The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Trial Day 1: Steel-Toed Boots Help SPLC Make Case Against Klan

By Sonia Scherr on November 12, 2008 - 11:54 pm, Posted in Klan, Lawsuits, Trial Updates

BootsBRANDENBURG, Ky. — A jury got a look today at the weapon that was used in a Ku Klux Klan assault on a 16-year-old boy: a pair of steel-toed black boots with bright red laces.

The boots played a key role in testimony during the first day of the civil trial against the leader of the Imperial Klans of America (IKA), one of the nation’s largest Klan organizations with 16 chapters in eight states. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a civil lawsuit against IKA leader Ron Edwards, contending that members of his group assaulted and severely injured Jordan Gruver in July 2006 at a county fair in Brandenburg, about 40 miles southwest of Louisville.

Gruver, a U.S.-born citizen of Panamanian descent, was attacked because the Klansmen wrongly assumed he was “an illegal spic.” By suing Edwards and Jarred Hensley — a Klansman who pleaded guilty to attacking Gruver — the SPLC hopes to win damages large enough to shut down one of America’s most dangerous Klan groups.

Today, the SPLC began making its case before a jury at the Meade County Courthouse in Brandenburg. The boots with red laces were introduced into evidence during the testimony of Joe Greer, a detective for the Meade County District Attorney’s Office who investigated the assault on Gruver. Greer used a magnet to demonstrate how he confirmed that the boots had steel toes. He also testified that they were the boots Hensley had on the night he and another Klansman kicked Gruver after knocking him to the ground.

SPLC lead trial attorney Morris Dees returned to the boots during his questioning of Edwards, who runs the IKA from his 15-acre compound in Dawson Springs, Ky. Dees got Edwards to admit that steel-toed boots are “the weapon of choice” for skinheads, which Edwards welcomed into his group despite knowing of their propensity for violence.

“What’s the significance of the red laces?” Dees asked.

“That means someone shed blood for their race.” Edwards replied.

Edwards, who spent about 2½ hours on the stand today, sports several tattoos on his shaven head that were visible in the courtroom, including “Fuck S.P.L.C.,” “Death to ZOG [Zionist-occupied government]” and “Aryan Justice.” Hensley also has numerous tattoos, including the word “violence” on his knuckles, “murder” below his neck, and a swastika on his arm.

Several supporters of Edwards and Hensley attended the trial, sometimes snickering during testimony. Some of them wore skinhead-style attire, including combat boots, red braces (suspenders), and white power emblems on their jackets.

During his opening statement and examination of Edwards, Dees painted a compelling picture of the Klan leader as a man motivated by money as much as by hate. Edwards admitted under oath that he appropriated money from IKA dues and merchandise sales for his own use. “The only rule he has is to make money for Ron Edwards,” Dees said.

Dees said Edwards required the Klansmen to recruit new members, yet failed to provide adequate supervision. “They were doing exactly what Ron Edwards had programmed them to do, exactly what he had directed them to do — and that is going out and recruiting members,” he said.

Edwards maintained that he obeys the law, even while serving as leader of the IKA. “I’m going to prove that I teach them not to go out and commit violence,” he said. “And I’ll also show that I did not even know they were there.”

Yet Dees later played a clipping from a National Geographic documentary in which Edwards said the opposite. “We can be very violent and we can be very deceptive, and we will do whatever we have to do to survive.”

The trial, which is being covered by several major media outlets, will continue tomorrow with Dees’ further questioning of Edwards.

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  • “Luke-as Puke-as”

    i would just like to say that although there are some Nazi, whitepower Skinheads, NOT ALL SKINHEADS ARE! original Skins were against racism and were inspired by reggae music. Im not saying i’ve seen anything against Skinheads here ( although i did not read all the comments ) i see alot of prejudice against them just because some of them are Racist, but not every racist is a skinhead. and true Skinheads are not racist

    and i agree with Marianne, the only way to solve things is through diplomacy and persuasion, not threatening or violence. and why can’t we just shut down the KKK? we all know what it is, what it does, but “legally” we can’t do anything about it? how does that make any sense? we claim to be the “land of the free” and not prejudiced or racist, yet we let a terrible organization continue to grow and recruit because of some stupid ass-backwards laws? it seems to me as if we incourage Division and Racism….

  • Marianne

    I am disturbed by the tone of this blog. I am offended by racism, no matter who the perpetrator is. I am sorry that any of you have experienced acts of prejudice, but there is not reason to use the language used here. Terms like the ones used above are meant to anger, not persuade. If someone gives me strong arguments to make me change my mind, I can consider their point of view. If someone calls me names like the ones here, I get angry and continue my fight with more resolve. If we want to condemn racism, we have to do it without reducing ourselves to a level that is counter-productive. Taking the high-road NEVER fails.
    Thanks SPLC for all you do. Keep up the good work!

  • MJ

    Oh David Garza,

    You may want to re-read my message to you because once again you are lost.

    I never said that Blacks were the only race discriminated against, most have heard of the government mandated Jim Crow laws… remind me again of the laws passed by Congress to discriminate against Native Americans?!?

    My facts are in check my friend, and if being called “that Mexican” is worst case of racism you can personally expound on I understand why you have the luxury of naivety.

  • Carter

    Dear Mr. “Aaron Steinberg”:

    Are you aware what a “troll” [in the context of the internet] is?
    – Something is wrong with this picture…..
    “Brand the star of david (sic) on your forehead!” & various other remarks regarding issues with “Christianity” & “gentiles” lead me to believe you are either trolling this board & have some projection issues or you are not of the ethnicity you make yourself out to be.
    I suggest that people who want to have any serious discourse not respond to your baiting any longer.
    Sorry pal, not too many people can take you seriously.

  • Aaron Steinberg

    jerome, you have revealed the very stench that’s festering inside your diseased body, infected by the negative parental indoctrination of intolerance, hatred and prejudice you’ve received as a child! To bad mouth Morris Dees shows the ignorance of your parents and yourself. You’re probably a klan member and a shriveled worm coward. Standing alone, a slap in your face would bring tears, running and crying for mommy. The SPLC is the greatest organization in this country with the courage to stand up to thugs and bullies, especially for those that cannot defend themselves against cowardly gangs! I’d like to catch your weasel azz and brand the star of david on your forehead!

  • Aaron Steinberg

    Loretta, not surprising the emails you received from the man and what he wrote would incite violence while claiming to be a christian. The klan doctrine is based on, as they say christianity! I’ve found many so-called christions are church angels and street devils! The worst of the worst!

  • ed egan

    With SPLC, I still have hope for humans
    good luck and thank you

  • Jack Ambeau

    What planet are you living on. I would suggest that your walking around with your head stuck in the sand and not living in the real world. Tolerance must be preached and practiced no matter what our political preferences are. Your ‘little old lady’ scenario does not support your blathering rhetoric. As a 75 yr. old Canuck I have seen and heard many arguments for and against racism. This cancerous stigmata must be surgically removed by all levels of society or it will surely destroy us as a nation. Kudos to the SPLC for fighting the good fight.

  • Hugo

    Fight On! Keep up the great work SPLC!

  • David Garza

    Listen everyone, racism is racism, no matter how cruel one race can be to another. As far as Mr. Steinberg’s comments, yes I have sat in a restaurant and not denied service, but treated in a manner where I knew I was not welcomed. So I have seen racism first hand, but you know what, I didn’t let that person’s ignorance get me down, for I am the better man. I finished my meal and left a nice tip for that lady that called me “that Mexican”.

    As far as having a Black History Month, every month should be recognized by the achievements of every person, no matter what race or gender. I don’t think “designating” a month to a race is fair to anyone.

    MJ, you are so wrong about Blacks being the only race that was discriminated against or have laws in placed to segregate or devalue by our government. What about the Native Americans, which my descendents come from on my fathers side. Yes, my Great Grandmother was a Comanche Indian, a race that was nearly wiped out by the white man. A race that was not only beaten, raped, and enslaved, but were also killed just because they were who they were. Get your facts straight.

  • Old White Democrat Guy

    I just read all the comments with great interest. I am convinced that racism is alive and well. The work that the SPLC is doing supports ongoing progress as manifested by our presidential election.

    Oh well, I think I will go fishing again with my good friend and neighbor Stanley who is black and a Republican; we have many good conversations after a few beers. This is what I call real progress.

  • Ariane

    Just want to add to MJ’s comment to David Garza re Black History Month.

    I sometimes hear these questions from young people who dont know much history, complaining about Black History Month, Black Miss America, etc. and asking what if there were white versions of those things. You need to understand there WERE White versions– that was the norm — basically EVERY month was “White History Month” the way history was taught in schools. And Black girls didnt used to be allowed to compete in white beauty pageants. Black students were not accepted, or only a token few, into “White” universities especially in the Southern States, so that is the reason for the Historically Black Colleges (which are now integrated just like the Historically White Colleges) Black people were seldom shown in a positive light in national media so they started their own magazines and newspapers. Even as late as the 1980s, MTV had a policy of not playing Black artists. It was also in the 1980s that a friend of mine who was a DJ on a major radio station told me they had an unwritten rule they could only play 1 Black artist per hour.

    Really we shoudnt just have one month for Black History, one month for Latino history, one month for Women’s History etc., everybody’s history should all be woven together as it has been in real life.

  • Judy Platz

    Many many thanks to Richard Cohen, Morris Dees and all the SPLC staff! The work you do and have done over the years is fantastic! And we must not forget also the many people everywhere in these United States who since the Emancipation Proclamation have put their lives on the line for racial dignity and freedom have brought us this far. Lack of freedom for one means lack of freedom for all. This case is emblematic of the cowardly who pick on one person in order to feel better about themselves. Only cowards kick a person with steel toed boots.

    We can take consolation in the fact that the dragon’s head of hatred rears its fangs more ferociously the closer it comes to death.

    Stay alert everyone–don’t give bigotry, hatred, or violence even a small place in your life. SPLC you are continuing MLK’s heritage.

  • Joe

    How many cases has the SPLC done against what they label as Black Sepretist groups?
    BTW why is it that just in the last 2 or so years they finally deceided to list the Black groups as hate groups finally?
    Oh wait are they calling them hate groups or simply sepratist groups?

  • Matthew Gallelli

    As a teacher, I am deeply grateful for the example of patriotism that your work embodies. When my students ask who are the living American patriots, I point to you and the SPLC. When children of color ask me if white Americans truly care about ending racism and promoting social justice, it is your example I invoke. When teenagers ask how to non-violently fight social oppression, I cite your lives as the model.

  • MJ

    I’ve read each post until mine but my motivation for contributing is the very well written blogs laced with anger by jerome and the somewhat distorted perception by david garza.

    The glory of the internet is that neither of these people could be who they portray, but for the sake of humanity I will address them as is:

    jerome: Where do you get your information that the Klan is a “small” organization? In truth the Klan is not as organized as they once were 40 years ago when they ran unchecked, but you best believe that their national presence is strong and there physical presence in rural America is quite large. The Klan has evolved into a more intelligent network, the “face” of the Klan is no longer a male one. The present resurgence is being led by female leaders who receive guidance from their male counterparts. Thanks to the internet there is less need for street rallies in places where they are not wanted, the cyberworld is a far greater recruiting stage. The Klan is cover is no longer hooded sheets as much as it is avoiding mainstream media… to lull blind sheep like yourself into believing they are just a fairy tale. Wake up jerome.

    David Garza: You are truly misled by empty facts. Have you ever stopped to realize WHY there is a Black History Month? Can you fathom being part of the only race in American History where the government created LAWS to discriminate, divide, and devalue an entire race of citizens? Can you comprehend the generational damage that a national system like this can cause? The reality of present-day America is that Hispanics and Middle Easternerns are only entering the early stages of such prejudice and hate driven by the fear, greed, and ignorance of Elitest Whites in America. I pray that it does not take your day to stand before them as a Hispanic male to come full circle with your current point of view. Jordan Gruver could have easily been you.

    God Bless & Help Us All

  • Nick Webster

    Like many of the other posters, I am also a proud 2nd generation supporter of the SPLC. I truly believe that this fine organization is a shining example of attempting to move the country in the right direction, and I thank Mr. Dees, Mr. Cohen and the rest of the organization for their efforts.

    However, I can’t help being a little confused by cases like this one, and why the SPLC has to take the lead. Where is the justice department? Where is the FBI? Why does it take a private organization like the SPLC to take on domestic terrorists and organized crime? The Klan (as well as all of the white supremist / aryan groups) has always been an organized crime entity focused on domestic terrorism. They are intolerant of others, do not recognize the rights of others and use violence and intimidation much like the Taliban in Afghanistan, but they are allowed to grow with little in their way other than the heroes of the SPLC.

    Clearly, when the SPLC wins cases like this one it is because the domestic terrorists have violated someone’s civil rights. I just wish someone could explain why protecting civil rights against domestic terrorism is apparently not the job of the U.S. Governent.

  • jerome

    Do not mistake what I said concerning Racism comes in all colors. To me, all murder, robbery, rape, drug dealing to children and others are Hate Crimes. I don’t like the Designation of Hate Crimes. Crimes that harm, maim, and kils are heineous in spite of what you call them. To put special emphasis on crimes committed as Hate Crimes, sends a Wrong Message in this country. It gives others the impression that they can commit Heineous Crimes against anybody they want, as long as they do not fall into a Particular Category. A bunch of thugs who break in on an old lady, then rob, rape, beat, and murder her and drive off in her car is about a sorry bunch as I can imagine, but this old lady does not get a special category to fall into, and should the perpetrator or perpetrators of this crime come to trial, nobody takes the old ladies side except in the fact that she was killed. This to me, is a very serious and hate-filled thing to do. So, get rid of the so called Hate Crime Labels, and just treat all Heineous and Inhumane Crime for what it is and that is CRIME.

    I think it sad that so many criminals prey on society each and every day in this country, and many youth murder one another as well as innocent bystanders just for the sake of killing somebody to gain rank in a thuggish criminal gang. I believe that Dees and other well-intentioned attorneys would do this country and the cause of minorities more good if they would try and work at ending violence in all sectors and stop trying to make Show Boat Cases such as this one. The KKK is a very small and disorganized bunch of ignorant thugs, and when Dees and these Camera Hogs show up, they give these non-entities the spotlight. This is the same thing that Race Hustlers such as Jesse Jackson, who has never had a real job in his life; Louis Farakhan, who teaches and preaches White Hatred to his followers; Jeremiah Wright and thousands of other black preachers who Teach GD the U.S. and GD whitey messages in their pulpits; Al Sharpton, a big time Race Hustler, and others of this ilk. Black racism which is perpetuated and nurtured by these slick Race Hustlers is big business for Race Hustlers, and when they cannot find legitimate concerns to get people angry about, they go looking for them. These Race Hustlers do not want to end racial strife. If racial strife ended, then these Race Hustlers would be out of business. The same goes for Dees outfit. These guys have been funded by grants and donations for so long now, that they would not know how to compete as legitimate attorneys, so they love these little Klan gigs when they pop up, which is rarely. When Dees and his outfit cannot find any Klan or Skinheads to fight, they hang out defned Child Rapists, Murderers, and other violent criminals who are sitting on death row. These guys disgrace the victims of Heineous crimes when they get out and protest and fight for the lives of scumbags who deserve to pay for their crimes.

    I know how it is to be a bleeding heart liberal and to get all starry eyed and think that I can save the world. I too used to be a big fan of Dees and this gang of hustlers. I even supported Jesse Jackson for President at one time. I used to go along on large demonstrations to protest against a handful of thugs such as the Klan, but one day I woke up and realized that I and many thousands of others were being conned by Slick Con Artists such as Dees, and other charismatice dudes like this.

    I then became a realist, and realized that I and these others were being duped and that our participation with these fools was only empowering Dees and these type organizations, and in the short term did absolutely no good, and in the long term were doing more Harm Than Good.

    If Dees and others would just get regualar jobs, and close up shop, the Klan and other small and insignificant groups would get no publicity and thus no support. The local law enforcement officials and courts are perfectly capable of handling crimes of all sorts, and do not have to put a special label on Crime. In law, Crime Is Crime. As long as we legislate for and promote Specialty Labels for Crime such as Hate Crimes, everyday heineous Crime takes a free walk, and a person who gets prosecuted for a so called Hate Crime may wind up getting more severely punished for beating up a Special Person than the Thugs who Robbed, Beat, Raped, and Murdered the old lady, because the old lady did not get any special treatment. But, who is the most heineous of these perpetrators? Some misguided racist who beats up a person of another race or the thugs who took the life of a defenseless old lady. I want to see both of these types prosecuted with the full extent of the law, but to me the Old Lady’s case is much more serious than the dude who got beaten up but not raped, robbed, and murdered. Just something for Dees and others to think about.

  • Aaron Steinberg

    Jerome, put your brain in gear before you operate your mouth! “Fortunately, there are not many Klan types in America”. What planet have you resided since birth? The SPLC has a nationwide map revealing the locations!!
    Where ignorance is tolerated, intelligence cannot prevail!

  • Emmet Fox

    Let’s kill all the skinheads, bikers, and anyone else that does not agree with the mainstream sheeple of America and who live FREE outside the confines of Middle American philosophy. Let’s kill anyone who does not like Christians too, which includes most of the Middle East. Kill’em all. Kill anyone who does not think EXACTLY like ‘me’. What’s next? A ban on steel-toed boots? The sheeple like bans. Ban guns, that’s a good one!
    If you want to do something, stop America’s aggression outside our country and across the globe. Kill, kill, kill, that’s what America is built on. When we get done killing, we’ll have a perfect place. Start with lawyers.

  • Aaron Steinberg

    In regards to Benjamin who intimates along with David Garza that African-Americans are “Racist”! Have either of you were ever denied sitting at a counter for a light meal? Were either of you denied a drink from a water fountain or use of a public restroom or denied entry into a restaurant or seating on the first floor of a movie theatre! Were you ever denied anything because of the colour of your skin!!
    Both of you harbor latent racial hatred, cowardly hiding behind a facade of supposed knowledgeable insight of a people that’s suffered every indignation from slavery, lynching’s, brutal beatings, forcible rapes of their women and children in an open field as they cried out in pain and horror while the witnesses could only look upon this foul, hateful deed in silence! You two perpetrators are the results of negative parental influences perpetuating hatred, bias and intolerance, which was passed down from generation to generation. You purposely find any blog to spew your venomous hated wherein your attempt to conceal your foul intent fools no one. You’re both cowards, using the anonymity of cyber to hide behind your evil, insensitive comments. You weren’t born with hate, the indoctrinations began immediately after your births. Any African-American with a so-called “racist attitude”, it was learned from you Gentiles!!!!

  • Adam

    Thank You Mr.Dees for you Diligent and Selfless attitude in fighting these Ignorant Maggots! Your courage is unmatched! The service you Fulfill is defines what it is to be a True American and, you are a Hero in my book! Thanks Again ~Your Biggest Fan

  • Archie1954

    I once attended a trial as an observer and noted that a bunch of skinheads came in, sat in the front row and stared at the witnesses obviously to intimidate them. This was totally apparent to everyone in the courtroom except the judge who was oblivious to the coercion. Finally a police officer came down the aisle and motioned them out of the courtroom. do you think this was the point here?

  • K. Koch

    I see so many positive comments about the work of Mr. Dees, SPLC and their entire staff; I agree wholeheartedly!!!

    Your work is so extremely important, I know that every dollar I donate is put to good use….to rid the world of ignorance, racism and hate. I still cannot believe the sheer stupidity of these groups, they are a disgusting example of humanity.

    SPLC, keep it up!!!!
    K. Koch

  • http://? Doris Billingsley

    Morris Dees and Joe Levin are my heroes–as are all the people who dare to speak out against this hate crime. I pray for your safety and for everyone at SPLC. May there be an epidemic of tolerance and justice! D.B.

  • ken mier

    Good Job Bednarsky

    Acceptance is the key

  • GW

    Nice blog.

    You should have told me and I could have blogged about it to promote it.

    BTW: You made the big Dem e-mail list out of Huntsville this morning…