A retrospective of Hate Incidents and Groups in the 1900s

The Decade in Review

With Waco, the Poison Spreads

Feb. 28 In a disastrous raid, four federal agents and several cult members are killed in a firefight that breaks out when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms storms the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas.

The raid, to serve a search warrant for illegal weapons, follows by a day the publication of a major local newspaper story headlined "The Sinful Messiah" that describes the Davidian cult led by David Koresh. The 51-day standoff that follows the raid will rivet the attention of the nation.

March 10 In the first murder of an abortion provider in the United States, Dr. David Gunn is shot to death outside a Pensacola, Fla., clinic by activist Michael Griffin. Shortly before Griffin's trial, anti-abortion activist Paul Hill circulates a statement describing such murders as "justifiable homicide" that is eventually signed by 33 other prominent abortion opponents.

In 1994, Hill will follow his own advice, murdering a doctor and his escort in Pensacola. He will also describe himself as a "Phineas Priest," language taken from the racist right.

The killings mark a hardening of one wing of the anti-abortion movement and the concomitant weakening of "mainstream" groups like Operation Rescue.

April 19 The FBI, which has taken over the Davidian siege, tries to end the standoff by using armored vehicles to inject tear gas into the Waco compound, where more than 20 children and almost 70 other Davidians are holed up.

Fire breaks out during the operation, and some 80 Davidians die in a televised conflagration that is seen around the world.

Despite strong evidence that the Davidians started the fire themselves — including audiotapes from listening devices smuggled into the compound — hundreds of thousands of Americans come to believe that it was the intentional work of federal agents.

More than any other event of the 1990s, the Waco debacle fuels the growth of the radical right, which portrays the fire as proof that the federal government is willing to murder any who dare to dissent.

"The [militia] movement was conceived at Ruby Ridge in 1992, [and] given birth on April 19, 1993, at Waco," a 1997 article in Modern Militiaman magazine declares.

May 20 The Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan — the nation's largest, most violent Klan group — is forced to disband, destroy its membership lists, give up all its assets and pay $37,500 to a group of civil rights marchers who were attacked in 1987 by a Klan-led mob in Georgia.

The case, brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, signals the end of the old, hard-line Klan. Future Klan groups will often attempt to appear more moderate.

June 11 The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upholds the constitutionality of the most widely used type of hate crime law, a penalty enhancement statute. In Wisconsin v. Mitchell, the court rejects the notion that the law punishes thought or violates the First Amendment.

The case involves a black man whose sentence was doubled because his beating of a white youth was racially motivated. The high court's decision clears the way for the widespread use and enforcement of hate crime penalty enhancement statutes.

July 8 In a decision widely seen as a stinging rebuke to federal law enforcement, a jury acquits Randy Weaver and another man of murdering a U.S. marshal during the 11-day standoff at Weaver's Ruby Ridge, Idaho, home.

The trial produces evidence that the FBI altered its normal rules of engagement to allow snipers to fire on unarmed people, a change that apparently resulted in the killing of Weaver's wife by an FBI sniper.

Ultimately, it is shown that some key FBI officials destroyed evidence to cover up this fact.

Aug. 6 Twenty years after founding the neo-Nazi Church of the Creator (COTC), Ben Klassen, now 75, commits suicide by swallowing four bottles of sleeping pills. The group Klassen leaves behind has no effective leader and quickly falls into disarray. Over the next year, COTC will virtually disappear, only making a comeback later in the decade.

October Taking a cue from the well-established racist music scene in Europe, veteran Canadian hate monger and band leader George Burdi helps found Resistance Records to record and distribute white power rock 'n' roll.

Burdi and co-founder Mark Wilson, both former COTC leaders, establish the business in Detroit to avoid Canada's strict hate crime laws.

Within a few years, Resistance is distributing an estimated 50,000 CDs and tapes a year. But after Burdi's conviction in an assault is upheld by an appeals court in 1997, the enterprise will go into a tailspin. It will be brought back to life in late 1999.

November Khallid Abdul Muhammad, senior aide to Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Louis Farrakhan, gives an address at a New Jersey college vilifying whites, Jews, Catholics, Arabs, gay men and lesbians and even some blacks.

In white-ruled South Africa, he suggests, "we kill everything white. ... We kill the women. We kill the children. We kill the babies. We kill the cripples. ... We kill them all."

Farrakhan weakly rebukes Muhammad after two months of heavy criticism. In a 1997 press interview, Farrakhan will endorse all the anti-white views of NOI founder Elijah Muhammad.

Echoing the ideology of many white supremacists, NOI's official program describes blacks as God's true chosen people and calls for a separate nation for blacks and, in the meantime, freedom from all taxation.

November After seven years of congressional battles, the Brady Bill — imposing a five-day waiting period and background checks on handgun purchasers — is signed into law by President Clinton.

The law, along with a September 1994 ban on 19 types of assault weapons, ignites grass-roots opposition in many parts of the country and helps to fuel the nascent militia movement.

Militia ideologues claim Americans have an unfettered right to own guns, despite a series of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that find the Second Amendment was written to ensure the arming of official state militias, not individuals.