Experts say the National Alliance and others should not expect a big local following.
Portland Press Herald, Dec. 18, 2002
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The white-supremacist group that leafleted neighborhoods in Portland and Lewiston last weekend does not have strong membership in Maine, but it is on a campaign to develop one.
“Our message was that we were coming to warn the residents of Lewiston what happens when they allow too many immigrants to come into their city,” said David Pringle, national membership director for the West Virginia-based National Alliance. Pringle works from his home in Alaska.
The alliance has capitalized on the recent wave of Somali immigrants to Lewiston, and on a letter by that city’s mayor in early October asking Somali leaders to slow the pace of immigration to the city, as an opportunity to promote its vision of a white- only America.
Another white-supremacist group, the World Church of the Creator, plans a rally in Lewiston Jan. 11.
Critics, such as Lelia De Andrade of the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence at the University of Southern Maine, say the alliance will not get a foothold in the state.
“I don’t think we have a population in this state that’s going to be warmly receptive to this group,” De Andrade said. Portland has been resettling refugees from around the world for decades, largely without incident.
The National Alliance has 51 chapters in 25 states and claims to have members in every state. Pringle said there are fewer than 100 dues-paying members in Maine, but he would not be more specific. He refused to identity the Maine members.
Pringle said 16 members from New Jersey, Boston, Chicago and elsewhere flew into Maine last weekend to spread leaflets and recruit new members.
The recruiters gave out 12 membership applications, he said, and distributed hundreds of leaflets. Only four people reacted negatively, he said.
“These people are very polite, not confrontational,” said Lewiston police Sgt. Michael McGonagle. “I don’t think (people) realize what they’re up to until they’re gone and they read it. It’s pretty awful stuff.”
While the group has had members in Lewiston over the last 10 years, Pringle said they are not necessarily still active.
In Portland, the leafleting was more surreptitious, occurring at night between Sunday and Monday. Pringle said several of the new recruits from Lewiston did the leafleting here.
The leaflets, which targeted Somalis, other people of color and Jews, contain racial slurs and predict that immigration by various racial and ethnic groups will doom the country.
Founded in 1974, the National Alliance is one of the nation’s best organized and most professional hate groups. Such organizations call themselves “separatist” groups.
Re-energized in recent years, the group now has about 1,500 members, according to the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups.
William Pierce, a former assistant professor of physics, founded the alliance and was its leader until his death in July. He is credited with giving the group a clear ideology and focus. He derided other supremacist groups as being unsophisticated. He said their leaders are interested in publicity, not in effecting real change. The result, he complained, is that the groups come and go.
The group owns Resistance Records, the world’s largest distributor of white power music, and recently produced a highly successful computer game called “Ethnic Cleansing.” Both items generate significant revenue for the alliance.
“The National Alliance is a little more sophisticated than some of the other hate groups,” said Mark Potok, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The alliance does not allow chapters, called units, to form with fewer than 10 members. All leaflets must be approved by headquarters; the alliance’s Web site has several ready-made leaflets that can be downloaded and printed. And the group now has 17 full-time staff members, double its staff of just two years ago.
Pringle said that group members wear suits and ties to all events. “We are very image-conscious,” he said. “You can’t recruit if you’re wearing camouflage pants and berets. That image is bad for business.”
The alliance has worked to distance itself from other groups, such as the World Church of the Creator, the neo-Nazi group that is planning the Lewiston rally. Pringle said his colleagues will not be there.
“Their tactics are completely different than ours,” he said. “They are after notoriety and we’re after a long-term presence and building white community.”
At a march in support of Lewiston’s Somalis in October, two men who said they were members of the alliance from Portland carried signs warning that the influx of immigrants would increase the crime rate and dependency on welfare. They advocated “white living space” free of Jews and blacks. They wore white shirts and dark ties, and calmly explained their positions.
Members of the group circulated leaflets in Kennebunk on a weekend in July when the group distributed some 70,000 fliers across the country in an organizing effort.
As part of its campaign to promote white culture, the alliance holds “European heritage festivals,” concerts and solstice events.
“That’s our main task,” Pringle said, “to focus on long-term goals, a white homeland, not unlike Israel.”
While Jews are very much part of the problem, in Pringle’s view, he said the model of Israel is a good one to follow. “We want what the Jews have,” he said. “It’s not an unreasonable request.”