Dave Neesan leans forward in the booth of an Elmhurst cocktail lounge, pulling copies of white separatist fliers out of a faux-leather portfolio.
He is a 46-year-old engineer who wears a suit and tie. He went to college. He just bought a home in Schaumburg.
Its ultimate goal is to create a place where only whites will live together in peace. A place where they can be proud of their European heritage.
He speaks of that world in derogatory stereotypes, without concern or acknowledgment of the offense his words may cause.
“A clean, white place, where you wouldn’t see a lot of cops because you wouldn’t need them,” he says.
In one of his milder statements about minorities, he continues: “Where there wouldn’t be any lip-flappin’, chicken-wing slappin’ rap music … where you’d have meaningful art by white artists … and children would be raised from an early age to respect their culture and society.”
Last week, a jury convicted white supremacist Matthew Hale of soliciting another man to kill a federal judge. Hale, of East Peoria, once headed the World Church of the Creator. He now faces up to 17 years in prison. People like Neesan want to make sure Hale’s message isn’t locked away with him.
The Chicago chapter of the National Alliance is just one of a handful of white separatist groups in the suburbs.
According to the Chicago-based Center for New Community, which tracks hate groups and helps communities organize against them, the KKK has chapters with varying degrees of activity in Prospect Heights, Carpentersville and West Dundee.
Many of Hale’s former followers also have moved to a chapter of the National Socialist Movement in Schiller Park, said Devin Burghart, a researcher with the Center for New Community, the anti-hate organization.
With some members fearful of government prosecution like that against Hale, all of the groups are looking for ways to bring in new, young recruits to replace those who may have pulled back on activity, Burghart said.
That leaves the door open for one of the local leaders – perhaps Neesan – to take Hale’s place as the state’s most visible white activist.
“The (groups) are groping around for a new generation of haters and new avenues for recruiting people,” Burghart said.
They seem to be having some success. Though some groups have fallen apart, others have grown larger and stronger. Overall, the amount of hate activity has remained steady in recent years, Burghart said.
And perhaps no one is doing as well at recruiting “a new generation of haters” as the National Alliance, Burghart said.
In a report about the alliance published in 2002, the Center for New Community called it “the largest, best-organized and most dangerous New-Nazi organization in the United States.”
Neesan claims the group has an estimated 10 million followers nationwide, though Burghart contends the number is closer to a few thousand.
Neesan won’t say how many members are in the Chicago chapter, but he did say its monthly meetings – usually held in suburban restaurants – regularly attract about 50 people.
The alliance’s recruiting is aided by a well-funded national headquarters located on about 350 acres in West Virginia, land left to the alliance by its founder, William Pierce, upon his 2002 death, according to the Center for New Community report.
The National Alliance broadcasts its own radio programs over the Internet; publishes several magazines, books and newsletters; and owns Resistance music, one of the nation’s largest producers of “white power” music.
Combined, the alliance owns at least eight corporations, the Center for New Community report states.
The report also estimates National Alliance’s holdings at about $4 million, with annual revenues estimated at more than $1.3 million per year for its growing music label, and another $1 million from membership dues and book sales.
In addition, Resistance has chat rooms on its Web site and a video game that it released on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in 2002.
Called “Ethnic Cleansing,” reviews of the game on the company’s Web site say it takes the player through a subway station in which he or she shoots blacks and Hispanics. Get to a high enough level and you begin shooting at Jews, who yell “Oy vey!” when they’re hit.
Neesan sees no hate in the organization’s activities, just white pride.
“As America becomes darker, it’s becoming a Third World country,” he says. “We hear over and over ‘Diversity is our strength.’ But no one is proving it … and saying it doesn’t make it true.”
Putting down roots
Neesan’s first exposure to the National Alliance was four years ago, via the group’s Internet radio program.
The people on “American Dissident Voices” talked about the way the United States used to be, without Hispanic heritage festivals and gay pride parades. It was just like the life Neesan remembered in West suburban Bellwood, where he grew up, and Naperville, where he was living at the time.
“White America,” Neesan describes it, a clear sense of nostalgia in his voice. “Where men were men and women were women and there was no mistaking which were which.”
What the people were saying rang true with him. All of it. So Neesan sent an e-mail to Eric Hanson, a Lake County construction worker who was trying to get the National Alliance’s Chicago unit off the ground.
Hanson was a motivating force. According to an account on the National Alliance Web site, he was a friendly guy in his early 20s who friends described as “a man of honor.”
“His honor, patriotism and honesty led him to draw an obvious conclusion: America is in deep trouble, and real Americans – White Americans – are being pushed out of their country,” the site states.
On one day alone, Hanson organized a group that passed out 5,000 fliers in the suburban Chicago area, according to the Web site.
But it was his death in 2001 after a police chase that had the greatest impact on the Chicago unit.
A convicted felon, Hanson was wanted for illegally possessing guns. He refused to be taken into police custody, starting a more than 12-hour standoff in a Lindenhurst grocery store that ended with his death.
Burghart described the incident as just the kind of violence his group worries about most.
“We’re just glad no one else was hurt,” he said.
But Neesan and other members of the National Alliance say police provoked Hanson, and that he was only protecting his rights as a “white patriot.”
Within days of his death, the group put a sign in front of the store that said “Remember Eric Hanson,” with the group’s Web address.
On its Web site and in all other communications – from e-mail to leaflets – the group includes those same words. Hanson’s photos also appear on the Web site along with a story of his cause titled “Hail Eric Hanson.”
“After Eric’s death, we really took off,” Neesan says. “That was a galvanizing moment.”
Neesan took over the Chicago unit, and the group began capitalizing on events like the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and a controversy in which a predominantly black school in Chicago accused a Catholic, largely suburban athletic conference of racism.
Neesan’s group also handed out fliers at train stations and placed them in people’s driveways along with the morning newspaper.
One flier, titled “United We Stand,” is handed out near airport security checks. It asks why Americans have to stand in long security lines, then gives National Alliance’s answer: Because a Jewish-controlled media refuses to print that the Sept. 11 attacks were the result of U.S. support for Israel.
Another flier shows a young bright-eyed, blond girl with the words “MISSING: A Future for White Children.”
Another warns people not to have sex with blacks and gays because of AIDS.
“We target anything we can,” Neesan says.
What they believe
Neesan says he isn’t what most people envision when they think of white separatists.
He says he doesn’t look like a redneck. He says he doesn’t spout constant racial epithets at people.
His membership, he says, includes a few cops, some nurses, a college professor, a few carpenters, some heating and ventilation guys and even an anesthesiologist.
He won’t release the names of the members, but the Center for New Community backs up his claim. In its report, it described National Alliance members as “engineers, mechanics, programmers, lawyers, carpenters and students” who “shun the brown shirts (and) Klan robes … of their predecessors.”
Neesan says his members see no use in hiding under white robes like the KKK.
“We don’t want costume parties,” he says.
Neesan is friendly to the Hispanic bartender at the Elmhurst restaurant, a practice he says extends to blacks and Hispanics he meets on the street, in restaurants or through his job consulting companies on engineering projects.
“You treat people with respect,” he says. “I do that, and I ask for the same thing back. That doesn’t mean we’ll go out for cocktails or that I’ll marry (a minority’s) sister.”
What they want, he says, is separation and a furtherance of the white, European race.
Reproducing white babies is the most important job a white man or woman can have, Neesan says. And though he isn’t opposed to women who forgo children to focus on their careers, he does think it’s “sad” and “frightening.”
“We’re barely replacing ourselves,” he says. “The Mexican women are popping out babies like Pez dispensers.”
The National Alliance hasn’t gotten far enough along yet to seriously consider a location for its all-white society. And even if it had, it wouldn’t make it public, Neesan says, but it would be in the United States.
As for where the non-whites would go, Neesan has no opinion.
“That’s their problem,” he says.
Neesan also is quick to note the National Alliance “does not encourage or condone” violence or breaking the law. But there may come a time, he says, when bombings or shootings may be necessary.
That only would be in cases where the group is faced with “the total disintegration of society.” He pointed to South Africa and Rhodesia – both places formerly ruled by whites that are now “overrun by black power.”
“If America reaches a situation like that, maybe violence might be called for, but we’re looking for an alternative to that,” Neesan says. “We want to do things peacefully.”
Matt Hale wanted the same thing, Neesan says.
Hale is perhaps best known from the 1999 shooting spree of Benjamin Smith.
A follower of Hale, Smith targeted Jews, blacks and Asians during the two-state spree. He killed two, including former Northwestern University basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong.
Neesan called Smith a “wacko lunatic” and said Hale had kicked Smith out of his so-called church before the shooting. Smith killed himself after the shooting.
And while Neesan wasn’t surprised by last week’s verdict against Hale, he was disappointed by it.
So, too, he says, are other white separatists, people like Neesan’s own 75-year-old mother and 22-year-old son, both of whom are members of the Chicago unit.
“I think they’re concerned,” said Neesan, who is divorced.
Many members wanted to leaflet the area around the federal courthouse in Chicago during the trial, he said.
“We’ve started down a slippery slope where someone can be convicted not for something they did but for something they said,” he said.
The U.S. attorneys who prosecuted Hale argued it wasn’t his words but his actions that led to his conviction.
Regardless, Neesan says the conviction gives him and his fellow white separatists all the more reason to keep up their work as a “14 words” organization.
The phrase – a motto that totals 14 words – was coined by well-known white supremacist David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
“That’s our motivation. That’s our goal,” Neesan says. “We’re trying to make a difference.”