“That’s the one. Let’s get him.”
With those words, two skinheads punched a Black man to the pavement in a grocery store parking lot, then pummeled and kicked him some more, solely because of his race, Phoenix police say.
“The only good people in this world are White purebred people,” Nathan Greeson told police when he was arrested after the June attack on Leroy Willis. “We do things to keep this world pure and poison free.”
Both attackers pleaded guilty.
White supremacists are increasingly moving into Arizona, particularly from the Pacific Northwest, and with them has come a rise in activities, from meetings to beatings to murders. Police and those who monitor hate groups warn if something isn’t done now, the problem will surge out of control.
Arizona is attractive to White supremacists for a number of reasons. As a border state facing immigration issues, it is seen as a place where hate messages could be masked as anti-immigration rhetoric.
The Aryan Nations is holding a rally this weekend in Cave Creek and plans a music festival for January.
Only a handful of detectives in the state specifically targets White supremacist crime.
Arizona is also historically conservative, which may indicate to White supremacists that their views of an all-White America would be welcome here.
Some of the groups couch racist philosophies in religious terms or by seeming to promote racial pride.
“Behind it all is that hidden message they want to get out there: ‘We hate everybody. If you’re not like us, we hate you,’ ” said Todd Gerrish, who supervises gang investigators for the state Department of Corrections and has studied White supremacists.
“They think violence is the answer to the problems that they see,” Gerrish said. “Violence shows that they’re true believers.”
“We love our own kind enough to stay separate,” countered Karl Gharst, of Hayden, Idaho, one of the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian/Aryan Nations. “We don’t ask people to commit crimes, but we don’t condemn the violence that God promises the lawless.”
Gharst said his group’s belief in an all-White nation is “nothing new” and he points to the Bible to justify the idea that Whites are God’s chosen people and others are descendents of Satan or less than human.
“What scripture supports separation of the races?” Gharst said. “We would turn it around. Show us one scripture that contradicts the idea.”
More violent attacks
There are no statistics in Arizona that specifically break out White supremacy crimes.
Last year, the state documented 246 hate crimes. The majority of known suspects were White and the motivation for nearly half of the crimes was racial bias. Other top motivations were sexual, ethnic and religious bias.
In Phoenix last year, attacks against Blacks increased 28 percent.
Experts say crimes committed by White supremacists have become more violent, with multiple attackers ganging up on a single victim.
“When you get racist skinheads on the street, there is a threat and the threat is immediate,” said Mark Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The threat is you’ll have your skull broken when you walk by these people. They’ll come and burn your house down. They’ll rape your daughter or kill your son.”
Bill Straus, Arizona regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said, “ADL wouldn’t care about them at all if all they ever did was gather. America allows you the freedom to be prejudiced. But, unfortunately, they have a history of going across the line.”
‘Prone to violence’
Added Joel Breshin, a consultant to the Anti-Defamation League in Phoenix: “They’re prone to violence. They’re prone to intimidation. They’re just an irritant wherever they seem to go.”
Police say there have been assaults, home invasions with the sole purpose of beating people, and “hunting trips” where White supremacists drink beer then troll dark streets looking for victims to beat. White supremacists also were accused of two murders last year, both of White men.
Mark Mathes, 41, of Phoenix was beaten and shot to death in February 2002 but his body wasn’t found until a year later.
One suspect in the attack, Jeremy Johnson, reportedly earned colored shoelaces for his part in the attack. The laces signify ranking in the skinhead movement and red ones mean the wearer has drawn blood.
Cole Bailey Jr., 20, was pummeled and stomped to death in October 2002 when a fight between White supremacists spilled into the parking lot of a Phoenix pool hall.
Bailey’s death brought the White supremacy issue out of the closet, said his father, Cole Bailey Sr.
“Some of them are disillusioned and think they’re actually going to make a difference,” Bailey said. “I think some of them know deep down they’re not. If you look at today’s culture and how diverse it is and how many people are here, I don’t see how a small group is going to change the face of America. It’s just not going to happen.”
Race war predicted
But Tom Metzger, the national director for White Aryan Resistance, said there will be a race war in the future and the “fanatical minority causes change.” People, Metzger said, simply “do better in a homogeneous society.”
“We’re dumbing down our race and education in an attempt to bring people up. We’re not bringing Black people up. We’re bringing White people down,” Metzger, 65, said from his California home.
“If we don’t do something radical, they’re going to cause our genetic demise. And we need to do that pretty fast while there’s still enough White people to pull it out.”