A retrospective of Hate Incidents and Groups in the 1900s

The Decade in Review

1997
Religion, Rock and the Net Fuel the Rage

Jan. 16 Two anti-personnel bombs explode outside an abortion clinic in Sandy Springs, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. Seven people are injured.

Letters signed by the "Army of God" claim responsibility for this attack and another, a month later, at an Atlanta lesbian bar. North Carolinian Eric Rudolph eventually will be charged in both attacks.

Feb. 15 White supremacist brothers Chevie and Cheyne Kehoe engage in a dramatic shootout with police in Wilmington, Ohio, that is captured on police video and broadcast around the nation. Although both men escape uninjured, Cheyne will surrender in June to authorities and turn in his brother, who is hiding out in Utah.

In a 1999 federal conspiracy trial, Chevie and follower Daniel Lee will be sentenced to life and death, respectively, for a 1993-97 terrorist spree meant to help create a whites-only nation. Among their five victims are an entire Arkansas family, including an 8-year-old girl — a grisly torture-murder that starkly illustrates the increasing ruthlessness of revolutionary racists.

March 26 Militia activist Brendon Blasz is arrested in Kalamazoo, Mich., and charged with manufacturing explosives to bomb a federal building in Battle Creek, an IRS building in Portage, a Kalamazoo television station and federal armories. After agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors, Blasz is sentenced to three years in federal prison.

April 9 Authorities in Michigan and Canada simultaneously raid the Detroit offices of white power music label Resistance Records and the Windsor home of Resistance co-founder George Burdi. Although the raids produce only relatively minor tax and illegal propaganda cases, they spark a precipitous decline for Resistance.

America's premier racist label will come back to life in late 1999 when it is acquired by William Pierce.

April 22 Three Ku Klux Klan members are arrested in a plot to blow up a natural gas plant near Fort Worth, Texas. The three, along with a fourth arrested later, expected to kill hundreds of people, including children at a nearby elementary school, as a diversion for a simultaneous armored car robbery.

A chilling FBI videotape captures a Klanswoman saying of the children who would die: "I hate to be that way, but if it has to be... ." All four will plead guilty to conspiracy charges and be sentenced to terms of up to 20 years.

April 23 Florida police arrest Todd Vanbiber, a member of the National Alliance and also of the shadowy League of the Silent Soldier, after he accidentally sets off pipe bombs that he was building.

After Vanbiber is sentenced to more than six years for firearms violations, confederates who are also Alliance members testify that the Vanbiber gang had robbed three banks and then donated at least $2,000 to Alliance boss William Pierce.

May 3 A week-long standoff between Texas police and antigovernment "common-law" separatists ends with the surrender of Republic of Texas leader Richard McLaren and four followers. A day later, another Republic member is killed in a gun battle with police, while one more eludes authorities for four months before being captured near Houston.

The standoff began after members of the group kidnapped a neighbor couple, injuring the man, and highlights the violence associated with common law — as well as law enforcement's increased awareness of this violence.

By spring 1998, an Intelligence Report survey will find that 19 states have acted over three years (1995-98) to pass new laws or strengthen existing ones, and another eight states are then considering legislation, to deal with the rapid spread of common-law activity.

June The U.S. Supreme Court invalidates portions of the Communications Decency Act that sought to regulate "indecent" materials on the Internet.

The decision means the Internet will enjoy the court's strongest free speech protections, ensuring that general hate propaganda — as opposed to specific criminal threats — will not be curbed by the courts.

June 2 Timothy McVeigh is convicted of conspiracy and murder in the Oklahoma City bombing and will be sentenced to death. Later this year, co-conspirator Terry Nichols will also be tried, receiving a sentence of life in prison.

Michael Fortier, who helped case the bomb target, ultimately draws a 12-year sentence after cooperating with the authorities. His wife Lori, who had listened to McVeigh plot the attack in her kitchen, will go free.

Nov. 2 A wave of Skinhead violence hits Denver as Matthaus Jaehnig guns down police officer Bruce Vander Jagt before committing suicide. In the days that follow, a dead pig is dumped at a police substation; another officer is ambushed; and Skinheads Nathan Thill and Jeremiah Barnum murder Oumar Dia, a West African immigrant they encounter at a bus stop.

A few days later, Thill tells a local television station that he killed Dia because he was "wearing the enemy's uniform" — a reference to the victim's black skin.

December Nearly 100 New York City employees — including some corrections officials — are arrested for tax evasion, and another 40 are disciplined, after allegedly using common-law "untaxing" kits to evade taxes.

The case underscores how far antigovernment common-law ideology has spread — even to New York, the kind of cosmopolitan metropolis where such improbable scams are typically seen as taking in only the naive, and even to government officials, who presumably should know better.