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The speaker blamed “Jewish lies” for the Iraq War, praised the swastika as a symbol of white people, showed a neo-Nazi propaganda video, and led several audience members in an enthusiastic Nazi salute.
No, this wasn’t an assembly of America’s largest neo-Nazi organization, the National Socialist Movement (NSM). Rather, it was the weekly gathering of the Pacifica Forum, a formerly left-wing discussion group that has met for years at the University of Oregon. Although the forum has been hosting prominent Holocaust deniers and far-right extremists for more than two years, it ratcheted up the vitriol during its Dec. 11 meeting.
Titled “The National Socialist Movement: An Inside View of America’s Far Right,” the event basically amounted to a recruitment pitch for National Socialism, complete with sieg-heiling. The event provoked an outcry from community members. “Friday night was really wretched,” said Michael Williams, who has monitored Pacifica Forum for six years. “It was a lot like attending a Nazi rally.”
After opening with an anti-Semitic read of Hebrew Bible passages, presenter Jimmy Marr invited everyone who wished to join him in giving the straight-armed Nazi salute. Five people did, including Valdas Anelauskas, a Lithuanian immigrant who delivered a series of anti-Jewish lectures to the Pacifica Forum in 2006 and since then has been the predominant speaker there. “Sieg heil!” they shouted. Then louder: “Sieg heil! SIEG HEIL!”
“I totally object,” interjected Billy Rojas, who founded the (anti-Nazi) Swastika Club of America and has lectured at Pacifica Forum.
But the presentation went on. Marr showed a video of an NSM protest against illegal immigration in Phoenix, Ariz., where NSM speakers shouted “Death to Jews.” That was followed by a slide show of a violent clash between NSM members and counter-demonstrators at another recent rally. The music accompanying the slide show was the track “You Asked for It” by the white supremacist band Prison Bound.
Marr — who once brought a desecrated menorah to a Pacifica Forum meeting and earlier this year had to give up his NO ZOG (Zionist Occupied Government) vanity license plate — was especially eager to blame Jews for U.S. immigration policy, which he sees as diluting the white gene pool. “You’re goddamn right I object to Jews,” he exclaimed during the question-and-answer session. “They’re traitors!”
About 40 people attended the presentation, including a dozen regular Pacifica Forum attendees and their families, at least as many students (including student body officers there to observe), three observers from the Anti-Hate Task Force, a few university professors and staff, community members, and several people who appeared to be affiliated with NSM. Campus security officers were also present for the event.
Among those upset by the forum’s increasing radicalism are members of the local Anti-Hate Task Force, which has met to discuss its response to the meeting. The group is encouraging the university to take responsibility for events that occur on campus, said Williams, a task force member. In addition, some students stayed off campus the day of the Pacifica Forum meeting because they were afraid of possible encounters with neo-Nazis; one University of Oregon graduate and longtime employee was so upset after attending the beginning of the meeting that she sent an E-mail last week to university officials, urging them to stop letting the forum hold meetings on campus. (Pacifica Forum is not affiliated with the university; instead it meets in the student union under a policy that allows retired university professors — including Orval Etter, the group’s founder — to use campus space at no cost.)
Charles Martinez, the university’s Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity, told Hatewatch that even if the university were to rescind that policy, outside groups would still be able to rent space from the university, which does not attempt to screen them based on ideology. Martinez said he wants to see the campus community organize educational programs in response to the group, as it has done in the past. “It’s extremely difficult on a personal basis to observe when hate-mongering is basically couched as intellectual inquiry or free speech,” said Martinez, who attended the meeting.
A woman who answered the phone at Marr’s home in Springfield, Ore., said he does not participate in Pacifica Forum all the time. When told that Hatewatch wanted to speak with him about his Dec. 11 presentation, she said this reporter had reached the wrong number and hung up.