Riverton told hit hate hard

AP, Feb. 21, 2003
By CODY BEERS, The Riverton Ranger

RIVERTON (AP) — Tom “T.J.” Leyden believes the white supremacist World Church of the Creator will move its world headquarters to Riverton, “once Matt Hale is sent to prison.”

And the California man said one of the main reasons why the white supremacist group is moving to Wyoming, “is because you don’t have a hate crimes law.”

Leyden, a former neo-Nazi skinhead, was in Riverton Tuesday to meet with police and participate in Central Wyoming College’s weeklong “Journey from Hate to Healing” presentations, sponsored by the college’s TRIO programs.

Hale, currently being held in an Illinois jail on charges that he conspired to murder a federal judge, “will be sent to prison,” Leyden told Riverton police officers Tuesday.

“There’s an 80 percent probability that the church will come here,” Leyden said. “With that, there will probably be an influx as members move into the area. They’ll bring support staff, thousands of books and their file cabinets.”

Leyden said the pro-white group’s Wyoming leader, Thomas F. Kroenke, recently told a National Public Radio audience that the Riverton presence “would be purely a post office box.”

“That’s how the Aryan Nations started in Idaho, and with one building on a 20-acre compound, but 10 years later, 500-600 people were constantly there, and they had the only church with gun towers near it,” Leyden said.

Leyden was a leading recruiter, organizer and propagandist for the white supremacist and neo-Nazi movement until he left the “white power” movement at age 29.

Since he left the “white power” movement, he worked six years with the Task Force Against Hate at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

He was a featured speaker at the Clinton White House Conference on Hate in Washington, D.C., and several meetings for then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, and was a contributor to California Gov. Gray Davis’s January 1999 report, “Governor’s Advisory Panel on Hate Groups.”

Leyden has trained government officials at the Pentagon and FBI, military and law enforcement personnel, educators and students.

He has also worked with the U.S. Department of Justice on a hate crimes case where all defendants were found guilty.

Today, Leyden operates StrHATE Talk Consulting in Hesperia, Calif., and he makes his living by talking to groups about hate groups and ways to battle their messages. His web site address is http://www.StrHATETalk.com.

Leyden told police Tuesday that “for the longest time, nothing concerning white power could found about Wyoming.

“All of the sudden, now, Wyoming is important. With Matt Hale gone, what’s Kroenke going to do?” Leyden wondered.

Leyden believes Kroenke “is going to have to step forward and make himself known” within white supremacist circles, or the sect will lose support within the white power movement.

“This guy realizes he has to do something to get his name out there,” Leyden said.

Leyden advised Riverton police “to make the greatest negative impact” against white supremacists.

“You need to do everything legal within the law and make his (Kroenke’s) life miserable. If he can’t handle his own town, he will go away,” Leyden said.

“Get stern and tough,” Leyden told police officers. “Go after them hard.”

He also told CWC students and Tuesday evening’s 100-plus-member audience to not protest if white supremacists gather in Riverton.

“If they march, don’t go and protest. If you don’t show up, they’ll lose,” Leyden said. “If you can, close stores. Put up signs, declaring a ‘hate-free zone.”‘

“If you know they’re coming, declare a ‘hate-free day’ and go to the other side of town and learn about each other,” he added.

Leyden, a former U.S. Marine and the father of five sons, started questioning the white power movement when he became a father.

“To that point, I’d been arrested 16 times, stabbed five times and shot at many times,” he said.

He also found that the polio vaccine (invented by a Jewish man) had saved his mother’s life, and heart procedures (invented by a black man) had saved his grandmother’s life.

And one of his sons, at age 9, was accepting the white power doctrine.

On Aug. 12, 1996, Leyden delivered his first testimonial to young people. More than six years have passed, and Leyden has spoken to more than 700,000 students.

His message: “I’m asking you to become a mentor. Go to the junior highs and senior highs, and become a mentor.

“Get involved in a youth’s life. If you do, you’ll prevent the world from creating another me.”

Leyden, recently baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he lived in fear for a long time about speaking out against white power groups.

“I don’t fear death anymore. I’m trying to make the world a better place, and I will be judged accordingly,” he said.

He admits to continuing racist thoughts now and then, but he said all people do.

“It’s how you act on those thoughts that’s important,” he said.

Leyden said white supremacists “can do damage. They do domestic terrorism, but we don’t label them as domestic terrorists.”

“Don’t fear these guys, but make sure you have enough law enforcement officers. And keep them informed. Work with local law enforcement. They’re your first line of defense,” Leyden said.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday February 21, 2003.
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