incite violence.
The hacker group Anonymous launched what it called the #OpKKK and #HoodsOff campaign, briefly disrupting the Klan’s website and revealing the identities of some Klan members as well as what it said was Ancona’s credit card information and Social Security number.
Ancona told The Star that he was not inciting violence but letting those making terroristic threats know that they wouldn’t “sit back and let somebody throw a Molotov cocktail” at them.
On a video posted online, however, he used much harsher language.
“These people are acting like savage animals,” he said of protesters. “And that’s what they are, is a bunch of savage beasts.”
Ancona said there are few Klan organizations in the country that he considers legitimate. He has been in recent squabbles with some other KKK groups. Some say that his Klan isn’t authentic and that Ancona is Jewish.
“I’m actually Italian and Irish,” Ancona said.
He said at least one of the groups attacking him is a fake Klan and another is upset at him because he revealed that the leader was a convicted felon.
National Socialist Movement
It was an unusual sight, to be sure:
The head of the country’s biggest neo-Nazi organization meeting with black leaders in Beverly Hills, Calif.
The title of the event: White Civil Rights vs. Civil Rights for All.
“The black groups set it up,” said Jeff Schoep, leader of the National Socialist Movement. “Basically, it was to get some kind of dialogue going. We’re not all out to kill each other.”
The country’s problems don’t just affect white people, Schoep said.
“Yes, there’s racial problems in this country, but the biggest problem is something is wrong with our system — sending foreign jobs overseas, the open-borders policies,” he said. “All these things are harmful not just to the white community but the black community and some of the other racial groups.”
He described the meeting last year as “really different and really interesting.”
Those attending included the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP.
“The basis of the conversation as I know it was to look at how far America has come in terms of race relations and to discuss what today’s race related issues are from a Black perspective as well as from the perspective of white separatists,” wrote Jasmyne Cannick on her personal blog afterward. She said she participated because “I am one of those people who want to know exactly what it is that I am against.”
“No one went in there holding hands and we didn’t walk out of there holding hands,” she said.
The National Socialist Movement is among the most active of the white nationalist organizations.
Among the NSM’s beliefs: “Only those of pure White blood, whatever their creed, may be members of the nation. Non-citizens may live in America only as guests and must be subject to laws for aliens. Accordingly, no Jew or homosexual may be a member of the nation.”
Until recent years, members protested in full Nazi uniforms complete with swastikas. They have since switched to black uniforms.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the NSM as “one of the largest explicitly Hitlerite groups in America.” The organization, it says, “is known for the crudeness of its propaganda” and “the violence it works hard to provoke.”
National director Schoep, who was 21 when he took over the organization in 1994, has been recruiting a younger generation of followers. The NSM now has its own music label, NSM88 Records — the “88” represents “heil Hitler,” based on the eighth letter of the alphabet — and a white supremacist social networking site.
The group has held two events in Kansas City in the past decade that attracted headlines. In 2005, the NSM had its national convention at the Berliner Bear, a now-closed German restaurant on Wornall Road. Members dressed in Nazi uniforms and celebrated Adolf Hitler’s birthday at the event.
Schoep’s group returned to Kansas City in late 2013. After word spread about a rally on the Jackson County Courthouse steps, hundreds of counterprotesters showed up in opposition, outnumbering the NSM members by a huge margin.
Schoep said that despite its ideology, his group has no affiliation with avowed neo-Nazi F. Glenn Miller Jr., accused in the deadly shooting rampage at two Jewish sites in Overland Park last April.
“We can understand people are angry and sometimes people feel pushed to act on their anger, especially with the economy and the way things are going in this country, but violence, especially murdering innocent people, is never justifiable,” he said.
One prominent NSM supporter, however, is a friend of Miller’s.
Craig Cobb, who grew up in St. Joseph, made national headlines when he started buying lots in the small North Dakota town of Leith in 2011 and later announced plans to turn it into an all-white hamlet. Cobb told The Star he had talked to Miller regularly on the phone, including the day before the April 13, 2014, shootings. Cobb said he also exchanged letters with Miller from jail in Mercer County, N.D., where Cobb had been held after being charged with terrorizing some of Leith’s residents in 2013.
Cobb told The Star that Miller gave no indication that he might be plotting an attack.
Cobb was released from jail in late April 2014 and sentenced to four years of probation. He said he deeded some of the lots he’d bought in Leith to Schoep and a few other white nationalist figures because “they’re my friends, and they’re all activists.”
Schoep said the NSM is set up along political lines, not religious lines like the KKK and Aryan Nations.
“That’s one of the reasons why we’re more successful, because sometimes there’s infighting over religious issues where it causes a lot of problems,” he said. “That’s something we stomped out 20 years ago or so.”
He said his organization believes the two-party political system is corrupt, with little difference between Republicans and Democrats.
“At this point, any third-party alternative is probably good, but we’d like to see support of National Socialism,” he said. “We do run for office and when we have, we’ve done fairly well.”
They haven’t won yet, he said, but in 2010, a candidate for the water board in Riverside County, Calif., got nearly 31 percent of the vote.
Founded by retired aeronautical engineer Richard Butler, the Aryan Nations once was among the most prominent racist groups in the country. For years, the group sponsored an annual World Congress at its headquarters in northern Idaho. The gathering attracted a “who’s who” of neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, Klan members and other white nationalists in the movement.
Among Butler’s followers was Robert Mathews, founder of The Order, a group whose goal was to lead a white underground army to establish a separate Aryan Republic in the Pacific Northwest. The Order funded its activities by robbing banks and armored cars, and members were involved in the murders of Denver radio talk show host Alan Berg in June 1984 and a Missouri state trooper in April 1985.
Mathews was killed in a fire after a machine-gun battle with federal agents in December 1984, and two dozen of his followers were indicted on racketeering and conspiracy charges.
In 1987, a grand jury in Fort Smith, Ark., indicted Butler and 13 others on sedition charges that included conspiring to kill a federal judge and FBI agent and plotting to overthrow the federal government. The defendants, however, were all acquitted at a trial in 1988.
In 1999, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a civil lawsuit against Butler and the Aryan Nations on behalf of a woman and her son who said the group’s security guards chased them down after their car backfired near the Aryan Nations property in 1998. The guards shot at their car, sending it into a ditch, then assaulted and threatened to kill them, the lawsuit said. The case resulted in a $6.3 million settlement and the sale of the compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho.
Butler died in 2004, and since then, various Aryan Nations factions have formed as a procession of former members has tried to take the reins. One group was run by August Kreis III, a longtime white supremacist whose numerous encounters with the law include defrauding the federal government, for which he pleaded guilty in 2011 and was sentenced to a six-month prison sentence. He had attracted authorities’ attention after making public statements suggesting that the Aryan Nations form an alliance with al-Qaida, since both hated Jews.
Kreis’ group made headlines locally in 2005 when leaders announced they were moving their national headquarters to Kansas City, Kan. That plan fizzled after national director Charles Juba, who had relocated to the metro area, resigned in the face of intense community reaction. In 2010, Juba tried to open a center for teens in Odessa, but that plan also was scuttled after angry residents got wind of it.
The most active faction today appears to be one run by Morris Gulett in Converse, La., pastor of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian. Gulett, who calls himself Aryan Nations’ world leader and his group the “most feared and revered white supremacist organization the world has ever known,” has a criminal pedigree that includes aggravated assault and prison time for ramming a police cruiser with his van and for conspiracy to rob a bank.
An April 2005 FBI affidavit says that Gulett “has an extensive criminal history which includes shoplifting, aggravated assault, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, homicide, felonious assault, possession of drugs and receiving stolen property.”
His group’s website states: “It is every White Man’s duty to ensure the survival of his people and to provide a safe and secure future for his children.”
In 2012, Gulett joined forces with the Sadistic Souls Motorcycle Club, based in East St. Louis, Ill. That group was led by Dennis McGiffen, a former KKK grand dragon who in the mid-1990s left to form The New Order, patterned after The Order of the 1980s. McGiffen’s group plotted to incite a race war by bombing buildings, poisoning water supplies and assassinating civil rights figures — funding their activity by robbing banks and armored cars, prosecutors said. But before they could act, the group was busted and McGiffen served six years in prison on federal weapons violations charges.
The union between Gulett’s and McGiffen’s groups quickly soured and ended with both sides slinging mud at each other. Gulett called McGiffen’s group “a rogue motorcycle club full of drunks and race mixers,” and McGiffen called Gulett a “rabbi” and a “worthless welfare king.”
The Anti-Defamation League says the Aryan Nations used to be “one of the country’s best-known enclaves of anti-Semitism and white nationalism,” whose compound at Hayden Lake, Idaho, “served as one of the central meeting points and rallying grounds of far-right extremists of all stripes.”
However, the ADL says, “recent years have not been kind to Aryan Nations.”
The National Alliance is probably best known for a book that founder William Pierce wrote decades ago.
“The Turner Diaries” is about a race war in which white insurgents kill blacks and Jews and bomb a federal building. Federal prosecutors said Timothy McVeigh used the book as a blueprint for the Oklahoma City bombing. The book was found in McVeigh’s car when McVeigh was arrested after the blast, and it has inspired others to commit violence as well, including Miller.
The National Alliance went through turmoil after onetime physics professor Pierce died in 2002, splitting into two factions, with one taking over the headquarters in Hillsboro, W.Va. Accusations of financial mismanagement soon were lodged against the leader, Erich Gliebe, and the other faction — the National Alliance Reform and Restoration Group — eventually filed a lawsuit against him and the organization.
In October, at a court hearing in Virginia, Gliebe said he was relinquishing his position and turning control of the organization over to another longtime white nationalist. Will Williams, a U.S. Army Green Beret and Vietnam veteran who worked with Pierce for years, became the new chairman.
In a series of interviews, Williams told The Star that he and Kevin Strom, who served for many years as Pierce’s right-hand man at the National Alliance, are reviving the organization. Strom, who is the National Alliance’s new media director, was repudiated by many in the white nationalist movement after being convicted of possessing child pornography in 2008 and sentenced to 23 months.
Williams doesn’t believe Strom was guilty, saying he was set up.
Williams joined the National Alliance in 1991, selling his farm to move to West Virginia and become the group’s membership coordinator. He quit in 2002 shortly before Pierce died.
“I didn’t like the direction things were going with all the skinheads,” he said. “It was getting away from us.”
Williams and Strom announced last December that they were bringing back the National Alliance.
“Kevin and I want to get back to a real-world organization,” Williams told The Star. “The National Alliance attracted a good cross section that was better than your normal Americans.”
Strom resurrected his online radio show, “American Dissident Voices,” in December. They also have a blog and an online forum and promoted a “special book offer” in their March newsletter in which members could purchase new editions of Pierce’s book “Hunter,” a sequel to “The Turner Diaries,” for $20.
Williams scoffs at the Christian Identity theology that many white nationalists adhere to.
“It’s just not grounded in reality,” he said. “It’s craziness. I questioned it all the time. We’re rational. We don’t go into that ‘we’re the true Jews’ nonsense.”
And like many white nationalists, he bristles at the term “white supremacist.”
“I would never use ‘white supremacist’ to describe myself,” he said. “And ‘racist’ has such a bad connotation, and ‘racialist’ seems kind of phony.
“I talk in terms of being a race thinker. A racial loyalist.”
Leonard Zeskind, the president of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, who has followed the organization for decades, said the group has the same ideas that motivated the German Nazi Party in the Hitler era.
Williams, he said, “is looking to instrumentalize those ideas through the National Alliance, but the National Alliance will never return to the size and power that it had during the William Pierce era because it is split into warring factions.”
Still, the group should be considered dangerous, Zeskind said.
“Pierce wrote ‘The Turner Diaries,’ and the book has been used to inspire everybody from Tim McVeigh to Robert Mathews,” he said, referring to the Oklahoma City bomber and the leader of The Order, whose members committed murder, bombings and robberies in the 1980s.
As for what he sees as the current state of the movement, Williams said: “The movement sucks, as far as I’m concerned. It’s in disarray. It’s all over the board. It’s all on the Internet, and you’re dealing with a bunch of anonymous people and you don’t know who they are.”
Williams said he isn’t fond of militias or Patriots and doesn’t associate with them.
“They’re cranks,” he said, adding that they tend to be Christian-oriented. “I send them to Aryan Nations, the Council of Conservative Citizens. We really try to reach out beyond the movement to normal people.”
Williams said he has known Miller since 1985, when he joined Miller’s White Patriot Party. He started marching with Miller’s group in North Carolina, including a 1986 rally at the state capitol in Raleigh, to protest the Martin Luther King holiday.
“I had no idea they were Ku Klux Klan previously,” Williams said of Miller’s group. “It was the White Patriot Party. I didn’t see anything wrong with that name.”
When he heard Miller had been arrested shortly after the shootings at the two Jewish facilities in Overland Park, Williams said he was stunned.
“It was shocking when somebody you know does something like that,” he said.
Williams has spoken to Miller regularly on the phone from jail.
“I just want to let him know that people were thinking about him and to keep his head up,” he said. “He’s done a terrible act, but he’s just a flesh-and-bones man.”
White Aryan Resistance
Tom Metzger doesn’t seem to have much in common with most of the other white nationalist groups and leaders.
“I’m an outcast of the right,” said the founder of White Aryan Resistance, a group he formed in the early 1980s. “I’m more to the left. I’m an anti-capitalist, I’m anti-war, I’m pro-environment.”
But his name has been well known in the movement for decades. Indeed, the Southern Poverty Law Center calls him “one of the most notorious living white supremacists in the United States” who “has served as a kind of ideologue and godfather figure for the racist skinhead scene.”
Metzger promotes a concept called “leaderless resistance,” or lone-wolf activism, which advocates that people work alone or in small cells to avoid being detected.
“That’s the only possible way now,” he said in an interview. “We’re living in a police state. There’s no possibility of any organized resistance in this country.”
For that reason, he said, he now calls his group The Insurgent. His online publication by that name describes itself as “the voice of progressive racism.”
Today, he said, “I’m an ideological terrorist. My weapons are ideology and speech and publications.”
Metzger, a retired electronics technician, describes the current state of the white nationalist movement as “in flux.”
“It’s individuals all over the place, with all kinds of ideas,” he said. “Sometimes they’re able to work together, and sometimes they’re not. Almost a libertarian racism.”
He said, however, that the disarray will result in more lone-wolf activism.
Metzger joined David Duke’s Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 1975 and later became grand dragon of California. He also was ordained as a Christian Identity minister. In 1980, Metzger broke away from the Knights and formed the California Knights of the KKK. That year, he and dozens of his Klansmen clashed with demonstrators in Oceanside, Calif., in a ruckus that left seven injured. Later that year, he ran for Congress in the Democratic primary and received 37 percent of the vote. The party disavowed him, however, and he was soundly defeated in the general election.
Metzger then founded the White American Political Association and began promoting “pro-white” candidates. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 1982 and lost in the Democratic primary. In 1983, he changed the name of his group to White Aryan Resistance, or WAR. He began producing a public cable television program called “Race and Reason,” published a racist monthly newspaper and operated a telephone hotline.
In 1988, Metzger appeared on “The Geraldo Rivera Show” after organizing a racist gathering called Aryan Fest in Oklahoma. The program erupted into chaos and ended with Rivera’s nose being broken by a flying chair. Later that year, one of Metzger’s followers went to Portland, Ore., to form a skinhead group. Just weeks after his arrival, one of the group’s members and two others beat an Ethiopian student to death. The three pleaded guilty to murder, and the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League sued Metzger and WAR on behalf of the victim’s family, arguing that they incited the skinheads to commit violence. A jury awarded the victim’s family $12.5 million. Metzger, who the court found was personally responsible for $5 million of the judgment, lost his house and other valuables and was ordered to make regular payments to the victim’s estate.
Metzger moved back to his hometown in Indiana in 2006. In 2009, federal authorities searched Metzger’s home on the same day white supremacists Dennis and Daniel Mahon were arrested for allegedly sending a mail bomb to the Scottsdale, Ariz., diversity office. Court documents indicated that authorities thought Metzger gave Dennis Mahon instructions on making explosives. Metzger denied any involvement in the incident and was never arrested or charged. Daniel Mahon was acquitted. Dennis Mahon was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in federal prison.
Metzger said he didn’t condone Dennis Mahon’s actions.
“I always told him he needed to keep it clean and legal or they’re going to get you,” he said. “I was furious at him.
“I don’t know whether he did it or not. It’s stupid activity. Even if you’re in a revolution, sending bombs to working-class people is ridiculous. I’m open about it — I want to see an uprising in this country against the top, not the bottom.”
The Anti-Defamation League said Metzger “has been a leader in the white supremacist movement for more than 30 years.”
“Metzger pushes a fierce brand of anti-Semitic, racist and anti-immigrant invective and has been widely acknowledged as the principal mentor of the neo-Nazi skinhead movement in America from the mid-1980s through the 1990s,” the ADL said.
Metzger acknowledges that in his early days, he was the first to recognize the importance of having racist skinheads in the movement. Now, he said, he doesn’t deal with them.
“It’s gotten out of hand,” he said. “About 15 years ago, I said to the skinheads, ‘It’s time to put the trappings away, let your hair grow out, go to college and dig into the system,’” he said. “‘Marching around in those uniforms with swastikas is never going to get you anywhere.’ Part of them listened to me and went that way. But a lot of them got into drugs. People who get into drugs aren’t racial skinheads, as far as I’m concerned. They’re just criminals.”
Now in his mid-70s, Metzger said he has morphed a great deal over the years.
“I evolved into the Goldwater campaign, then the John Birch Society, then refused to pay my taxes for the Vietnam War,” he said. “Then I got into Christian Identity. In 1980, I became an atheist.”
But his views on race issues, he said, haven’t budged.
He wants “to keep the country white.”
“I’m for all the white people having their own customs and their own territories and their own way of doing business,” he said.
Like many other white nationalists, Metzger said he doesn’t hate nonwhites.
“I dislike the black race because of the problems it causes the white race,” he said. “But I don’t hate black individuals. And if a Jew minds his own business like a lot of Jews do, I don’t have a problem with them.”
Metzger said he likes living near Warsaw, Ind., where he is surrounded by white neighbors and is known to drop by the local Moose Lodge on occasion.
“I like to have a few beers and sing karaoke,” he said. “I don’t go in there, ‘Hey, boys, you gotta all join up with me. We’re gonna fire a cross tonight.’”
Racist prison gangs
Of all the white supremacist groups, racist prison gangs are showing the biggest growth, experts say.
“They’re a huge problem in some states right now,” said Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research for the Anti-Defamation League. “Even though they originate in the prisons, they are all at least as active on the street as behind bars.”
The gangs, he said, “combine the criminal know-how of organized crime with the hatred of a white supremacist group.”
And they’re causing problems that are fueled by the meth epidemic. Most of the gangs not only sell meth but use it as well, Pitcavage said.
Several of the gangs have emerged in Missouri, he said, with names like Sacred Separatist Group, Peckerwood Midwest, Family Values, Joplin Honkeys and Aryan Circle, a Texas-based gang that has moved into the state.
“We have identified dozens of members for each of these white supremacist gangs in Missouri, and that’s only a fraction of them,” Pitcavage said. “Law enforcement in Missouri needs to get a grip on it or it will become a much bigger problem.”
The suspect in a January shooting in Springfield that severely injured a police officer is a man with ties to the Southwest Honkeys gang, an offshoot of the Joplin Honkeys.
Officer Aaron Pearson, who grew up in Blue Springs, was called to back up another officer who had noticed the driver of a van in a high-crime area acting suspiciously. Shortly after Pearson arrived, the other officer heard multiple gunshots. Pearson was found lying in a grassy area near an auto parts store. He had been shot in the head and suffered a traumatic brain injury that the police chief said was “career-ending” and would require long-term rehabilitation.
And in February, two men were charged under Missouri’s hate-crimes law after they allegedly threatened to kill a black woman and her four children in Springfield, knocking out windows as they tried to force their way into her house. One of the men later told police he was a member of a Honky gang.
The woman told police that the men were standing in her front yard and began using racial slurs when she asked them to leave. Then they banged on the door and shouted, “We’ll kill you.” Two of the children grabbed kitchen knives to try to protect themselves in case the men got inside, the woman told police. The men left when the woman’s teenage son arrived home from a trip to the store.