The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.
The man reportedly arrested in the aftermath of a shooting spree in Mesa, Ariz., today sports tattoos that identify him as a neo-Nazi. What’s more, a local retired detective says he is a longtime white supremacist skinhead associated with major racist groups.
Ryan Giroux, who allegedly murdered one person and wounded five others earlier today and was arrested after a frenzied manhunt, was released from prison in Arizona in 2013. According to prison records, he has convictions for attempt to commit aggravated assault, marijuana, theft, and second degree burglary. Records indicate that he was sentenced to a total of about 14 years in prison.
The Arizona prison system’s mug shot of Giroux shows his face covered in white supremacist tattoos: where his shaven eyebrows used to be, the words “SKIN” and “HEAD”; and on his left temple, the number “88,” which is neo-Nazi code for Heil Hitler (because H is the 8th letter of the alphabet); and, on his chin, a “Thor’s Hammer,” a symbol used by adherents of Odinism, a pre-Christian faith that has been adopted by many white supremacists.
A retired Mesa Police detective who once infiltrated local skinhead groups told Hatewatch that he knew Giroux from previous encounters, and that Giroux was a member of Hammerskin Nation, a notoriously violent racist skinhead group, and an associate of the Aryan Brotherhood, a national prison gang with a long list of murders to its credit. “He’s a violent guy,” said the former detective, who knew Giroux as a young skinhead in the 1990s and early 2000s . “I think his time in prison contributed to that.”
Giroux, 41, has been in and out of Arizona prisons since 1993, when he was arrested for burglary and marijuana possession. His most recent prison stint, for an attempt to commit aggravated assault, began in 2007 and ended in October 2013.
According to early reports, the rampage apparently began before 9 a.m. at the Tri City Inn, a Mesa motel, when three people were shot in a room by the suspect. One of those, a male, died at the scene; two women in the room were wounded by the shooter.
The suspect then apparently ran across the street to a nearby bistro café and shot a man there. That victim then ran across the street to the motel, where medical personnel had arrived to treat the first victims, and he received treatment there.
The shooter then hijacked a car from a woman at the parking lot of an adjacent technical school and drove down a nearby boulevard for about a mile, and then pulled into a large apartment complex. Once there, he apparently shot and wounded a man outside in the parking lot. He then crossed the street to a nearby apartment and broke into it. The occupant of the apartment he invaded was left unhurt.
About two hours after the rampage began, Mesa police successfully cornered Giroux and captured him with the use of Tasers. He was led away from the scene in a DNA suit designed to preserve evidence on his person.
During the search for Giroux, officials at nearby Adams Elementary School put the school on shutdown, and officials at nearby Pima Medical Center similarly locked down their facility. After his arrest, there was a flood of cars from the area as people who had been put under lockdown fled, and parents arrived to take their children home from the school.
Talking Points Memo: South Dakota gun show vendor sells racist ‘Official Runnin’ Nigger’ targets.
Charlotte Observer: Muslim’s family home targeted by late-night gunfire, woman inside injured.
Right Wing Watch: AFA’s Bryan Fischer claims that discrimination against homosexuality is not discrimination against people.
Raw Story: Texas lawmaker says anti-gay sodomy law is needed for public health, and to stop ‘bestiality.’
AOL: Young Memphis girl’s parents keep her from attending classmate’s birthday party because she is black.
Newsweek: D.C.’s Crime Museum assembles exhibit on domestic terrorism and hate crimes.
AlterNet: Son of Alabama chief justice Roy Moore claims his drug arrest is a liberal plot to destroy his family.
Think Progress: Penn State fraternity suspended after police discovered their repulsive Facebook page featuring unsuspecting women’s nude images.
The Washington Post today published a major story documenting hate groups’ pervasive use of three leading Internet companies to drum up money — an apparently flagrant violation of those companies’ own stated policies on acceptable content. The article was largely based on a series of earlier investigative reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
As the article by Caitlin Dewey notes, the SPLC over the last year has repeatedly contacted PayPal, Amazon, Spotify, among others, about these potential violations without result. While companies like Facebook have been proactive in enforcing their own policies against hate speech, others have remained obstinate. As of January 2015, PayPal alone was servicing over 60 known hate groups – effectively acting as the banking system of the hate movement.
Media Matters: Alex Jones loses it over gun safety PSA, pulls out gun during radio rant.
Pandagon: ‘Pissed Off Rednecks Like Me’ is a flat-out racist song, and no apologetics can hide that.
New York Times: Theocratic evangelicals plan to unleash an army of believers on behalf of Republicans in 2016.
Think Progress: The United States is becoming more tolerant of everyone, except for racists.
AL.com: Alabama chief justice Roy Moore’s son arrested for drug possession.
Talking Points Memo: San Francisco cops being investigated for racist texts proclaiming ‘all niggers must hang.’
WTVM-TV (Auburn, AL): Auburn residents complain after Ku Klux Klan fliers appear in driveways.
Right Wing Watch: Rick Santorum tells conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney that ‘tyrant’ Obama is destroying America.
Editor’s Note: Officials said today that the start of the trial of Chris Simcox had been delayed until Monday, March 23.
One of the great ironies of the now-moribund vigilante border-watch movement is that its members were obsessed with the lawlessness of the immigrant border crossers they sought to apprehend — but themselves often had criminal backgrounds or, worse yet, hid behind their activism to pursue criminal acts.
Exhibit A: Chris Simcox.
Simcox was the co-founder of the Minuteman Project, the April 2005 gathering on the Arizona border of citizen border watchers south of the Tombstone area, where Simcox lived at the time. Originally founded as a border militia, Simcox and his Minutemen became the epitome of the nativist border-watch movement, embodied by a national fund-raising campaign that he led to build a fence on a section of the border as a demonstration project that mostly ended up lining the pockets of his Beltway-based handlers. The movement, which peaked with 319 nativist extremist groups in 2010, had faded to just 19 groups by late last year.
Simcox was a volatile personality with a history of destroyed relationships, and eventually his Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC) shut down amid turmoil within its ranks over finances and egos, as well as the decline of its reputation as the border-watch movement became increasingly associated with criminality.
Simcox himself provided the latest evidence of that association when he was arrested in July 2013 and charged with three counts of child molestation — later reduced to two — after his then-6-year-old daughter and one of her friends, age 5, accused him of sexually assaulting them. If convicted of the felony charges, Simcox could face life in prison.
Simcox goes on trial this week in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix on the charges. (Hatewatch will provide coverage of the trial.) He plans to act as his own attorney in the trial, although he will be required to work through his court-appointed associate attorneys when it comes to cross-examining his two alleged victims.
Simcox’s is hardly the only such case. Seen retrospectively, the border-watch movement was remarkable for the number of its leaders and participants whose careers ended in criminal acts.
Even before Simcox came along with his Minuteman concept, one of the early border-militia organizers who preceded him also had a number of brushes with the law. Casey Nethercott, another Arizona resident, was involved in a border-watch operation called Ranch Rescue at the turn of the century, and he too had a number of criminal legal problems.
Nethercott — who had done prison time in California for assault in the 1990s — and some of his fellow Ranch Rescue members in 2003 assaulted two Salvadoran migrants who had crossed the border on foot and wound up on a ranch where the nativist border watchers operated. The migrants were held at gunpoint, and one of them was pistol-whipped and attacked by a Rottweiler. With the assistance of the SPLC, the migrants sued their attackers and won a million-dollar civil judgment against Ranch Rescue, including $500,000 against Nethercott, who also faced criminal assault charges in the case but eventually had them dismissed.
Nethercott eventually left Ranch Rescue and then began organizing his own border watches at a property he purchased in Arizona. Eventually he had a tense standoff with Border Patrol agents at that property; when FBI agents tried to arrest him for his role in that incident two weeks later, they wound up shooting the white supremacist who was accompanying him at the time.
Indeed, while the phrase “rule of law” even today is often bandied about by the remaining bands of vigilante nativists, the record demonstrates that this was a peculiarly flexible concept for many of the Minutemen and their associates.
Shawna Forde, for example, incorporated the phrase into the logo for her offshoot border-watch operation, Minuteman American Defense. Forde’s operation was widely promoted at the website of Simcox’s Minuteman Project co-founder, Jim Gilchrist; previously, she had been deeply involved in Simcox’s MCDC operations in Washington state.
Then, in June 2009, Forde was arrested and charged with masterminding the horrific murders of a 9-year-old girl and her father in the small Arizona border town of Arivaca, along with a white-supremacist cohort named Jason Eugene Bush and a local man, Albert Gaxiola, as part of her plan to create a border-militia compound. All three were convicted, and Forde and Bush wound up on Arizona’s Death Row.
After the arrests of Forde, Bush and Gaxiola, Forde’s former associates in the Minuteman movement fled from their onetime protégé. National leaders of the Minuteman movement — particularly Simcox and Gilchrist — hastily tried to put distance between themselves and Forde and her group. To this day, Gilchrist tries to claim that he had little to do with her.
But while Forde’s conviction severely damaged the border-watch movement — as one ex-MCDC leader put it, “A lot of people felt, well, you’re a Minuteman, you’re a killer” — that was not the end of it.
In April 2012, one of Forde’s associates in the desert, a Tucson man named Todd Hezlitt, was arrested and charged with two counts of sexual conduct with a minor for an affair he had initiated with a 15-year-old girl from a local high school where he was an assistant wrestling coach. Two months later, he fled with the girl to Mexico, and he briefly became an international fugitive.
A few weeks after that, the girl turned herself in to the American consulate in Mazatlan. Hezlitt was caught a short time later and extradited. He eventually wound up agreeing to plead guilty to the sexual conduct charges in exchange for not being charged with kidnapping, and was sentenced to six years in prison.
Another violent incident from a former border watcher erupted in Arizona in May 2012 when Jason Todd “J.T.” Ready — a longtime leader of the state’s neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, and an organizer of independent NSM border watches in Arizona — went on a shooting rampage at the home of his girlfriend.
Before committing suicide, Ready shot and killed his girlfriend, Lisa Lynn Mederos, 47; her daughter, Amber Nieve Mederos, 23; the daughter’s boyfriend, Jim Franklin Hiott, and Amber’s 15-month-old baby girl, Lilly Lynn Mederos. Investigators later found chemicals and military-grade munitions that apparently belonged to Ready at the residence.
As Tim Steller at the Arizona Daily Star observed: “Undoubtedly, there have been border-militia members in Arizona who have carried out citizen patrols without harboring racist motives or having criminal tendencies. The problem for the movement … is that people with these motives or tendencies have cropped up repeatedly among citizen border-watchers.”
In early March, a package filled with grief and pride was left on the doorstep of Tracy Jahr and her spouse, Jacquie Gilmore. Wrapped in cardboard and plastic, the package weighed nearly 20 pounds. The women had been waiting for it for years.
Inside was a bronze grave marker that read: “Michael Brett Roark US Army Dec 23 1991 + Dec 6 2011 Cavalry Scout.”
“At first I was angry when I saw it,” Jahr told Hatewatch last week from her home in Washington State. “I was flabbergasted. I felt, really, after all this time. The Army has been dragging its feet from the beginning. That’s why the kids are dead. But at least the marker is some recognition, recognition that Michael was a soldier. He wanted to be a one since he was a little boy.”
Roark was Jahr’s son and, like any parent, she worried she might never see him alive again when he joined the Army. The war on terror was raging overseas.
Her worst fears were realized two and a half weeks shy of her son’s 20th birthday when he was lured into an ambush, forced to his knees and shot in the head by terrorists. But he was not killed in the dusty streets of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan. Roark was killed in the Georgia woods, along with his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York, by a group of domestic terrorists, a renegade band of American soldiers, jacked up on drugs, PTSD nightmares and delusional plans to overthrow the government of the United States.
The killer soldiers have all been held to account, the ringleaders sentenced to life in prison for murdering the young sweethearts to keep the group’s plans secret. But Jahr and the family of York say it is time – past time – for the Army to also be held to account for allowing the homegrown terrorists to organize and grow right before its eyes, on the Fort Stewart military base, into a deadly antigovernment militia called FEAR. The group was led by a troubled but charismatic 19-year-old Pvt. Isaac Aguigui.
The families are suing the United States, arguing that Army commanders should have – and could have on numerous occasions – intervened in FEAR’s activities long before their children were killed in what the suit describes as “a heartbreakingly preventable tragedy.”
A few days after her son’s grave marker arrived, Jahr learned that a federal judge in Seattle had set a July 2016 trial date for the civil wrongful death lawsuit, which, in chilling detail, claims that “Army officials recklessly allowed FEAR to form and fester within its ranks at Fort Stewart, Georgia, despite abundant signs that Pvt. Aguigui and his cohorts were dangerous and mentally unstable soldiers in desperate need of arrest and treatment.”
In court papers, lawyers for the government replied to the suit, maintaining, “[T]he United States denies said allegations and puts the Plaintiffs to their proof.”
A First Murder Missed
Jahr and her ex-husband, Brett Roark, with the parents of York, Brenda Thomas and Thomas’ ex-husband, Timothy York, allege in their lawsuit that the most significant failure by the Army in preventing the wrongful death of their children “was also the most shocking.”
On July 17, 2011 – almost six months before Roark and York were killed – Aguigui murdered his wife, Sgt. Deirdre Aguigui, who was six months pregnant at the time. He strangled her in their home on Fort Stewart. Even before her death, the suit contends, “The Army was aware that Isaac and Deirdre Aguigui had a violent and troubled marriage.” Just three months before she died, according to the lawsuit, the sergeant went to see Fort Stewart’s lead advocate for victims of domestic violence and reported that she was “the victim of physical and verbal abuse by her husband, Pvt. Aguigui.”
“Like the murders of Roark and York,” the suit claims, “this was a preventable tragedy that should not have occurred.”
At the time of her death, the lawsuit says, “Sgt. Aguigui’s body showed signs of a struggle, including more than twenty bruises and scrapes on her wrists, arms, head, back and inside her mouth, as well as signs of a sexual assault.”
Army investigators initially suspected foul play. But when an autopsy, conducted by what the suit characterizes as an inexperienced military medical examiner, proved inconclusive as to the cause of death, Aguigui was not charged and the Army soon paid him more than $500,000 in military death benefits.
Aguigui used the money to fund FEAR, which stands for, “Forever Enduring, Always Ready.” ( continue to full post… )
Think Progress: Response to racist video incident at Oklahoma underscores how athletics shapes perceptions of race on campuses.
Salon: How the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to widen America’s racial wealth gap.
Talking Points Memo: University of Maryland officials investigate racist, misogynist email sent out by fraternity member.
New York Daily News: Man slashed across throat in apparent Queens hate crime as attacker yelled anti-white slurs.
Right Wing Watch: AFA’s Bryan Fischer warns that people speaking languages other than English is a sign of God’s judgment.
AlterNet: Why white people freak out when they’re called out about race.
Raw Story: Michigan pastor tells congregation that being gay is an ‘abomination’ similar to being an ‘ax murderer.’
Media Matters: Syndicated radio host Michael Berry claims that white people don’t kill people the way black people do.
Editors’ Note: This essay was published in the Spring 2015 issue of the Intelligence Report.
The traditional, organized American radical right, which was swollen enormously by Barack Obama’s 2008 election and the near-simultaneous collapse of the economy, shrank significantly in 2014 for the second year in a row. The rapidly falling numbers of both hate and antigovernment “Patriot” groups seem to have been driven by a strengthening economy, continuing crackdowns by law enforcement, and an accelerated movement of radicals out of groups and into the anonymity, safety and far-reaching communicative power of the Internet.
The decline of the organized radical right came against a background of increasing losses for extremists. On the one hand, the advance of same-sex marriage, racial and religious diversity, and intolerance toward those with openly racist views has made life more difficult for those on the extreme right. On the other, the highly successful infiltration into the political mainstream of many radical-right ideas about Muslims, immigrants, black people and others have stolen much of the fire of the extremists, as more prominent figures co-opt these parts of their program.
There is also evidence that large numbers of extremists have left organized groups because of the high social cost of being known to affiliate with them. Many of those people apparently now belong to no group, but operate instead mainly on the Internet, where they can offer their opinions anonymously and easily find others who agree with them — and where they can be heard by huge numbers of people without the hassles, dues and poor leadership associated with membership in most groups. At the same time, those with violent criminal inclinations are increasingly opting to act as lone wolves or in very small cells, not connected to organized larger groups, which is another, smaller factor in the decline of these groups.
Specifically, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual count found that hate groups declined by 17% between 2013 and 2014, from 939 to 784 groups, bringing that number to its lowest level since 2005. Patriot groups, which are animated by a series of conspiracy theories about the alleged evils of the federal government, fell even faster, to 874 groups from a 2012 peak of 1,360 groups. In just the last year, the number of Patriot groups declined by 20%, from 1,096 groups to 874.
But those numbers may be somewhat deceiving. More than half of the decline in hate groups was of Ku Klux Klan chapters, and many of those have apparently gone underground, ending public communications, rather than disbanding.
In any event, as the movement to the Internet suggests, the importance of organized radical groups is declining for a number of reasons. In an age where ever more people are congregating on the Web and in social media, the radical right is doing the same. With almost no charismatic leaders on the scene, there is little to attract radicals to join groups when they can broadcast their opinions across the world via the Internet and at the same time remain anonymous if they wish. And an enormous sector of the extreme right — the “sovereign citizens” movement, made up of as many as 300,000 people who do not believe the federal government has any authority over them — is not organized into groups at all.
Salon: How racist frat boys get away with it: Big money and the real Sigma Alpha Epsilon scandal.
Indiana Daily Student: White supremacist Traditional Youth Network protests appearance by anti-racist author Tim Wise.
Media Matters: Univision swiftly fires host who suggests Michelle Obama looks like a cast member of ‘Planet of the Apes.’
Talking Points Memo: Ku Klux Klan leader takes jabs at CNN’s Don Lemon in bizarre interview.
Think Progress: How the transatlantic network of hate feeds Islamophobia in both Europe and the United States.
News Tribune (Tacoma, WA): Trial under way for Tacoma white supremacists accused killing comrade.
Right Wing Watch: Franklin Graham says President Obama’s mother ‘must have been a Muslim.’
Pink News: New York hate group ‘church’ hit with violations for installing anti-gay sign without permission.
Raw Story: South Carolina lawmaker suggests a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage to help ‘propagation of our species.’
The American Freedom Party (AFP) has a ticket for the 2016 presidential election. And its message is The Mantra.
Kenn Gividen of Indiana, a former Libertarian candidate for governor of Indiana in 2004, will run for president, while Robert Whitaker, an aging segregationist with a history of drug abuse, will run for vice president. The announcement was made on Jamie Kelso’s Stormfront radio program on Sunday.
Despite the bizarre reality that Gividen and Whitaker claim they will run separate campaigns, the ticket has already excited the racist right, in no small part because of Whitaker’s role in drafting The Mantra.
A 221-word attack on multiculturalism peppered with cries of “white genocide,” The Mantra has grown wildly popular on the racist right, with sections appearing on banners hanging from Interstate overpasses and on billboards. Even Craig Cobb, who tried to take over a small North Dakota town several years ago, painted it on his house.
Undoubtedly, that fame has helped drive AFP’s decision to pick Whitaker as a candidate.
A self-professed “genius,” Whitaker has a history in politics, though a dubious one. While he claims on his blog to have been the message man in the Reagan administration responsible for crushing communism, bringing down the Berlin Wall and saving the Hubble Space Telescope, Whitaker is closer to a hard-drinking grandfatherly Forest Gump. He once claimed to have an amphetamine habit that dropped his IQ to 100.
“I’m running for vice president because I know a lot about vice,” Whitaker said in an audio interview about his candidacy posted to his Website.
His bumbling demeanor aside, Whitaker’s intended candidacy has already generated widespread excitement in white supremacist circles, with many pledging their full support to Whitaker and his followers, who refer to themselves individually as “BUGSERS” and collectively as the “SWARM.”
“With Bob at the helm and his hardened foot soldiers willing to Work [sic], this new playing field is a great opportunity to bring our White Genocide message to new heights,” wrote a user identified as Laura on Whitaker’s website. “Coach, you’re not alone anymore, You [sic] have a whole cavalry with you now.”
And he might need it.
In his interview, Whitaker wasn’t sure if what he was doing was even legal in some states, and he told his interviewer several times that they could visit “library information services” at a local college in Columbia, S.C. to find out if it was. “Unless we want to look it up on the Kindle,” Whitaker added.
Although Whitaker and AFP both share white nationalist views, they have never worked together this closely before.
Gividen recently joined AFP’s leadership as a director. His personal website, DailyKenn.com, focuses heavily on discussing black-on-white crime, writing articles such as “Black History They Don’t Want You To Know.” In that article, Gividen states that beating black slaves in the South was “extremely uncommon,” along with a litany of revisionist history surrounding the antebellum South.
But Gividen is perfectly clear about his own racist positions. “Of course I’m pro-White. And you should also be as well.” His website includes links to videos of well-known white nationalists such as Jared Taylor and Virginia Abernathy, who was AFP’s vice presidential candidate in 2012 alongside presidential candidate, Merlin Miller, a filmmaker with a well-documented history of anti-Semitic and white supremacist views. The pair received only 2,307 votes with ballot access in Colorado, New Jersey, and Tennessee.
The Gividen-Whitaker ticket, however, marks a significant change in the profile the party is seeking to project. Gividen has fared poorly in his own campaigns, but he has some experience. Coupled with Whitaker’s proven ability to mobilize a somewhat sizeable, grassroots base, the ticket represents a disconcerting reminder of how popular the Mantra has become.
As Stormfront Radio host “TruckRoy” told “Laura” after Whitaker’s announcement, “This candidacy could be huge for the Mantra.”