The city of Portland, Ore., has honored an Ethiopian student whose brutal murder sparked a Southern Poverty Law Center lawsuit that destroyed the White Aryan Resistance (WAR) hate group.
Portland declared Nov. 12, 2008, the "Day of Recognition for Mulugeta Seraw." Seraw was murdered in Portland 20 years ago by a racist skinhead gang organized by WAR. The city established the day to honor Seraw's memory, recognize Portland's progress and continue efforts to combat hate crimes and discrimination.
"[S]ince the tragedy of Mulugeta Seraw's murder Portland has become more vigilant, resilient and proactive in creating an inclusive city where every human being is welcome to live, work, play, and worship in a safe environment," the proclamation signed by Mayor Tom Potter states.
The city has created an Office of Human Relations and a Human Rights Commission charged with eliminating bigotry and discrimination.
The SPLC sued WAR following the brutal 1988 attack, claiming the group and its leader, Tom Metzger, were responsible. Metzger had sent a WAR recruiter to Portland to organize a skinhead gang. After being trained in WAR's methods, the gang killed Seraw in a random attack. Metzger praised the skinheads for doing their "civic duty."
A jury awarded $12.5 million in damages to Seraw's family in 1990. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review an appeal in 1994, allowing SPLC attorneys to begin distributing funds from the sale of WAR's assets to Seraw's son, the verdict's principal beneficiary.