On Florida’s Turnpike, just over the Lake County line in Sumter County, there’s a plain billboard with a black background and big block letters in the style of the “Got Milk?” ads.
It reads in part “WHO RULE$ AMERIKA?” Then it gives a Web address.
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That goes to the home page of the National Alliance, a group founded in the early 1970s as a spinoff of the American Nazi Party. (Spelling America with a K is a nod to German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.)
The Anti-Defamation League and other watchdog groups call the National Alliance the most violent and dangerous homegrown terrorist group in the United States.
“These people are gutter-level bigots with aspirations to take over America in the name of white people,” said Art Teitelbaum, the Southern-area director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Shaun Walker, the chief operations officer for the National Alliance, said the club authorized the sign and its purpose is “to raise public awareness of the political reality we live in today.”
“I’m a white American, and we’d like to return the reins of control to white people,” he said.
Walker denies law enforcement’s claims that the group is violent, but he does say that its goal is to promote the interests of white people above all other races, promote the belief of white people’s “genetic superiority” and keep the races separate.
Walker said most Americans are duped by a “Jewish”-controlled media. The National Alliance’s Web site is full of anti-Semitic statements and others that advocate the superiority of the “Aryan” race.
During these days of heightened national terror alerts, watchdog groups warn that America shouldn’t ignore its own homegrown terrorists.
After all, the founder of the group, the late William Pierce, is the author of The Turner Diaries, which is considered the inspiration for Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 149 adults and 19 children. The book describes a bombing of a federal building with a fertilizer-and-petroleum bomb, the same explosive McVeigh used.
“While 9-11 represented an example of international terrorism at its most shocking and dangerous, there are similarities with this group,” Teitelbaum said.
“They are willing to commit murder in the name of an ideology, though separate ideologies,” he said. “The National Alliance is the most dangerous domestic extremist group, and we dare not ignore them.”
The last time the NA made a significant appearance in the area was 1997, when there was a bungled attempt to plant pipe bombs near theme parks to distract police from planned bank robberies, said Agent Ray Velboom of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Todd Vanbiber, then 28 and a member of the white-supremacist group, was injured when one of 15 bombs he was building went off by accident in a shed. Documents police found with the man showed he was a leader in the National Alliance, Velboom said, although the group disavowed a connection.
Other acts national law-enforcement officials and the Anti-Defamation League attribute to the NA include the slaying of a talk-show host in Colorado in the early 1980s.
Velboom and Sumter County sheriff’s Capt. Gary Brannen said there are no indications that the NA has an active presence in the area.
The billboard near the Okahumpka rest stop appeared in August.
Sumter officials and the Florida Department of Transportation, which regulates signs on the turnpike, say they’re powerless to do anything.
Advertising for a club, even a controversial and unpopular one, is not against any law. And there is nothing offensive on the billboard itself, said Robbie Rogers, Sumter County’s director of planning.
“We don’t have anything in place that can deal with this,” she said, adding that there have been numerous complaints.
The DOT can only regulate such things as location, lighting and placement of the signs, DOT spokesman Steve Homan said.
Jerry Sullivan, president of Sunshine Outdoor Inc. in Micanopy, put up the sign and has no intentions of taking it down as long as the sign is paid for.
“It’s free speech. Do you know what free speech is?” he asked.
“I don’t believe in Nazis,” he said. “But no, it don’t bother me none. There’s no law against it.”
Walker said the group has a right to promote its views, including that Jews own 90 percent of the media and this skews the views presented to the public, and that Washington, D.C., was once a great city until black people moved there.
He said there are two official chapters of the NA in Florida — one in Orlando and one in Tampa — but he said no one from the Florida chapters cared to talk to the media.
Benny Strickland, chairman of the Sumter County Commission, said: “Obviously we don’t want people associating Sumter County with this group. I’d be a fool if I wasn’t concerned. But I don’t think we have the power to do anything.”