Reuters, Apr. 16, 2003
MIAMI – The white supremacist movement in the United States is in disarray owing to a spate of arrests, money woes, and the death of a key neo-Nazi leader, says a civil rights organisation that tracks hate groups.
Despite big setbacks, however, the number of hate groups operating in the United States rose by nearly 5 per cent, according to the annual “Intelligence Report” issued by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, based in Montgomery, Alabama.
A US crackdown on white supremacists was likely due in part to the federal government’s restructuring of its domestic security after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
“There is a kind of zero tolerance policy for alleged terrorists in the United States right now,” Mark Potok, the report’s editor, said.
The report said the decline of the white supremacist movement, which was thriving early in 2002, began in July with the death from cancer of William Pierce, the founder of the neo-Nazi National Alliance.
In November, the US deported to England alleged British neo-fascist Mark Cotterill, who the report said was working to unify the American radical right. A month later, former Ku Klux Klan wizard David Duke pleaded guilty to gambling away thousands of dollars from supporters.
In January, Matt Hale, the neo-Nazi leader of the World Church of the Creator, was arrested on charges he tried to solicit the murder of a federal judge, the report said. The group was also hurt by the loss of its name in a copyright lawsuit.
“I think the most remarkable single thing we found is how very seriously the white supremacist movement has been damaged in the last year,” Potok said. “There was a lot of concern that federal agencies were not paying attention to domestic terrorists…but I think that is not true.”
The Southern Poverty Law Centre said it counted 708 active hate groups in the United States in 2002, up about 5 per cent from 676 in 2001. It attributed the increase almost entirely to improved counting techniques that found more black separatist groups, rather than the appearance of new groups.
The number of US-based hate sites on the Web rose from 405 to 443, a 9 per cent increase. Websites and discussion boards are a key method of communication for hate groups.
Many groups were suffering from lack of funding, the report said, noting that after the death of Pierce skinheads stopped buying products that helped fund the National Alliance.
Also, the proprietor of a well-known white supremacist website called Stormfront said the site was being attacked relentlessly by anti-racist hackers.
The American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan dropped to 14 from 18 chapters in 2002 and has been in decline since leader Jeff Berry was jailed in 2001.