Musicians say they were duped into playing for white supremacists
Nov. 28, 2003
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Sunday November 30, 2003
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A gathering earlier this month was billed as an ethnic folk festival, complete with food, fun and German and Irish musical groups.
Some musicians, however, said they were surprised to find they had actually performed at a recruitment rally for a white supremacist organization.
“We obviously had no idea what this event was before we played, or we wouldn’t have performed there,” Matt Pantaleoni, leader of the Invera’an Pipe Band, a local bagpipes group, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Pantaleoni said that, after the band played at Eurofest 2003 on Nov. 8, he noticed a few men in the crowd with “White Power” and two lightning bolts — the symbol of the German Nazi Waffen SS — tattooed on their bodies.
The men were members of the National Alliance, a group that the local Anti-Defamation League office calls “the BMW of neo-Nazi groups.” They were among an audience of about 250 at the meeting hall of the German Cultural Society in south St. Louis.
John Pappert, president of the German Cultural Society, said his group rented its meeting hall to a local National Alliance organizer but didn’t know anything about the group. Pappert said a German brass brand and dancing group affiliated with the society performed at the event, but didn’t know about the National Alliance either.
Now, Pappert said he’s afraid that people will think his group is connected to neo-Nazis.
“We certainly don’t want to be affiliated with this kind of group,” Pappert said. “Now that we know who they are, we’ll never rent to them again.”
Kathy Aroesty, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said she believes Pappert’s group made an honest mistake.
Aroesty also said she hopes people of German ancestry will find the group’s approach insulting.
“The National Alliance thinks people who show up at a German cultural center will support them just because they’re German, which is pretty offensive in itself,” Aroesty said.
The National Alliance is said to be the nation’s biggest and richest white supremacist group. The FBI has said it poses risks of domestic terrorism.
This fall, the group allegedly left racist leaflets at a suburban St. Louis day-care center operated by an Egyptian-born owner. But the Hillsboro, W.Va.-based National Alliance, has denied the accusation.
The National Alliance Web site called Eurofest “a resounding success,” and said that more than 60 of the group’s leaders, members and recruits met the following day to discuss “the Jewish media,” “the major role played by race in human intelligence,” and ways for alliance members to win municipal elections.
A leader of the St. Louis National Alliance unit also discussed how other cells can use what he called “white heritage festivals” to gain more support, the Web site reported.
More than 60 folk musicians and ethnic dancers performed at the St. Louis Eurofest — including bagpipers, Irish musicians and traditional German bands and dancers. Many said they saw a flier for the event, which called the festival family entertainment.
The performers said they had no reason to think otherwise.
“I can’t stress how upset we are about this,” Pantaleoni said.
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