A retrospective of Hate Incidents and Groups in the 1900s

The Decade in Review

1994
The Militia Movement Takes Off

January In a bid to spur trade and economic growth, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is implemented. One result is a loss of American jobs to Mexico and other countries as manufacturers shift production to lower-wage markets.

Within three years, a study by the advocacy group Public Citizen will find, some 500,000 U.S. jobs have been lost and downward wage pressure is affecting millions more.

NAFTA and other international economic pacts are deeply resented by radical rightists, among others, who see them as evidence of the growing power of a global elite, or "New World Order."

Jan. 1 The Militia of Montana (MOM), the first major modern militia, is officially inaugurated in Noxon, Mont., although it probably was formed months earlier. It is led by John Trochmann, who earlier created the United Citizens for Justice as a support group for his friend, Randy Weaver.

While many of the militias that will emerge in the next few years do not have clear ties to white supremacists, MOM is a good example of those that do.

Although he will deny it, Trochmann has strong links to the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations group. MOM will soon become known as the "militia superstore" of the movement, selling propaganda, paramilitary manuals and other militia support items nationwide.

Jan. 30 Stanislaus County (Calif.) Court Recorder Karen Mathews, who had angered radicals by refusing to remove a $416,343 IRS lien against one of them, is severely beaten, stabbed and sodomized with a gun in her Modesto garage.

The attack reflects the growing violence of "common-law" adherents — "sovereign citizens" who believe they are exempt from state and federal laws and who are setting up their own vigilante "common-law courts" and filing property liens against their enemies.

"You are a messenger to all the recorders," assailant Roger Steiner warns Mathews. "This could happen to them, too."

April The Michigan Militia, soon to grow into the nation's largest militia group with as many as 6,000 members, is formed by gun shop owner Norm Olson and Ray Southwell.

Although the group will split later over ideological battles between hard- and soft-liners, Michigan will remain a hotbed of militia and white supremacist activism.

April The nation's largest Klan group, Thom Robb's Arkansas-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, ruptures when Ed Novak leaves to create his own, more militant group. The split, to be followed in August by another, reflects the increasing ascendancy of explicitly neo-Nazi ideas on the extreme right as a whole.

It also signals the end of Robb's position as a major extremist leader and the preeminence of his Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

May The Rev. Matthew Trewhella, founder of the militantly anti-abortion Missionaries to the Preborn, calls on churches to form their own militias in a speech to the Wisconsin convention of the U.S. Taxpayers Party.

The talk, in which Trewhella suggests that his listeners buy each of their children "an SKS rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition," marks the increasing convergence and cross-pollination of anti-abortion extremists and other kinds of radical rightists — a trend that will continue through the late 1990s.

June 18 On a luxury boat in the waters off Tampa, Fla., antigovernment extremist Brian Michael Knoff is surreptitiously recorded as he discusses setting up a marijuana smuggling operation through Cuba.

"I'm not in it for my own personal thing," Knoff, a convicted tax evader and common-law ideologue, tells his two partners. "I want to ... help some of the good people."

His comments — referring to his desire to fund and otherwise aid the Patriot antigovernment movement — underline a growing trend of radical rightists engaging in drug-dealing in order to finance the perennially underfunded revolution.

July The Aryan Nations, which had been declining since the early 1990s, hosts its two best attended gatherings of Skinheads and other white supremacists in years. The Aryan Youth Fest, in particular, highlights leader Richard Butler's effort to recruit young Skinheads.

In a single year, Aryan Nations has gone from three to 20 chapters, although in the latter part of the decade it will decline again. Over the course of the 1990s, Butler will name various men to succeed him, but by the end of the decade he will remain in charge.

Aug. 4 Two members of an antigovernment group, the Minnesota Patriots Council, are arrested for manufacturing the deadly toxin ricin. Seven months later, they and two other council members will be convicted of conspiracy to poison law enforcement agents.

The case helps ignite officials' continuing fears of biological and chemical terrorism. In coming years, many more extremists will be found with similar biological agents, although by the end of the 1990s, no major attack using such toxins will be recorded.

Sept. 8 Three self-described bodyguards for Mark Koernke — a Michigan janitor who has emerged this year as a major Patriot propagandist under the alias "Mark from Michigan" — are stopped while driving through Fowlerville, Mich. In the men's car, police find a large number of illegal weapons and notes indicating they were surveilling police.

Although the Patriot movement is little known nationally at the time, events such as this one and reports from watchdog groups soon will raise awareness of violent extremists.

Sept. 19 Linda Thompson, self-appointed "acting adjutant General of the Unorganized Militia of the United States," urges antigovernment Patriots to march under arms on Washington, D.C., to force the repeal of gun control and trade laws and three constitutional amendments.

After heavy criticism from fellow Patriots, the Indianapolis attorney — who made the extremely popular conspiracy video Waco: The Big Lie — withdraws her call for armed insurrection.

By the end of the decade, after her video is discredited as a deceptively edited propaganda film, Thompson will move to Alabama and fade into obscurity.

Sept. 28 In one of the first overt acts of the Oklahoma City bombing conspiracy, Terry Nichols — a man with a history of "common-law" activities who once "renounced" his U.S. citizenship despite having accepted some $90,000 in farm subsidies — helps steal blasting caps and explosives from a Kansas quarry.

In the coming weeks, he will buy thousands of pounds of ammonium nitrate and secretly rent storage sheds before leaving co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh a December letter urging his old Army buddy to "go for it."

Nov. 14 After testifying in favor of an environmental measure in Everett, Wash., a local Audubon Society official is threatened by a militiaman with a noose. Although the incident is minor, it dramatizes the often violent anti-environmentalism of many militia supporters.

Officials from the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Environmental Protection Agency and other state and federal regulatory bodies are regularly threatened, attacked and even targeted with bombs throughout much of the 1990s.