The Nazilink with militias White racists play down their politics to recruit from the middle class

June 16, 1996|By Morris Dees with James Cocoran

LOUIS BEAM, a spokesman for the Aryan Nations, was speaking to an audience of 160 white men.

He minced no words.

"I warn you calmly, coldly and without reservation that over the next 10 years you will come to hate government more than anything in your life," he said.

The hearers ranged from white supremacists to pro-gu extremists, meeting at an invitation-only gathering two months after FBI sharpshooters killed white supremacist Randy Weaver's wife and son on Ruby Ridge in Idaho.

They called themselves patriots.

"The federal government in north Idaho has demonstrated brutally, horribly and with great terror how it will enforce its claim that we are religious fanatics and enemies of the state," Beam added, his voice rising with each word. "We must, in one voice, cry out that we will not tolerate their stinking, murdering, lying, corrupt government. ...

"As you lie on your bed and you look up at the ceiling tonight you must answer the question: Will it be liberty or will it be death?

"As for me," he used the words of Patrick Henry to thunderou applause, "give me liberty or give me death!"

At this gathering - now known as the Rocky Mountain Rendezvous, held Oct. 23-25, 1992, at a YMCA in Estes Park, Colo. - plans were laid for a citizens' militia movement like none this country has known.

It is a movement that already has led to the most destructive ac of domestic terrorism in our nation's history. Unless checked, it could lead to widespread devastation or ruin.

Speaking in a manner that evoked images of Adolf Hitler, Beam held his audience spellbound.

"So if you believe in the truth, if you believe in justice, then join with us. We are marching to the beat of the same drum. The beat of that drum, like those heard at Valley Forge and at Gettysburg, has called good men everywhere to action."

I first met Beam in a Texas federal court in 1981 when I forced him to stop harassing Vietnamese fishermen in Galveston Bay and to disband his 2,500-member paramilitary army.

He later made the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list after being indicted, along with 12 other avowed racists, for seditious conspiracy against the United States. After his acquittal by an all-white Arkansas jury, Beam marched from the Fort Smith courthouse and saluted the Confederate memorial in the town square.

"To hell with the federal government," he shouted to his supporters.

Harsh appeals to white supremacy and violence were the central tenets of his message.

"Enough of this backing up and retreating. ... The Foundin Fathers shed their blood to give you this country, and if you want to hold on to it, you're gonna have to shed some of yours. Never let any race but the white race rule this country," Beam told the members of his Texas Emergency Reserve militia in 1981.

That racist message limited his popular appeal. Similar messages from others met with similarly limited success.

Few people rallied to the likes of the Posse Comitatus, The Order or the Aryan Nations when, during the farm crisis of the 1980s, they tried to bring embittered farmers into the fold by telling them that a Communist-Jewish-federal-government conspiracy was responsible for destroying the family farm.

Few people rallied to the white supremacists when they echoed a similar theme to gain converts among blue-collar workers in the Northeast suffering from the decline of the steel industry.

And few people rallied to them when they repeated variations on that theme during conflicts between whites and Native Americans over fishing rights in Wisconsin and between environmentalists and loggers over the spotted owl in the Northwest.

Nonetheless, the leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, Willia Pierce - author of the infamous book "The Turner Diaries" - hadn't been an optimist about the prospects for a white revolution.

But Pierce made a jarring prediction: "The wind is shifting. Th 1990s are going to be different."

Today is different. Beam and his militia followers are repackagin their message. They downplay racism and focus on people's fear and anger.

The fear of, and anger at, a government that overregulates overtaxes and, at times, murders its citizens.

The fear of, and anger at, a government that is insensitive uncaring and callous to the needs of its people.

The fear of, and anger at, a government that takes away person's right to bear arms so that the country is vulnerable to domination by a New World Order.

Today, tens of thousands of people are hearing the message and thousands are joining their movement, many unaware that Beam and his fellow travelers are helping to set the agenda.

They are just the type of people racists and neo-Nazi leaders have long been after - mainly white and middle-class. Most hold jobs, own homes, wear their hair short and don't use drugs. And, for one reason or another, they hate our government.

It is that virulent hatred of the federal government that is driving the militia movement, while at the same time masking its insidious racist underpinnings.

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