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

Racists Arrested After Chicago Attack Have Long History of Activism

By Marilyn Elias on May 23, 2012 - 2:16 pm, Posted in Extremist Crime, White Nationalism

One of the two white nationalists arrested after a violent surprise attack by anti-racists in suburban Chicago has a long history of activism on the racist right and was suspected of having ties to several militias in the late 1990s. The other has a lengthy record of arrests on battery and drug charges and writes prolifically on a white nationalist Web forum.

Francis John Gilroy, 65, of West Palm Beach, Fla., was charged with unlawful possession of weapons by a felon after a melee that began when 18 masked intruders attacked a group of white nationalists, including Gilroy, who were meeting in a suburban Chicago restaurant last Saturday.

Longtime white supremacist and former Klan leader Don Black said on his radio show Monday that Gilroy was arrested for having a pistol in his truck. Gilroy has appeared on Black’s show – the “Don and Derek Black Show” – under the name “Father Francis.”

Gilroy, who goes by the name “Copperhead” on Stormfront, the white nationalist web forum where the Chicago meeting was promoted, was arrested in 1999 outside of West Palm Beach after refusing to cooperate with police when he was pulled over for failing to signal a turn. According to the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Gilroy wound up in jail because he wouldn’t provide a driver’s license. Broward County sheriff’s deputies then found several handguns, two assault rifles and 3,000 rounds of ammunition in his van. The Sun Sentinel also reported at the time that FBI agents seized documents related to groups called the Florida Patriots, the North Carolina Patriots and what deputies described as “several other active militia groups across the country.” While in the patrol car, Gilroy had to be put in a special restraint after he slipped his handcuffs under his legs from behind his back.

Gilroy apparently wasn’t the only one who brought a gun. Brandon Spiller, 29, told the TinleyParkPatch, a local newspaper, that he had a pistol in his vehicle but was not able to get to it during the attack. The newspapers showed pictures of Spiller in a bloody shirt, with a gash on his head and a swollen eye. “It’s almost as if it was a terrorist attack,” said Spiller, who was hospitalized and received eight staples in his head. He added that he “had no idea” why his group was targeted.

Also taken into custody after the attack was Steven Eugene Speers, 33, of Grand Forks, N.D., who was arrested on a warrant for possession of child pornography from Dallas County, Texas. Speers, who goes by the name “Steven the Viking” on Stormfront, has a long criminal history, with at least four arrests for battery between January 2000 and July 2005. He was released from prison in Florida in 2009 after serving two years for a felony battery conviction. He earlier was convicted in Texas for possessing marijuana.

On Oct. 15, 2011, Speers wrote on Stormfront that he needed legal help in a child custody struggle and didn’t have the “upfront money” to pay a lawyer. He wrote that the child’s mother had a restraining order against him that extended to his daughter. In a later, unrelated post, he extolled the virtues of nudity in a thread in which other posters criticized a young white woman for posing nude for a magazine feature called “Hot Homies.”

The Chicago meeting that was attacked – dubbed the 5th annual White Nationalist Economic Summit and Illinois White Nationalist Meet-and-Greet – was in the planning stage for months.

Shawn Thomas Vachet, 40, a former member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance and a moderator on Stormfront who writes there under the name “kayden,” posted invitations to the strategy session and urged supporters to attend. Vachet has drug-related convictions dating back more than 20 years. He has served time in prison and been arrested for a parole violation.

Vachet is also a big supporter and organizer for the so-called Upper Midwest Initiative, which is a plan to entice white Americans to move to five states in the Upper Midwest – South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska – and particularly to the Sioux Falls, S.D., area. As Vachet puts it, the group “helps kinfolk who want to make the move to the ‘Great White North.’” They should “move to an area that has more Whites (sic) than non-whites … and build racially conscious communities,” Vachet says in one Stormfront post.

In recent days, Vachet has faced criticism – and suspicion – from racists online for not attending the event he promoted. He has claimed his vehicle broke down about 90 miles outside of Chicago. On the White Reference forum, a commenter wrote: “I’ve heard something very strange, one of the top organizers of this thing was a guy who goes by the nickname “KAYDEN” over on Stormfront. He is also a honcho in the area NSM. He oddly DIDN’T SHOW UP for his own gathering. Anybody else smell a rat?”

The woman believed to have made the reservation for the luncheon meeting at the Ashford House restaurant identified herself as Beckie Williams to the local press. She goes by the name “sgathaich” on Stormfront. Williams is active in the Council of Conservative Citizens, a hate group formed from the old White Citizens Councils, the Southern white supremacist groups that fought against school desegregation in the 1950s and 1960s.

Mike Winston, co-owner of the Ashford House restaurant, told Hatewatch that Williams lied about the meeting’s purpose, saying it was for an Irish heritage group.

Anti-Racist Action took credit for the attack. About 18 masked attackers allegedly wielded bats and hammers, and threw chairs around, just as the lunch meeting got under way, said police in Tinley Park, Ill. Ten people were injured in the fracas, and five Indiana men were charged Monday for the attack.

Police say they’re still working to identify those who fled.

  • Reynardine

    Aron, “Bamboozle” is the name I gave to a certain plant I kidnapped while out on a nature walk. (I am, after all, bamboozled as to just what species of bamboozle it is)

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    My goodness. You’re right, Rey. I do believe I’ve been bamboozled.

  • Reynardine

    Aron, note his ending. He intended to derail this thread.

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Herman,

    I was trying to neither anger nor embarrass you. I am trying to get a straight answer out of you.

    But since that’s not happening, kindly leave us to our comment section. You haven’t managed to contribute anything meaningful.

  • Herman

    Aron said,

    on June 6th, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Herman,

    “You are a coward. Nothing less. Otherwise you would answer my question.”

    You can neither anger nor embarrass me, Aron. I never take the bait. Never.

    Now then, has this thread been sufficiently derailed that no further discussion regarding the incident in Chicago is to take place? If so…

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Herman,

    You have once again managed to duck my question.

    While it is nice for you to admit to being a white nationalist, I am still waiting to hear your stance on Fascism.

    After all, you were the one who brought up the false Churchill quote equating Fascism with anti-Fascism.

    You are a coward. Nothing less. Otherwise you would answer my question.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Well you can choose to be a loser or choose to be normal I guess.

  • Herman

    Aron said,
    on June 5th, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    And Herman, I’m still waiting for an answer.

    Work your way back through this thread and you will see that my posts are germane to the topic presented in the OP. If the question had been asked, “So, Herman, are you pro-ARA or pro-WN” I would have answered that I’m pro-WN.

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Thanks, Rey! Since Herman’s question is regarded as the ultimate ‘gotcha,’ I simply renamed it after the Mafia’s ‘capo di tutti capi’ or ‘boss of all bosses.’

    One might say that piece of ‘Sh*talian’ was pulled right out of the place it’s most commonly found.

    And Herman, I’m still waiting for an answer.

  • Reynardine

    Aron, where did you get that specimine of sh*talian? I’ve heard assorted pidjins (as well as pigeons), but not that kind.

  • Reynardine

    In fact, I have a feeling our comments get moderated only when someone gets time to come into the back room and check us goldfish.

    I notice, by the way, that since the article about the manosphere was posted, they seem willing to allow us a slightly greater degree of ribaldry. I probably wouldn’t even have to write the number that comes before 70 as LXIX.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    No, you aren’t. I have the same thing happen nearly all the time.

  • Herman

    Am I the only one here who finds “Your comment is awaiting moderation” a pain?

    Talk about interruption of dramatic continuity…jeez!

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Herman,

    I wasn’t trying to be funny. And you managed to duck the question.

    And regarding your gotcha di tutti gatchi I’ve never had a significant other. Right now I’m far too busy for a relationship, and that would make beating them difficult. So try again, please.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    It wouldn’t surprise me if it was a fake quote. White Nationalists love fake quotes.

    And Herman, asking someone if they are pro or anti fascism is not “are you still beating your wife?” The latter is a yes/no question which always turns out negative regardless of how you answer. Asking whether one is this or that provides two answers.

  • Reynardine

    It’s true that Winston Churchill was returned to office for one last time in the post-War period, but a dog of war is not necessarily a parlor companion for a time of peace; though India (including the portions that became West and East Pakistan) had received Dominion status before that, his heavy-handedness and failing health presided over a further noticeable shrinkage in the British Empire. I do not know if he uttered the quote in question; but, damme, it’s wrong.

  • Gregory

    As for Churchill’s quote, has anyone ever seen the original citation? I believe the Churchill Society has gone on record that there is no evidence this can be attributed to him.

  • Herman

    I believe this is where the “Chicago 5″ presently reside:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXhoZCwr6rA

  • Herman

    Aron said,

    on June 2nd, 2012 at 9:20 am

    “So Herman, are you pro- or anti-fascist?”

    So, Aron, do you still beat your significant other?

    See? I, too, can be silly.

  • Herman

    Ruslan Amirkhanov said,

    on June 2nd, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    “Yes Herman, Winston Churchill was getting senile in the latter days of his tenure as Prime Minister. That’s why he was voted out of office before the war ended.”

    Apparently not that senile. 1951 found him, once again, England’s Prime Minister.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Yes Herman, Winston Churchill was getting senile in the latter days of his tenure as Prime Minister. That’s why he was voted out of office before the war ended.

  • Reynardine

    Incidentally, Gregory, in the UK, a white construction worker was evidently arrested for miscegenation with a Henry Hoover shop vac, which was red, with a face painted on. I’ve never seen a white vacuum cleaner, which means they are off limits for WNs.

    (Note: at least the outcome was not fatal).

  • Reynardine

    But Winston was wrong. They called themselves anti-Communists, just like the fascists of the past.

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    So Herman, are you pro- or anti-fascist?