Aryan Nations Members Meet for 25th Congress
The old Echo Theater on the courthouse square in Laurens, S.C., is now dubbed the World Famous Redneck Shoppe. It's crammed with racist memorabilia, from cheap Confederate flag flip-flops and bikinis, to T-shirts that announce, "Ain't Racist, Just Never Met a Nigger I Liked." The shop's operator, John Howard, boasts that he's been a "member of the Ku Klux Klan for 40-some years."
On Sept. 16, the Redneck Shoppe was packed with avowed racists from across the nation and even Europe -- a "unity" gathering sponsored by Aryan Nations.
As the boisterous convention drew to a close, a black child, maybe 8 years old, rode past the Echo.
Howard, pointing a stubby finger at the kid, loudly sneered: "There's a nigger there I'd like to hang."
Snorts and hoots and hollerin' greeted Howard's invitation to a child lynching. One fellow in tattered overalls slapped his thigh and began an exaggerated pantomime of pulling a rope.
Oddly enough, the 24-hour orgy of racism billed as Aryan Nations' 25th World Congress began the night before with a love story.
On Friday evening, "Senior Pastor" Jonathan Williams, the leader of Aryan Nations, married an Alabama couple. The bride, Carrie, wore appropriately Aryan tattoos and a beige gown. The groom, Joseph Frieda, sported the powder-blue uniform shirt of Aryan Nations. The ceremony was the conventional "I do" ritual -- conventional if you ignored Williams' bodyguard standing stage right dressed in ebony Klan robes and a towering black hood.
Beaming after the nuptials, Williams ended the ceremony with an enthusiastic swinging-arm Nazi salute. "Heil Hitler!" "Heil Hitler!" exclamations softly rippled through the 20 well-wishers.