Nationalist Socialist Movement Building a Juggernaut

The National Socialist Movement, once a forgotten bit player on the fringe of the American Radical Right, is building a juggernaut.

In downtown Toledo anti-racist protesters gathered for a confrontation.
(Jim West)

End of the Rope

A cold wind blew fiercely as Hal Turner threatened to lynch blacks and Hispanics in his speech outside Toledo's City Hall. "This is a message to the criminal subculture in the black and Hispanic community: We in the white community are at the end of our rope and we're here to tell you that the end of a rope will not be a nice place to be if these problems continue. White people have a very nasty version of street justice. If these crime problems are not settled by the black and Hispanic communities, rest assured we will get our ropes and we will solve them for you."

It was big talk from a small man protected by hundreds of police officers. The 63 Nazis and other white supremacists who rallied in downtown Toledo on Dec. 10 were separated from a crowd of about 170 anti-Nazi demonstrators and 50 journalists by a four-lane street with a wide, landscaped median. Mounted police and riot squads formed impenetrable lines on both sides of the street. A four-square-block area surrounding One Government Plaza had been sealed off the night before. Anyone looking to attend the rally who was not with the NSM had to first be searched and pass through a metal detector at one of two pedestrian-only access points. Then they had to stand and be videotaped. Some officers even asked individuals to state their name to the camera before allowing them into the protest pen (see story on the legality of this practice).

Malfunctioning public address systems are as much a tradition at NSM rallies as swastika banners, and Toledo proved no exception. The PA stopped working entirely halfway through the hour-long rally (according to the NSM Web site, the batteries died from the cold; apparently, no one brought extras). Using a bullhorn, the last three speakers were impossible to hear across the street over the anti-Nazis chanting, "Die, Nazis, Die!" "Nazis suck!" and "Red rover, red rover, send Bill White on over." Police made 30 rally-related arrests that day. Several of those taken into custody were NSM sympathizers, including a woman wearing a camouflage jacket and a Santa Claus hat who was arrested after she allegedly tried to start a fight with anti-Nazis. A second Nazi sympathizer making positive comments about the NSM to a television news crew was surrounded by anti-Nazis who jeered her, spat on her, and threw horse feces in her face.

After the December rally, the Nazis celebrated at a Mexican restaurant. They celebrated free speech, free publicity, and free police protection. They toasted a future strategy based on more of the same.

Writing on the Wall

The first NSM action of 2006 took place Jan. 22 in Olympia, Wash. Sixteen white supremacists representing the NSM's newly formed Seattle unit gathered in a parking lot across the street from The Olympian newspaper to protest "White genocide through multiculturalism." They were outnumbered nearly 20 to one by counter-protesters. "The few cops soon became unable to control the commie scum," the NSM Web site reported later. "All of our people got home safely but most had to be escorted out in the back seat of police cars to keep us from defending ourselves." There were no arrests, though police briefly detained one protester for throwing glitter on the Nazis.

Later in January, the NSM announced plans to rally in Lansing, Mich., in April, and again in Olympia on July 4. On Feb. 25, the NSM was joined by members of National Vanguard, White Revolution, Aryan Nations and Hammerskin Nation for a "march against black crime" in Orlando, Fla. "The situation for white citizens in Orlando is intolerable," fliers proclaimed.

But it's the attention-grabbing antics of the NSM that some other white supremacist leaders are finding intolerable. "The NSM should not be encouraged, they should be ridiculed and ostracized," fumed White Revolution lieutenant Ben Vinyard, a former National Alliance activist apparently frustrated by his own latest group's ineffectiveness. Vinyard may also have been recalling the views of National Alliance founder William Pierce, who shortly before his death in 2002 mocked other neo-Nazis for being lowbrow, infamously branding them "freaks and weaklings."

But Vinyard and other neo-Nazis who honor Pierce's hard-line elitism seem to be fighting a losing battle against the NSM's knack for hype, its brazen image, and its unusual openness to joining forces with other racist groups. Considering the NSM's snowballing momentum, it seems the freaks and weaklings have taken over a major piece of America's white supremacist movement, at least for now.

"White Revolution really petered out about a year after it was founded," White boasted in January. "The National Alliance has already gone the same way. Those who are still hanging on affiliated with National Vanguard should see the writing on the wall, and the Klan has been in tatters for decades now. The National Socialist Movement is the future. We have the activists."