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The quaint town of Dahlonega, Georgia, has been the scene for angry protests and counterprotests for the last three weeks, since an elderly businesswoman hung a sign overlooking the town square, proclaiming a vacant building a “Historic Ku Klux Klan Meeting Hall.”
The sign didn’t last long, according to an account of the town’s travails in The Washington Post over the weekend. But its hateful message ripped open a wound many in the town thought had healed long ago and got residents asking a question that is being repeated across America.
“Is this indicative of something bigger?” the Post quotes Paul Dunlap, a local university professor, as saying. “Like, do they think they have a voice?”
The answer to Dunlap’s question comes later in the story, from Chester Doles, a former leader in the Klan and a former member of a white separatist group called the National Alliance, who cheered on the appearance of the sign.
“In the last 50 years, I didn’t think we had the votes to elect a governor, much less a president,” Doles said. “And yet here we are today.”
And rural Georgia was far from the only part of the country where a hate crime stirred up local sentiment.
In Salem, Oregon, last week, a man attacked a worker in a Middle Eastern restaurant with a pipe after deciding a woman inside was being held as a “slave” by what he told police was a “Saddam Hussein-looking guy.” The man, 52-year-old Jason Kendall, faces possible hate crime charges. During the attack, Kendall allegedly screamed, “Go back to your country,” a phrase that has become an anthem of hate across America.
In Seattle, workers at one of the city’s largest synagogues arrived Saturday to find Holocaust denial graffiti spray-painted on a wall. The synagogue decided to leave the graffiti intact at first, so everybody could see it, the temple’s rabbi later explained.
And in Florida, a man attempted to burn down a convenience store that he believed was owned by a Muslim. The would-be arsonist, 64-year-old Richard Lloyd, told the police he wanted to “run the Arabs out of our country.” The store is owned by Americans of Indian descent.
Monday: ‘A notice to all white Americans’
Hateful posters and fliers have been showing up on American college campuses in record numbers, according to an Anti-Defamation League report last week. On Monday, the University of Maryland got a taste of the hate when white nationalist posters appeared in at least four spots around campus, according to the university’s student newspaper.
One poster read: “A notice to all white Americans: It is your civic duty to report any and all illegal aliens to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They are criminals.” The web address for a white nationalist organization appeared at the bottom.
Posters advertising the same group also were posted at the university in December.
Across the country in Arizona, the Islamic Center of Tucson reported that a man broke into its mosque early Monday and damaged about 130 copies of the Muslim holy book:
“He ripped copies of the Qur’an and threw them around the prayer room before leaving the building,” the center wrote. “Thankfully no one was hurt.”
The man was caught on surveillance footage and is being sought by police.
Tuesday: ‘This is how Hitler got started. In a beer hall.’
A slew of anti-Semitic incidents in the Portland, Oregon, area has coincided with the recent surfacing of a “celebrity KKK leader” in the area, according to the Willamette Week.
Steven Shane Howard, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as the “imperial wizard” of the North Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, wrote in a Facebook post in May that he was moving to Vancouver, Washington, to start “the Washington knights of the Ku klux klan,” the Week reports. Vancouver sits across the Columbia River from Portland. (However, Howard told the magazine that he had moved away from Mississippi to get away from the KKK.)
There’s no indication that Howard has been involved in anti-Semitic activities in Oregon, but over the weekend, swastikas were spray-painted in a southeast Portland neighborhood. Earlier in the month, a local Jewish center received a death threat, and on Sunday, there was this incident at a local bar where cards advertising neo-Nazi websites have been left recently:
On March 12, (bar employee Ilan) Moskowitz says he overheard a conversation at a table of 10 white patrons that led him to confront them about the fliers.
One young man in a Make America Great Again hat said, giggling, “No, you’ve got it all wrong, we’re a black power group,” according to Moskowitz. The group then started chanting “black power” and raising their fists. When staff attempted to kick out those patrons, at first they refused to leave. On their way out, one man played bagpipes he had brought and another declared, “I called my Nazi friends,” after dancing around the manager and repeatedly calling him anti-gay slurs.
The story continues:
Moskowitz, who is Jewish, didn’t think before confronting a group that outnumbered the bar staff 2-to-1 that night. “My whole life, I hear about this shit,” he says. “My grandfather survived two prison camps. I’ll tell you what was going through my head: ‘This is how Hitler got started. In a beer hall.’ “
Meanwhile, in Charleston, South Carolina, more racist graffiti was left on buildings, including a library named for Cynthia Hurd, one of the victims of Dylann Roof, who killed nine people in a city church in 2015.
The local county council chairman told CNN:
The vandalism that occurred at the Cynthia Graham Hurd/St. Andrew’s Regional Library is both unfortunate and sad.
Wednesday: ‘Still time’ for Indiana to enact a hate crime law
It’s a theme we’ve come back to a few times in The Hate Report: the fact that five states remain without specific hate crime statutes, despite the reported recent increase in such crimes across the nation.
One of those states is Indiana, where a broad coalition of minority groups came together Wednesday to hold a press conference calling on state legislators to pass a hate crime law.
The event was covered by the Indianapolis Star, which quoted David Sklar, government affairs director with the local Jewish Community Relations Council, who spoke alongside leaders from the black, Sikh, LGBT, Jewish, Muslim and Hispanic communities.
“We are not at the apex of this conversation nationally,” Sklar said. “We are not setting precedent. We are not pushing an agenda or creating some sort of social experiment. There’s simply no reason our legislators need to be concerned about the impact of this legislation or deviate from what is working in other states.”
Crimes across the country still may be prosecuted under the federal hate crime law, though it is worth noting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who directs the nation’s federal prosecutors, has been an outspoken opponent of the law.
In Minneapolis, federal authorities announced that they are investigating threats to Jewish community centers in Minnesota and across the country as hate crimes.
Thursday: The top Trump adviser and a Nazi-allied organization
For weeks, Sebastian Gorka, one of President Donald Trump’s highest advisers, has been suspected of being involved with a Hungarian group, known as the Vitézi Rend, that once was allied with the Nazis.
On Thursday, the Forward reported that Gorka pledged a lifelong allegiance to the organization, citing Vitézi Rend leaders. Gorka previously has been criticized for wearing the group’s insignia medal at public events. The Forward, a newspaper that covers American Jewish issues, reports that membership of the group could have serious implications for Gorka’s status as an immigrant:
The elite order, known as the Vitézi Rend, was established as a loyalist group by Admiral Miklos Horthy, who ruled Hungary as a staunch nationalist from 1920 to October 1944. A self-confessed anti-Semite, Horthy imposed restrictive Jewish laws prior to World War II and collaborated with Hitler during the conflict. His cooperation with the Nazi regime included the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Jews into Nazi hands.
Gorka’s membership in the organization – if these Vitézi Rend leaders are correct, and if Gorka did not disclose this when he entered the United States as an immigrant – could have implications for his immigration status. The State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual specifies that members of the Vitézi Rend “are presumed to be inadmissible” to the country under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Reveal host Al Letson interviewed Gorka for a special podcast last week. You can listen to the interview here.
Thursday also saw the indictment of 57-year-old Robin Rhodes, who attacked a Muslim airport employee in New York in January. The New York Daily News reported that Rhodes allegedly shouted some now-familiar words at the worker he abused:
“Trump is here now,” he taunted, according to prosecutors. “He will get rid of all of you. You can ask Germany, Belgium and France about these kind of people. You will see what happens.”
Friday: White nationalist poster boy gets his money from cotton
Richard Spencer, a notorious poster boy for white nationalists across America and a leader of the so-called “alt-right” movement, has a dirty secret.
Despite frequently telling audiences that the white race has thrived without the help of other races, Spencer himself benefits directly from a legacy of white exploitation of black workers, Reveal reported today.
Here’s a snippet from reporter Lance Williams’ scoop:
“America’s rise was ‘not through black people’ and ‘has nothing to do with slavery,’ Spencer retorted. ‘White people could have figured out another way to pick cotton,’ he said. ‘We do it now.’
He is in a position to know. Spencer, along with his mother and sister, are absentee landlords of 5,200 acres of cotton and corn fields in an impoverished, largely African American region of Louisiana, according to records examined by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. The farms, controlled by multiple family-owned businesses, are worth millions: A 1,600-acre parcel sold for $4.3 million in 2012.
The Spencer family’s farms also are subsidized heavily by the federal government. From 2008 through 2015, the Spencers received $2 million in U.S. farm subsidy payments, according to federal data.”
It’s been a bad week for Spencer. On Monday, the nonprofit organization he runs, The National Policy Institute, was stripped of its tax-exempt status by the IRS.
Reached by the Los Angeles Times, Spencer admitted confusion on the matter:
“I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to make a comment because I don’t understand this stuff,” Spencer said in a telephone interview. “It’s a bit embarrassing, but it’s not good. We’ll figure it out.”
Look out for our interview with Spencer on Saturday’s podcast, too.