BETHLEHEM | A white supremacist group’s Web site encourages members to attend the 20th annual Celtic Classic festival starting today in the city.
That’s nothing new, festival organizer John J. Sweeney said, and such groups that attended in the past were well-behaved and came to have fun, not demonstrate.
What is unusual is the platform that spread Stormfront’s call to celebrate Celtic heritage: The federally funded Route 222 Corridor Anti-Gang Initiative’s Web site.
Appearing under “advisory” was the following phrase, misspellings and all, “Stormfront.orgI White Supremist Skinhead Group recruiting for Bethlehem Celtic Classic … see site.” Clicking on it took the user to the group’s site.
That was no official advisory and it appears to have been the work of a hacker, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which is coordinating the anti-gang initiative.
“Pretty menacing” is how the office’s spokeswoman, Patty Hartman, described the Stormfront site extolling “White Pride World Wide.” The office ordered the advertisement’s removal Thursday afternoon after it had been up for an undetermined time, she said.
The anti-gang Web site is funded by the attorney’s office through grant money, but is not controlled by the office, Hartman said. The Easton Anti-Gang Task Force is listed as the copyright holder for content.
The Easton task force’s chairman, Terrence Miller, did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.
No one in the office knew about the advertisement until a reporter called to inquire about it, according to Hartman. She said she knows of no other case where a hacker has posted an item on the site.
Don Black, founder of West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Stormfront, called the hacking theory “pretty far-fetched.” At the same time, he was surprised to learn of the group being classified as a gang.
“That’s slightly ludicrous,” he said. “When we go to political demonstrations we’re certainly not a gang any more than any other political advocacy group is a gang when we promote our point of view.”
That point of view is that white Americans need to “stand together as a group, as a race if they’re to avoid becoming second-class citizens in their own country.” Black said other races have representative groups and that Stormfront, founded in 1990 and on the Web since 1995, has more than 100,000 members.
Stormfront’s Web site contains a discussion touting Celtic Classic’s Highland Games, food, music and other attractions.
One participant in the discussion identifying herself as “Lilpalegirl” wrote, “It’s the only time of the year that guys in kilts and Doc Martens look completely normal out in public.”
Sweeney, executive director of the Celtic Cultural Alliance on Main Street in Bethlehem, said he was unaware of any particular white-supremacist groups planning to attend the three-day festival centered around Main and Spring streets.
“But it’s not an unusual circumstance,” he said, noting he was aware for years of such groups touting the festival on blogs. The Celtic Cultural Alliance has notified police in the past.
“I will say that we’ve never had an issue,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an issue where they’re coming here to create a situation. They just kind of identify this as a place where they would be comfortable to come to.”
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