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Stung by Racism Charges, Nativist Leader Pulls Out of Rallies

By Larry Keller on May 20, 2010 - 8:04 am, Posted in Anti-Immigrant, Nativist Extremist

William Gheen, the obstreperous head of the nativist group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, or ALIPAC, has pulled his group out of all June Arizona rallies backing that state’s controversial new illegal immigration law. Gheen said he is doing so because former Colorado Republican congressman Tom Tancredo, one of the country’s most hard-line opponents of illegal immigration, is supporting one event in which racist skinheads and neo-Nazis may be involved.

That rally, scheduled for June 5 in Phoenix, is being organized by Dan Smeriglio, founder of Voice of the People USA, an anti-illegal immigration group based in Pennsylvania. Gheen says it could hurt, not help, the efforts of those supporting SB 1070, the bill signed last month by Gov. Jan Brewer giving police wide latitude to detain anybody they think may be in the country illegally and making failure of non-citizens to carry immigration documents a crime. Critics say the law will subject Latinos, whether citizens or not, to racial profiling and police harassment in a state whose population is 30% Hispanic. President Obama, among others, has criticized the law, and a number of cities around the country have voted to protest it by halting business travel to Arizona and banning contracts with businesses there.

Gheen supports the law and initially favored the June 5 rally. But he notified supporters on Tuesday that ALIPAC won’t be attending or promoting any rallies scheduled next month in Arizona to support SB 1070. “We will have no future dealings with Dan Smeriglio or retired Congressman Tom Tancredo due to the neo-Nazi connections and this disaster they have cooked up in Arizona that puts our issue at risk,” Gheen wrote.

Gheen became concerned after a Philadelphia-based anti-hate group called One People’s Project criticized ALIPAC for associating with Smeriglio, who it said was working with racist skinheads. Gheen checked and concluded that was true. He learned, for example, that among the “friends” that Smeriglio listed on his Facebook page was Steve Smith, a regional coordinator of Keystone United, a Pennsylvania racist skinhead group with several chapters. Smith’s Facebook page also indicated he’s a fan of a Swedish white nationalist singer named Saga, whose ditties have included “Goodbye, David Lane.” Lane, a convicted terrorist who died in 2007 while serving a 190-year prison sentence, remains one of the most revered figures in the white nationalist movement. He came up with the famous “14 Words” slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.”

Smeriglio, 27, lives outside Hazleton, Penn., where he organized an anti-illegal immigration rally six weeks after Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez was murdered there in 2008. Last November, his Voice of the People USA organized a Tea Party Rally Against Amnesty in Hazleton, a city that has been racially divided since passing harsh anti-immigrant ordinances. Keystone United’s website says that some of its members attended the rally, and Smith appears to have been a prominent participant at the event, bellowing through a bullhorn at passing motorists.

Adding to Gheen’s dismay: Smeriglio claimed he had obtained a permit for the June 5 Phoenix rally, but in fact did not, Gheen says. Somebody did, however — a group protesting SB 1070. The same bizarre scenario unfolded at another, unrelated anti-immigration rally last year in Washington, D.C., Gheen says.

Gheen maintains that he tried to steer people away from the Smeriglio rally in Phoenix by urging anti-illegal immigration leaders to attend a different rally one week later. But he was thwarted, he says, by Tancredo, who urged those same leaders to stick with the June 5 event, even though he had been informed of Smeriglio’s connections. “We do not feel comfortable asking our national network to travel into Arizona at great expense to attend an event that Tom Tancredo is attempting to undermine,” Gheen wrote to his supporters. In a follow-up E-mail on Wednesday, Gheen warned that Tancredo is “making a huge mistake” and “a terrible mistake.”

Tancredo’s incendiary racial attitudes are no secret. He told a Tea Party convention audience in Nashville last February: “People who could not spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House — name is Barack Obama.” He complained that Obama was elected because “we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country.” As was widely noted after his remarks were published, Southern states used literacy tests as a means of preventing blacks from voting prior to the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Tancredo did not respond to an E-mail asking for comment on the dust-up with Gheen. Smeriglio could not be located for comment.

The rift between Gheen and Tancredo and Smeriglio is the latest in a series of fratricidal battles among leaders in the nativist movement, especially since the arrest of Minuteman American Defense leader Shawna Forde and two confederates last year on charges of shooting and killing a Latino man and his 9-year-old daughter in Arizona. And it came less than six months after Gheen dropped his support of a possible presidential run by talk radio host Lou Dobbs after the former CNN personality moderated his immigrant-bashing too much for Gheen’s taste. The offending moment came when Dobbs went on a Spanish-language television network and said that “we need the ability to legalize illegal immigrants under certain conditions.” Last month, Dobbs struck back after Gheen made the sexual orientation of South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham an issue. With Gheen on his show, Dobbs urged him to “dump the hate from your heart.”

Nor is the Gheen-Tancredo-Smeriglio imbroglio the first time one nativist leader has leveled charges of racism at another. Last December, Jim Gilchrist, head of the Minuteman Project, one of the first large nativist extremist groups to form in the last few years, said in an E-mail that Gheen and two other anti-immigration leaders — Jeff Schwilk and Chelene Nightingale — are “incurable racists who limit activist participation to only white persons, bigots.” Presumably, it was this kind of criticism that drove Gheen to distance ALIPAC from Smeriglio and company.

And so the fight goes on for anti-illegal immigration activists — with counter-demonstrators, with politicians and with each other.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE:

Tom Tancredo has released a statement saying allegations about Smeriglio’s purported ties to racist skinheads “are not only without merit, they are the worst kind of character assassination that no decent person in politics, left, right or center, should condone.” He said he’s confident that people won’t be deterred from showing their support for Arizona residents and for Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, the originator of SB 1070. Pearce, it should be noted, appeared side by side in a 2007 photograph with J.T. Ready, a white supremacist who has attended at least one neo-Nazi rally. Pearce said he was unaware of Ready’s background.

  • http://immigrationclearinghouse.org Rev.PMC

    Actually, it’s not quite so simple as is posted here. Gheen was by no means taking the high road and rejecting racism.

    Fact of the matter is, that Gheen, as he has always done, wanted top dog billing for the event. Total credit where credit wasn’t due, and the organizers were not having any of it.

    After heated phones calls between Gheen and some of the organizers, calls in which Gheen acted at times like a petulant little child in knee pants, and other times, threw temper tantrums on the phone, he realized he wasn’t wanted at the event. The result, he spun it his way.

    Here is a couple of article laying it all out.

    http://immigrationclearinghous.....n-exposed/

    And

    http://immigrationclearinghous.....o-implode/

    As Gheen has publicly stated on more than one occasion, “If there wasn’t money to be made in the debate, I’d have nothing to do with it”.

    And he sticks by those words

  • triplexxxfactor

    Part of the problem is that the voters in AZ don’t care what the officials are doing or not doing: For example, our Sheriff Arpaio has a record of violating human rights and particularly hunting hispanics while AZ becomes a safe haven for real criminals with serious felonies. Also, Russell Pearce the sponsor of this law has ties with white supremacists and he obtained the help of Kobach who is known to accept contributions from hate groups and is affiliated with FAIR (another hate group). There is a trend growing in AZ that allows business owners to decide if they can allow weapons in their establishments and they believe it can extended to people of color, hispanics, as well. More alarming is the growth of hate groups in AZ who are recruiting daily into the mentality that NOW THEY UNDERSTAND WHY HITLER SLAUGHTERED THE JEWS. They sympathize with Hitler. Furthermore, politicians know that a lot of retirees live here and they have them living in fear in order to maintain their votes.

  • ruben

    america is in deep trouble!….the white right in arizona and this country is more dillusional and dangerous then ever before and are leading the believers of there myopic hysteria into an ugly abyss that they will regret,but not before they do some major damage….fox news and the republican party are having a field day capitalizing on this lunatic fringes attempt to legitimize there burning racial hatred and bigotry by wrapping the american flag around there barbaric beliefs and calling themselves patriots….these lunatics are far worse and disgusting then the islamic right wing extremists….anybody that thought that race relations in this country had gotten better you were wrong!…the arrogant white right think that god gave them the deed to this continent.150 years these people would have been slave owners or selling blankets infested with the small pox virus to the real americans to wipe out whole tribes and steal there land.that is the type of mindset that these ignorant people have.i am a proud american of mexican decent….my ancestral fathers were the bravest europeans who ventured into the unknown and dicovered the new world and my ancestral mothers people had been living in north america for tens of thousands of years.we are native to this land!…how dare some arrogant persons like tancredo or smeriglio who’s family probably just arrived to north america from italy 80 years ago or the other white right extremists tell us that we are foreigners in our own native lands…read your history and stop showing your ignorance.

  • Sam Molloy

    Thanks, beholder. It’s encouraging to me to think this inept, ill-informed child is the best those idiots can come up with.

  • triplexxxfactor

    Part of the problem is that the voters in AZ don’t care as long as he (ARPAIO, Pearce and Brewer) feeds them racism and discrimination – triggered by distorted christian and mormon hate toward non-whites. all he has to do is stomp on mexicans, blacks and native americans and go soft on white meth users (WHICH IS HUGH PROBLEM IN AZ BUT THAT IS SOMETHING WE CAN’T TALK ABOUT). because white crimes in maricopa are not really crimes. yet non-white petty crimes are legally adjusted to become felonies (wink wink). basically most of the voters in maricopa and AZ are BIGOTS. This time around America is putting a stop to this BIGOT state not thanks to az but thanks to the internet and people like Romley. Hate groups have power in AZ and AZ politics.

    Pearce is a liar who has gone on CNN, FOX and other primetime mainstream media and preached fear and lack of patriotism. Pearce is a liar and he splurts lies in order to put fear in AZ residents so they support his racist agenda: Here are some of lies he has made to people who are too lazy to research his lies. Pearce went on cnn and said that 50 percent of homicides in az were commited by illegal aliens. While this got uuhh and ahhhs he does not have any solid data to back up his fear spreading slander. The data is not possible since only 50 percent of the murders were solved. He, also, spread more fear by saying that in 1 day there were 69 murders along the border. Making people think that they occurred in the US but 0 occurred in the US. Some of those murders occurred in mexico city that day but he led people to believe that they occurred in AZ. What a complete sack of psychological bs and straight out lie.. Further he claims that 67 percent of cops killed were killed by illegal aliens but he has no proof nor does the fbi, phoenix pd or dps. Another blatant lie and another politician who will say whatever it takes to put fear into people. Also surveys they did included mostly whites and have been used to make it seems that 1070b is widely supported (the surveys are corrupt and misleading). They even have gone out and said that Hispanics support it when almost all Hispanics oppose it

  • Leslie

    Rand Paul’s most recent foot-in-mouth episode occurred when he said that Obama was “anti-American” and anti-business for criticizing BP (british petroleum).

  • beholder

    Tim,

    I kind of agree with you there. In my mind Rand is not so much a racist as an amateur idealogue with no vocation for politics (lacking wisdom, subtlety, or both), living in the shadow of his father whose principal claim to fame is going against the grain.

    It’s hard to understand why this lightweight has all of a sudden gotten so much attention. I see it as a sign of desperation from the right wing to emerge from the ashes of the Bush Administration.

  • Tim

    What is happening in America is alarming. The election of Barak Obama is showing just how bigoted America really is. White America thinks they are better than any other race in the world. Is there any particular reason why you see almost no people of color in the tea party movement.
    Did anyone see Rand Paul on the Rachel Maddow show last night? Now there’s a closer racist. A guy who trys to compare restaurant owners refusing to serve blacks to the same owners refusing to allow guns carried into their cafes. He’s implying that if you can refuse the guns you can refuse the blacks. It was a closed ended question, yes or no answer and he answered like a typical politicion. What a bunch of hypocrites in Ky. They want to through the bumbs out only to replace them with another.
    Wake up America.

  • Robert

    Hard core racist, indeed…

  • Mason Green

    “Gheen-Tancredo-Smeriglio imbroglio”. Say that one five times fast! ;-)

  • beholder

    This is mildly good news but I am skeptical that Gheen truly wants to stop racism and instead is trying to avoid any guilt by association. The fact is he’s still supporting the law that the hard core racists support. That’s what counts.