Saturday, February 10, 2007

Racist Groups on the Rise in Michigan

February 7, 2007

A new report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization that monitors hate groups and hate crimes in the United States, has documented a substantial increase in activity by Ku Klux Klan groups over the past couple of years. The ADL has documented a reversal in what had been a steady decline in Klan activity with existing groups expanding and increasing their activity, new groups appearing and creating racial tensions in communities previously unaffected by organized white supremacist groups, the Klan expanding its reach across the United States, cooperating with neo-nazi and other racist groups, and making more successful use of the internet. As always, while the ADL does offer some important and useful information, is important for those fighting the racist right from a left perspective to remember that the ADL has never been friends of militant movements to confront racism and fascism, and indeed the organization talks about the violent extremism of the Weather Underground and the alleged convergence between the racist right and the anti-globalization left and anarchist movements.

The ADL attributes the Klan's increase in activity due to its "successful exploitation of hot-button issues including immigration, gay marriage, and urban crime." As other white supremacist groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens and the American Renaissance have seized on immigration as an issue through which they can attempt to organized misinformed white people, the Klan has attempted to insert themselves into the anti-immigration movement. While not particularly well-known, the Klan in the 1970s and 1980s ran a series of armed border patrol actions on the United States-Mexico border, thereby being both a tactical and ideological precursor to the vigilante Minuteman movement. Moreover, klan groups across the country have increasingly worked with other racist groups and appeared at rallies with the National Socialist Movement and have attended white supremacist "unity" events seeking to reduce sectarianism. At the same time, the ADL reports that the modern Klan has become increasingly "nazified" with its members participating more in the skinhead and neo-nazi subcultures than they had in the past. Groups associated with the Ku Klux Klan, which has for a long time been fragmented and without a serious national structure, have also taken the beginning steps towards unifying their movement.

Here in Michigan, there has also been an increase in activity by the racist right over the past year. While the ADL report cites the Michigan-based United and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan as an example of a klan group that has grown over the past year and describing how it spread rapidly after breaking from the Ohio-based Mystic Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the majority of the activity by the racist right in Michigan over the past year has not been organized by the Ku Klux Klan. The Michigan Unit of the prominent neo-nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM) was quite active in Michigan in 2006, organizing a variety of localized actions, hosting the National Socialist Movement's national conference in Grand Rapids in April, and hosting a national rally in Lansing. Racist groups were particularly emboldened by the passage of the anti-affirmative action Proposal 2 (Michigan Civil Rights Initiative) in November, and indeed groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens and the aforementioned United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan were the only groups that publicly supported the measure. While the question of what role the two organizations actually played in the passage of the measure is up for debate, especially with the two groups primarily writing letters to newspapers or distributing flyers and neither having a particularly large constituency, both groups have taken credit for the passage of Proposal 2. The fact that these groups supported the measure not only shows the racism that was at the root of the initiative, but it also gives a "victory" to organize around and both groups intend to remain active in 2007. Michigan also saw the formation of the European American Association last year, a group that brought Canadian fascist Paul Fromm to Lansing while at the same time cloaking its racism in language talking about "western civilization" rather than white power. In October of 2006, Detroit was the site of the annual Hammer Fest, organized by the skinhead Hammerskin nation.


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