A spokesman said the headquarters will move to Sebring, Fla.
The action came after The Kansas City Star reported Thursday that Charles Juba had moved to the metropolitan area from Pennsylvania with plans to rebuild one of the nation’s most notorious neo-Nazi organizations.
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“He stepped down late this afternoon,” said August B. Kreis III, who calls himself the group’s high counsel. “It’s for family reasons. Things just got too hot.”
He said Juba and the Aryan Nations Web site had been inundated with hostile e-mails and messages.
Juba has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
Kreis said Juba had asked him to remove his name and picture from the organization’s Web site.
“Maybe he thinks if he steps a few steps back, the pressure won’t be so bad,” Kreis said late Thursday from his Florida home. “I don’t know of anything like this ever happening.”
Kreis said he was not concerned about Juba’s resignation.
“We had a contingency plan in place,” he said. “This won’t shake anything up as far as I’m concerned. We’re going to move forward. We have enough good people.”
The group has never revealed how many members it has, and it is in the process of rebuilding after its leader was bankrupted as the result of a lawsuit in 2000.
In early 2002, after the Aryan Nations lost its compound in Idaho as the result of the lawsuit, Juba joined with Kreis and another man to replace leader Richard Butler, who was ailing.
The group splintered and, after Butler’s death in 2004, Kreis took over the group he called the “true Aryan Nations.”
Another faction, calling itself the real Aryan Nations, moved to Alabama last year.
Kreis, who will take over as national director, said Juba would remain in the organization. Kreis did not know whether Juba would stay in Kansas City.
“He’s not leaving the movement,” Kreis said. “He’s just no longer the national director.”
Throughout the day Thursday — before Juba stepped down — reaction to the Aryan Nations’ planned move to Kansas City, Kan., ranged from community outrage to promises from law enforcement agencies to monitor the group.
“I’m glad it’s not coming to our community,” Mayor Carol Marinovich said late Thursday night.
Earlier in the evening, the Unified Board of Commissioners of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., reaffirmed its 1998 resolution against racism and hatred. Marinovich said she had received several calls and comments from upset residents.
“This community will continue to use all lawful means at our disposal in cooperation with the state and the federal governments to eradicate such behavior in our community,” she said.
Dozens of readers called and sent e-mails to The Star in response to the story, expressing concern. The group’s members believe that Jews are Satanic and the root of all the world’s problems, and that nonwhites are “pre-Adamic,” a species inferior to the white race.
Before the group announced the change in plans, law enforcement agencies had said they would monitor the situation but would not trample the white supremacist group’s constitutional rights.
“We always try to be aware of potential threats to the community, but of course, we’re not going to take any action against any person or group until we have something specific,” Bob Herndon, special agent for the FBI, said Thursday.
“Everyone has protected First Amendment constitutional rights, and even though their political viewpoints, or social viewpoints or ideological viewpoints or religious viewpoints may differ from other people’s, no one is under investigation for something like that,” Herndon said.
He also cautioned that the community should be careful not to overreact. “But certainly if somebody has something specific, call the police or the FBI,” he said.
Don Denney, spokesman for the Unified Government, had acknowledged that authorities could not stop the Aryan Nations from setting up shop in the area.
“We don’t discriminate against anybody,” Denney said. “However, we expect everybody to be model citizens and contributors to our society and not detractors.”
Meanwhile, community leaders from across the metropolitan area met privately Thursday with law enforcement officials, the Justice Department and an expert on neo-Nazi groups.
They were briefed on the history of Aryan Nations.
Some leaders were concerned that local residents might panic. “We don’t want people taking up arms and going into the street,” said the Rev. Ellis Robinson, president of the NAACP branch in Kansas City, Kan.
A spokeswoman for the Anti-Defamation League for Missouri and Southern Illinois said that even if the white supremacist group had just a few members, there was cause for concern.
“It’s a problem,” said Karen Aroesty, the league’s regional director. “They’re basically looking to do what has been happening here in St. Louis County with the National Alliance, which is to do leafleting and use tools like billboards in order to get publicity and sell the product.”
Lawmakers were paying attention as well.
State Sen. David Haley, a Kansas City, Kan., Democrat, said news of the planned move prompted him to reintroduce hate-crimes legislation at the statehouse on Thursday.
The proposal — which calls for stiffer penalties for crimes motivated by race, sexual orientation, religion or creed — hasn’t made it out of the Legislature since Haley began pushing it about eight years ago.
“I know they have certain constitutionally protected rights of speech and assembly,” Haley said of the Aryan Nations.
“I just hope they go somewhere else to exercise them.”
Ed Chasteen, the president of HateBusters, who has spent years fighting racism locally and nationwide, said he went ballistic upon hearing the news.
“I couldn’t believe it. Right here in our town. No way,” Chasteen said.
“I don’t know what it is about us that made them think they’d be welcome. … Whatever it is, we want to correct it.”
The Star’s Mark Wiebe and James Hart contributed to this report.