Reviewing the 1990s, a decade virtually unprecedented in the history of the American radical right.
The 1990s were a decade that was virtually unprecedented in the history of the American radical right. Standoffs with law enforcement officials at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and near Waco, Texas, helped to ignite the modern militia movement, while the 1995 truck bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City showed the world just how deadly convinced antigovernment zealots could be.
Hate crimes and terrorist attacks grabbed headlines like never before. The Internet became a principal venue of race hatred. Neo-Nazism, once shunned by even hard-line Klansmen as an ideology that their fathers had died fighting, became a central tenet of the white supremacist movement.
Although the extreme right had left a trail of bloodshed across the nation in the 1980s, in the 1990s the pace and severity of radical activity — and of domestic terrorist conspiracies — overshadowed the events of the previous decade.
Here is a retrospective of some of the key events of the 1990s.
The 'New World Order' is Born
March 1 In the first federal civil rights prosecution of neo-Nazi Skinheads, five members of the Confederate Hammerskins are convicted in Dallas of conspiring to violate the rights of blacks, Hispanics and Jews.
Despite the convictions, this small group with others will go on to form the nucleus of Hammerskin Nation — a Skinhead coalition, with thousands of members in both the United States and abroad, that by the end of the decade will become the most far-reaching, best organized and most dangerous Skinhead group known.
April 28 As hate crimes around the nation draw increasing attention, President Bush signs into law the federal Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990, mandating that the FBI compile data collected by the states on crimes motivated by race, ethnic background, religion or sexual orientation.
But, to the dismay of many experts, the law does not require the states and law enforcement agencies to collect hate crime data. As a result of that and other problems in data collection, it will remain impossible to say definitively whether hate crimes are rising or falling.
June 14 Signaling the end of the era of the deadly Posse Comitatus, Posse "national director of counterinsurgency" James Wickstrom is convicted of plotting to distribute counterfeit bills at the 1988 Aryan World Congress, held at the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations' compound in Idaho.
The bitterly racist and anti-Semitic Posse, precursor of the 1990s militia movement, raged through the farm belt for much of the 1970s and 1980s, organizing farmers who faced a severe agricultural crisis and leaving a trail of fraud, violence and murder in its wake. In August, Wickstrom will be sentenced to three years in prison.
Aug. 9 Two Houston Skinheads are charged with murdering a 15-year-old Vietnamese youth, Hung Truong, with a group of other white youths and men.
The senseless brutality of the crime and the victim's final plea for mercy — "Please stop, I'm sorry I ever came to your country. God forgive me!" — underscore the wave of Skinhead violence that at its peak between 1988 and 1993 will leave some 35 people slain.
The number of Skinhead groups will peak in 1991, with 144 organizations detected. Born in England, the Skinhead scene — both racist and anti-racist — had first appeared here in the early 1980s.
Sept. 11 In a speech before a joint session of Congress as the Cold War comes to an end and in the midst of the Gulf crisis, President George Bush says, "Out of these troubled times ... a new world order can emerge... ."
The speech galvanizes many on the extreme right, who see it as a slip of the tongue that reveals federal officials' secret plans to create a "New World Order," or a kind of dictatorial, one-world government.
In 1991, a book by televangelist Pat Robertson, alleging a conspiracy to take over the United States, will add to these fears. The book is entitled The New World Order — a phrase that in short order will be used by virtually all radical right groups to describe their perceived enemy.
Oct. 15 Former Klansman and current Louisiana State Rep. David Duke, who epitomizes the calculated move of many white supremacists from robes to three-piece suits, loses his bid to become a U.S. senator in a Louisiana primary. But he stuns the American political establishment by garnering almost 40% of the vote — some 605,681 ballots, or fully 60% of the white vote.
The results mark the beginning of the mainstreaming of white supremacist ideology, a process that will continue and grow throughout the decade.
Oct 22 A Portland, Ore., jury orders neo-Nazi White Aryan Resistance (WAR) leader Tom Metzger, his son John, their California-based organization and two local Skinheads to pay $12.5 million to the family of an Ethiopian man murdered two years earlier.
Prior to the killing, the Metzgers had sent a recruiter to organize Portland skins as part of a national recruiting effort and to train them in WAR methods; afterward, Tom Metzger praised the killers for having done their "civic duty." The award signals the end of a period in which Tom Metzger had been a leading figure of the extreme right.
The verdict in the case, brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, marks the largest damage award levied in a civil lawsuit to date. The young son of victim Mulugeta Seraw is the chief beneficiary.
Hate Enters the Mainstream
Jan. 23 Two active duty members of the elite Special Forces at Fort Bragg, N.C., a U.S. Postal Service employee and another man are indicted on 16 counts of weapons violations.
The men, alleged members of the white supremacist Knights of the New Order, are said to have been stockpiling a huge cache of stolen military weaponry — including enough explosives to destroy a city block — and planning to attack newspapers, television stations and businesses owned by blacks and Jews.
Over the coming decade, Fort Bragg and the Special Forces will be plagued by similar revelations of active duty extremists.
May 7 A series of cross burnings hits black neighborhoods around Shreveport, La., on the same day that state Klan leader Wayne Pierce reports to officials to begin a four-month term for firearms violations. Pierce and several followers in the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, later plead guilty to conspiracy charges.
The case belies the group's claim to be part of a kinder, gentler Klan, despite actions like Imperial Wizard James Farrands' banning of neo-Nazis and their symbols. Over the year, a clear split becomes evident between Klan groups that publicly take a hard line and others like Thom Robb's Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
"We don't hate anybody," Robb claims repeatedly.
May 17 A "reverend" of the Church of the Creator — a neo-Nazi group started in 1973 by Ben Klassen — kills Harold Mansfield, a black sailor home from the Gulf War, in a Florida parking lot.
The next month, in its Racial Loyalty publication, the group lauds its "activists" in the Jacksonville, Fla., chapter for "exceptional efforts in promoting Creativity [the group's white supremacist ideology] in their area." The case will spark a successful lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center against Klassen's group.
Aug. 29 For the second time in six weeks, a Muskogee, Okla., thrift store is robbed, ending in gunfire and a car chase. After Walter Eliyah Thody is arrested, he tells a reporter that the $52,000 taken in the first robbery is being used to support his white supremacist group, and claims the group will commit armed robberies, kidnappings and assassinations of mainly Jewish "conspirators."
Thody, a convicted counterfeiter, calls his shadowy band the Phineas Priesthood, based on a 1990 book by Richard Kelly Hoskins, Vigilantes of Christendom.
The book describes "Phineas priests" as those who report to no one but feel called by God to carry out terrorist attacks; it will become increasingly important as "lone wolf" attacks grow more common.
In 1992, Thody will be sentenced to life in prison.
Oct. 19 Running a close second in a crowded field, David Duke, aided by former Klan members and other white supremacist activists, takes enough votes in his bid for Louisiana governor to force a run-off with former Gov. Edwin Edwards. Duke will lose the run-off, but garner almost 700,000 votes and come within two percentage points of Edwards.
December The National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group based in West Virginia and headed by former physics professor William Pierce, begins broadcasting a short-wave radio program entitled "American Dissident Voices." The program soon is carried by several AM stations and, later, by FM stations around the country.
By the latter part of the decade, extreme right talk shows will be heard on at least 366 AM, 40 FM and seven short-wave stations. World Wide Christian Radio, a 100,000-watt station in Nashville, Tenn., is a chief example of the large stations involved.
On short-wave alone, monitors report an explosion of radical right programming, from five hours per week in 1990 to 238.5 hours per week by early 1998.
An Idaho Standoff Ignites the Right
February Notorious former Klansman Louis Beam, writing in his newsletter The Seditionist, calls for "leaderless resistance" — cells of a few men who report to no one — in a bid to protect extremist groups from law enforcement infiltrators. The concept is quickly picked up by the radical right, and will be endorsed at the Estes Park conference held later this year.
In the coming years, a number of small groups will take Beam's advice. "It is the duty of every patriot," Beam writes in his essay, "to make the tyrant's life miserable."
April 18 Capping a local wave of Skinhead attacks on street people, a homeless black man is stabbed to death by three neo-Nazi skins in Birmingham, Ala., just hours after one of them attended a rally hosted by former Klansman Bill Riccio.
At around the same time, three Riccio associates are also arrested, two on weapons charges and a third for alleged sodomy of a teenager.
In August, Riccio, who as "national director" of the Birmingham-based Aryan National Front (ANF) heads up a coalition of Skinhead groups, is arrested on firearms and explosives charges and ultimately pleads guilty to violating a federal bodyguard statute.
Riccio, already a three-time felon convicted of various weapons charges, will be sentenced to almost four years, effectively wrecking the ANF.
June After leading the radical right's foray into free cable access television — an effort that began in 1984 — White Aryan Resistance (WAR) leader Tom Metzger's propaganda efforts reach a peak. His white supremacist "Race and Reason" cable show is now airing in 62 cities in 21 states, a number that will soon drop off as the Internet grows more important.
July Worried that his Church of the Creator (COTC) is about to be sued over the 1991 murder of a black sailor in Florida, a beleaguered Ben Klassen sells most of his Otto, N.C., COTC compound to William Pierce of the neo-Nazi National Alliance for $100,000. Pierce quickly resells the land, turning an $85,000 profit.
Ultimately, the Southern Poverty Law Center will win a $1 million default judgment from COTC in the murder and an $85,000 judgment against Pierce because he engaged in a scheme to hide COTC's assets.
Aug. 31 White supremacist Randy Weaver surrenders to law enforcement officers outside his cabin atop Ruby Ridge, Idaho, ending an 11-day standoff that resulted in the deaths of a federal marshal and Weaver's wife and 14-year-old son.
During the standoff, which stems from Weaver's failure to appear on illegal weapons charges, crowds of neo-Nazi Skinheads and other white supremacists had gathered at the foot of the mountain to denounce law enforcement officials.
After federal agents' killing of Weaver's wife and son become known, the incident galvanizes the radical right, which characterizes the incident as typical of what happens to anyone who dares to deviate from political orthodoxy.
In the late 1990s, Weaver will settle a wrongful death suit against the federal government for $3.1 million.
Oct. 23 Pete Peters, a leading pastor of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity religion, convenes a gathering of 160 white "Christian men" to plan a response to the Ruby Ridge incident.
The Estes Park, Colo., meeting is attended by neo-Nazis, Klansmen and more "moderate" rightists such as Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America, and will shape the contours of the modern militia movement.
In a key speech, Louis Beam describes the Weavers as victims of "the tender mercies of a government gone mad," and calls upon his listeners to put aside doctrinal and even racial differences. Indeed, the militias that will emerge in the coming years de-emphasize racism in favor of anti-federalism.
November Anti-gay initiatives appear on two statewide ballots, failing in Oregon but passing in Colorado. Gay rights organizations in those states and others, where local communities are voting on similar measures, report a steep increase in homophobic hate crime during the run-up to the votes.
Of the 29 states that by this year have passed hate crime laws, 18 include language about bias based on sexual orientation.
Dec. 30 In a case that brings wide attention to the fact that hate crimes are perpetrated by all races, a white Charleston, S.C., woman is abducted, raped, tortured and killed by a group of six black men.
A document is later found advocating attacks on whites, and two suspects reportedly tell police the murder is a payback for "400 years of oppression."
More than 200 black churches respond with memorial services for Melissa McLauchlin, 25.
With Waco, the Poison Spreads
Feb. 28 In a disastrous raid, four federal agents and several cult members are killed in a firefight that breaks out when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms storms the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas.
The raid, to serve a search warrant for illegal weapons, follows by a day the publication of a major local newspaper story headlined "The Sinful Messiah" that describes the Davidian cult led by David Koresh. The 51-day standoff that follows the raid will rivet the attention of the nation.
March 10 In the first murder of an abortion provider in the United States, Dr. David Gunn is shot to death outside a Pensacola, Fla., clinic by activist Michael Griffin. Shortly before Griffin's trial, anti-abortion activist Paul Hill circulates a statement describing such murders as "justifiable homicide" that is eventually signed by 33 other prominent abortion opponents.
In 1994, Hill will follow his own advice, murdering a doctor and his escort in Pensacola. He will also describe himself as a "Phineas Priest," language taken from the racist right.
The killings mark a hardening of one wing of the anti-abortion movement and the concomitant weakening of "mainstream" groups like Operation Rescue.
April 19 The FBI, which has taken over the Davidian siege, tries to end the standoff by using armored vehicles to inject tear gas into the Waco compound, where more than 20 children and almost 70 other Davidians are holed up.
Fire breaks out during the operation, and some 80 Davidians die in a televised conflagration that is seen around the world.
Despite strong evidence that the Davidians started the fire themselves — including audiotapes from listening devices smuggled into the compound — hundreds of thousands of Americans come to believe that it was the intentional work of federal agents.
More than any other event of the 1990s, the Waco debacle fuels the growth of the radical right, which portrays the fire as proof that the federal government is willing to murder any who dare to dissent.
"The [militia] movement was conceived at Ruby Ridge in 1992, [and] given birth on April 19, 1993, at Waco," a 1997 article in Modern Militiaman magazine declares.
May 20 The Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan — the nation's largest, most violent Klan group — is forced to disband, destroy its membership lists, give up all its assets and pay $37,500 to a group of civil rights marchers who were attacked in 1987 by a Klan-led mob in Georgia.
The case, brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, signals the end of the old, hard-line Klan. Future Klan groups will often attempt to appear more moderate.
June 11 The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upholds the constitutionality of the most widely used type of hate crime law, a penalty enhancement statute. In Wisconsin v. Mitchell, the court rejects the notion that the law punishes thought or violates the First Amendment.
The case involves a black man whose sentence was doubled because his beating of a white youth was racially motivated. The high court's decision clears the way for the widespread use and enforcement of hate crime penalty enhancement statutes.
July 8 In a decision widely seen as a stinging rebuke to federal law enforcement, a jury acquits Randy Weaver and another man of murdering a U.S. marshal during the 11-day standoff at Weaver's Ruby Ridge, Idaho, home.
The trial produces evidence that the FBI altered its normal rules of engagement to allow snipers to fire on unarmed people, a change that apparently resulted in the killing of Weaver's wife by an FBI sniper.
Ultimately, it is shown that some key FBI officials destroyed evidence to cover up this fact.
Aug. 6 Twenty years after founding the neo-Nazi Church of the Creator (COTC), Ben Klassen, now 75, commits suicide by swallowing four bottles of sleeping pills. The group Klassen leaves behind has no effective leader and quickly falls into disarray. Over the next year, COTC will virtually disappear, only making a comeback later in the decade.
October Taking a cue from the well-established racist music scene in Europe, veteran Canadian hate monger and band leader George Burdi helps found Resistance Records to record and distribute white power rock 'n' roll.
Burdi and co-founder Mark Wilson, both former COTC leaders, establish the business in Detroit to avoid Canada's strict hate crime laws.
Within a few years, Resistance is distributing an estimated 50,000 CDs and tapes a year. But after Burdi's conviction in an assault is upheld by an appeals court in 1997, the enterprise will go into a tailspin. It will be brought back to life in late 1999.
November Khallid Abdul Muhammad, senior aide to Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Louis Farrakhan, gives an address at a New Jersey college vilifying whites, Jews, Catholics, Arabs, gay men and lesbians and even some blacks.
In white-ruled South Africa, he suggests, "we kill everything white. ... We kill the women. We kill the children. We kill the babies. We kill the cripples. ... We kill them all."
Farrakhan weakly rebukes Muhammad after two months of heavy criticism. In a 1997 press interview, Farrakhan will endorse all the anti-white views of NOI founder Elijah Muhammad.
Echoing the ideology of many white supremacists, NOI's official program describes blacks as God's true chosen people and calls for a separate nation for blacks and, in the meantime, freedom from all taxation.
November After seven years of congressional battles, the Brady Bill — imposing a five-day waiting period and background checks on handgun purchasers — is signed into law by President Clinton.
The law, along with a September 1994 ban on 19 types of assault weapons, ignites grass-roots opposition in many parts of the country and helps to fuel the nascent militia movement.
Militia ideologues claim Americans have an unfettered right to own guns, despite a series of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that find the Second Amendment was written to ensure the arming of official state militias, not individuals.
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.
Mass Murder Comes to the Heartland
Feb. 26 Two neo-Nazi Skinheads are arrested after stabbing and bludgeoning to death their mother, father and 11-year-old brother in Allentown, Pa. — the ultimate Skinhead nightmare of violence.
Bryan Freeman, 17, and his brother David, 16, along with their cousin Nelson Birdwell III, are associated with Mark Thomas, a neo-Nazi who was named Pennsylvania state leader of the Aryan Nations just six months earlier.
The case will soon be seen as a gruesome example of the influence of older hate mongers on the young. An 18-year-old former resident of Thomas' compound testifies at a later hearing that Thomas had long harassed her parents and those of other teenage Thomas followers.
March Using computer skills learned in federal prison while serving time for conspiring to invade a tiny Caribbean island, former Klansman Don Black puts up Stormfront, the first major Internet hate site to appear on the World Wide Web. Black calls the Internet a "major breakthrough" for radical right propagandists, explaining, "I think there's a potential here to reach millions."
And indeed, by the end of the 1990s, there will be more than 500 hate and antigovernment extremist sites on the Internet. The sites will prove to be both an effective recruiting tool and a way of politically energizing the extreme right.
April 19 In the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, a truck bomb containing a mixture of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane fuel brings down Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people, including 19 young children.
The attack is timed to occur on the second anniversary of the Waco fire, and follows in great detail the fictional scenario outlined in The Turner Diaries, a novel of race war written by neo-Nazi William Pierce. (Timothy McVeigh will have a photocopied page of the novel with him when he is arrested a few days later.)
Although McVeigh and Terry Nichols — two men with ideological links to the militia movement — will be charged in the attack, antigovernment Patriots almost immediately adopt the conspiracist view that the U.S. government orchestrated the bombing as part of a bid to crush dissent and pass draconian anti-terrorism legislation.
For virtually all major law enforcement agencies, the catastrophic attack moves domestic terrorism to the front burner. The FBI will soon add close to 500 anti-terrorism agents.
Late April Echoing Patriot antigovernment rhetoric, the National Rifle Association warns in a widely distributed fundraising letter that "jack-booted government thugs" in "Nazi bucket helmets" have "the government's go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law abiding citizens."
Former President George Bush quits the NRA in protest.
April 30 Making his public debut, Special Forces sniper Steven Barry appears on CBS' "60 Minutes" with his face and identity hidden. Barry tells viewers of the Special Forces Underground (SFU) — the extreme right-wing group he has secretly created within the military at Fort Bragg, N.C. — and the magazine he edits, The Resister.
Although Army officials deny the existence of SFU to congressional investigators, the case will become another embarrassment to the military, which nine years earlier had banned soldiers from participating in extremist groups.
Growing ever more radical, Barry will retire and, in 1999, join William Pierce's neo-Nazi National Alliance as "military unit coordinator."
June 15 After two months of massive press coverage of the bombing and the militia world which seemed to produce it, experts on the far right and Patriot leaders from the Militia of Montana, the Michigan Militia and other groups testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
Given the relatively uncritical nature of most of the legislators' questioning, many experts see the hearings as something of a propaganda victory for Patriots.
Sept. 12 Antigovernment extremist Charles Ray Polk is indicted by a federal grand jury for plotting to blow up the IRS building in Austin, Texas. In 1996, he will be sentenced to almost 21 years in prison.
The case dramatizes the fact that domestic terrorism is mounting, not falling, as many experts had expected in the wake of the horrific Oklahoma City attack.
In the three years that follow the Oklahoma bombing, more than 25 major domestic terrorist conspiracies will be thwarted by law enforcement officials.
Nov. 9 Oklahoma Constitutional Militia leader Willie Ray Lampley, his wife and another man are arrested as they prepare explosives to bomb numerous targets, including abortion clinics, welfare offices, gay bars and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"God won't be mad at us if we drop [bomb] four or five buildings," one of the plotters says before the arrests, according to court records.
"He will probably reward us."
The three suspects, along with another man arrested later, are eventually sentenced to terms of up to 11 years.
Dec. 7 A black man and woman are gunned down outside Fayetteville, N.C., and three U.S. Army privates from Fort Bragg are soon charged in the murders. Two of the soldiers, James Burmeister and Malcolm Wright, are members of a racist Skinhead group.
A large billboard advertising the neo-Nazi National Alliance is located near their base. The widely publicized case sparks renewed worries about extremists in the military.
The Terror Accelerates
Jan. 19 After producing a bizarre underground video, members of the Aryan Republican Army (ARA) including "Commander Pedro" — Peter Langan — are charged in connection with some 22 Midwestern bank holdups meant to finance a white supremacist insurrection.
Eventually, Pennsylvania neo-Nazi Mark Thomas will plead guilty to helping to plan the robberies. It later turns out the ARA men obtained weapons from the soon-to-be notorious Kehoe brothers, whom they met at Oklahoma's armed Elohim City compound.
March 15 Federal prosecutors in Tampa, Fla., accuse Emilio Ippolito, his daughter and other members of the Constitutional Common-Law Court of conspiracy and other charges for allegedly planning to kidnap and hang federal judges, mailing threats and obstructing justice.
Once again, the case dramatizes the violent potential of "common-law" adherents who had once been widely dismissed as mere "paper terrorists." Around the country, judges begin sending hundreds of common-law backers to prison on a variety of charges.
March 25 A common-law group dubbed the Montana Freemen begin a widely publicized, 81-day standoff in Jordan, Mont., after leader LeRoy Schweitzer and Daniel Petersen are arrested and charged with millions of dollars' worth of fraud. The charges relate to the Freemen's, and especially Schweitzer's, role in spreading financial rip-offs around the country.
The case highlights the racist beliefs of "sovereign citizens" — who claim that whites have rights to a higher form of citizenship than others — as well as law enforcement's new restraint when dealing with radicals in a standoff situation. In the end, no one is hurt and Schweitzer and other activists are sentenced to prison for up to 22 years.
The Freemen financial scams are typical of others that become a hallmark of the 1990s antigovernment movement.
April 26 Two leaders of the Militia-at-Large of the Republic of Georgia are charged with manufacturing 40 shrapnel bombs for distribution to militia members. Robert Edward Starr III and William James McCranie Jr. will later be sentenced on conspiracy and explosives charges to prison terms of up to eight years.
Another Militia-at-Large member, accused of training a team to assassinate politicians, will be convicted of conspiracy.
July 1 Twelve members of an Arizona militia group called the Viper Team are arrested on federal conspiracy, weapons and explosives charges after surveilling and videotaping a series of potential targets.
Authorities say the group, after training with guns and bombs in a nearby national forest, had plotted to blow up at least five government and law enforcement buildings in the Phoenix area.
In the end, one member is acquitted, another is convicted and the 10 others plead guilty to various charges, drawing prison sentences of up to nine years.
July 27 A nail-packed bomb goes off at the Atlanta Olympics — an event seen by many extremists as emblematic of a multiracial "New World Order" — and kills two people and injures more than 100 others.
No suspect is immediately identified. But in 1998, federal officials will charge Christian Identity adherent Eric Rudolph with this bombing and others at a gay bar and an abortion clinic.
The attack highlights the virulence of many followers of Identity, which now has an estimated 50,000 adherents in the United States. Many believers think Christ cannot return to Earth until "Satanic" elements here have been liquidated.
July 29 Washington State Militia leader John Pitner and seven others are arrested in connection with a plot to build pipe bombs for a confrontation with the federal government. Pitner and four others are convicted on weapons charges, but conspiracy charges against the eight end in a mistrial.
The case reflects the continuing strength of the Patriot movement, which peaks with 858 groups active this year, according to a count by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In the next few years, the number of militia-type groups will fall sharply.
Oct. 8 Three self-described Phineas Priests — zealots who feel they've been called directly by God to undertake violent attacks — are charged in connection with two bank robberies and bombings at the banks, a Spokane, Wash., newspaper and a Planned Parenthood office there.
Charles Barbee, Robert Berry and Jay Merrell are eventually sentenced to life prison terms; a fourth group member will draw a 55-year term. The $108,000 they stole is never recovered, and authorities fear it has been funneled into the radical underground.
Oct. 11 Seven members of the Mountaineer Militia are arrested in a plot to blow up the FBI's national fingerprint records center in West Virginia, where more than 1,000 people work. Leader Floyd "Ray" Looker — who believed the facility was actually the intelligence center for the New World Order — will later be sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Eventually, two other defendants are sentenced on explosives charges and a third draws a year in prison for providing blueprints of the FBI facility to Looker, who sold them to an informant.
Oct. 27 Dressed as the Charles Manson family and adorned with swastikas, a dozen Skinheads return to a pre-Halloween party in Norfolk, Mass., and stab to death a young man who had earlier helped oust them.
The attack, for which John Tague will be sentenced to life without parole, marks a resurgence of neo-Nazi Skinheads, who had largely gone underground after a law enforcement crackdown earlier in the decade.
"It's come back again," says an intelligence officer in California, where the problem is especially acute.
Nov. 13 Richard Machado becomes the first person in the nation charged with committing a hate crime over the Internet after he allegedly sends a threatening, racist E-mail message to 62 mostly Asian students at the University of California-Irvine. Although his first case ends in a mistrial, he will be convicted in a federal court in 1998.
In the coming years, the tempo of hate mail sent electronically over the Internet will pick up dramatically.
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.
In Jasper, a Hate Crime Shocks the Nation
Mid-January The American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a group that has exploded in size since its 1995 formation, draws national publicity when counter-demonstrators riot in Memphis, Tenn.
The American Knights, which specializes in provoking confrontations and reaping the benefits of the resulting publicity, is led mainly by criminals, including national leader Jeff Berry, who has history of arrests for violence and has been convicted for, among other things, the home improvement rip-off of an elderly Indiana neighbor.
This group leads a resurgence of the Klan, which has been declining for some 20 years.
Jan. 29 An off-duty police officer is killed and a nurse is critically injured when a nail-packed bomb explodes outside a Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic.
A witness spots a man running from the scene and removing a wig, and gets his license number — a tag that leads authorities to Eric Robert Rudolph in North Carolina.
Eventually, Rudolph will be charged with this bombing and others at the Atlanta Olympics, another abortion clinic and a lesbian bar. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that Rudolph is an adherent of the racist Christian Identity religion and a follower of the late Identity leader Nord Davis Jr. Rudolph typifies the "lone wolf" attacker who is growing more common in the late 1990s.
Despite a massive search, Rudolph will remain free — or dead — at the end of the decade.
Feb. 23 Three men with links to a Klan group are arrested near East St. Louis, Ill., in connection with an alleged plot to bomb state capitol buildings, strike at post offices and communications systems, poison the water supplies of major cities, blow up the Southern Poverty Law Center and assassinate Center co-founder Morris Dees and a federal judge.
Eventually, six members of The New Order — named after a terrorist group of the 1980s — are convicted or plead guilty to weapons or conspiracy charges. The case reflects the continuing acceleration of the pace and severity of radical right violence.
March 18 Three members of the North American Militia in Michigan are arrested on firearms charges after conspiring to kill federal agents and to bomb federal buildings, a Kalamazoo television station and an interstate highway exchange.
Leader Ken Carter, a self-described member of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, told an undercover agent that the group planned three to four days of chaos aimed at provoking a national insurrection against the government. In 1999, the men are sentenced to terms of up to 55 years.
May Matthew Hale, who in 1995 resuscitated Ben Klassen's moribund Church of the Creator as the World Church of the Creator, graduates from Southern Illinois University School of Law.
After passing the state bar exam later in the year, the neo-Nazi Hale is denied a law license by officials who find that his "character and fitness" are deficient.
In the next two years, Hale will lose all his state appeals of the decision, leaving only the federal courts as an appeal venue. But he does reap a publicity bonanza.
May 29 Three antigovernment extremists, after stealing a water truck for reasons that are unclear, allegedly murder a police officer near Cortez, Colo. Officials describe the heavily armed men as survivalists who had readied desert bunkers for "the end of the world."
Six days after making their getaway into the high desert, one of them wounds another officer before killing himself. The remains of a second suspect will be found in Utah in October 1999, while the third man, Jason McVean, will remain missing.
June 7 In a hate crime that grabs the attention of the world, a black man in Jasper, Texas, is chained by his ankles to the back of a pickup truck and dragged for several miles before his head is torn from his body.
Eventually convicted in the murder of James Byrd Jr. are three white supremacists, two of them hardened by stints in prison and planning to form a hate group of their own. Two are eventually sentenced to death and the third to life in prison.
Amid much soul-searching, race relations in Jasper clearly improve.
July 24 In the largest judgment against a hate group to date, the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, state leader Horace King and other Klansmen are ordered to pay a total of $37.8 million for the burning of a black South Carolina church in a case brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Macedonia Baptist Church was one of many black churches burned in 1995 during an apparent rash of arsons. The verdict marks the demise of the Christian Knights, a group that long was known as the "marchingest Klan."
Oct. 6 Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, is left to die after being brutally beaten and strung up on a lonely fence outside Laramie.
Like the Jasper case, the killing draws enormous publicity. It also sparks renewed efforts to make Montana the 42nd state with a hate crime law — efforts that will ultimately fail.
The case highlights rising reports of hate crimes around college campuses, a trend that will accelerate through the end of the decade. Shepard's two killers, homophobic youths from the tough side of town, are spared the death penalty after Shepard's parents ask that they be given life instead.
Oct. 23 Firing through a kitchen window, a sniper murders abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian in front of his wife and children near Buffalo, N.Y.
Within weeks, federal officials announce that they are hunting longtime anti-abortion activist James "Atomic Dog" Kopp, who some investigators believe may have fled to Mexico.
Kopp — who earlier had been lauded by his nickname by the anonymous authors of the violently worded "Army of God" anti-abortion manual — will remain at large at the end of the decade.
December Former Klansman David Duke publishes his 736-page autobiography My Awakening. The book is remarkable for its unrepentant racism and anti-Semitism — and for the foreword contributed by Glayde Whitney, a tenured Florida State University professor who calls it an "academically excellent work" that has the potential to "change the very course of history."
Whitney's unblushing remarks highlight an evident upsurge in academic racism that is also apparent in the renewed popularity of race-based IQ studies and eugenics.
Dec. 18 In the aftermath of a report released today by the Southern Poverty Law Center, controversy erupts over the allegedly "mainstream," 15,000-member Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) and its ties to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.
The report describes the CCC, whose members include many southern politicians, as a racist group that is directly descended from the White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s.
Dec. 30 A county grand jury orchestrated by conspiracy-minded former Oklahoma State Rep. Charles Key and another man finds that there is no evidence of a larger conspiracy in the Oklahoma City bombing. Key immediately denounces the findings.
Shooting Their Way into the New Millennium
February Planned Parenthood and several physicians win a $107 million judgment in a civil suit against 14 of the nation's hardest-line anti-abortion activists and groups. A key allegation in the suit was that a Web site listing personal information about 225 doctors and others constituted a direct threat.
The so-called Christian Gallery site did not specifically advocate killing doctors, but was linked to others advocating "justifiable homicide."
Feb. 19 Billy Jack Gaither, a gay man, is beaten to death in Alabama and his body burned atop a pyre of rubber tires by two acquaintances.
An earlier study by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that gay men and lesbians are far more likely to suffer violent, bias-motivated attacks than any other group, a conclusion backed by other studies.
Eventually, two men are sentenced to life in prison in the Gaither slaying.
March 23 Gary "Gerhard" Lauck leaves Germany after serving four years in prison there for breaking German laws against Nazi propagandizing. For years, Lauck was a key distributor and smuggler of such materials into Germany and 29 other countries.
Lauck returns to Lincoln, Neb., but will be charged in November with lying on a gun permit application by claiming he has not been convicted of a crime punishable by a year in prison.
April 26 William Pierce, America's leading neo-Nazi and head of the National Alliance, incorporates Resistance Records LLC with right-wing Republican operative Todd Blodgett, who brokered Pierce's acquisition of the racist music label.
Within months, after spending nearly $250,000, Pierce has complete control of Resistance and puts out his first edition of Resistance magazine. Pierce also acquires Nordland, a Swedish racist label.
In a December radio broadcast, he will exult: "The young people who listen to resistance music will be the vanguard of our army of liberation. Woe to those who try to stand in their way!"
June 18 Three synagogues in the Sacramento, Calif., area are set afire, badly damaging one of them. Two brothers — Benjamin Matthew Williams and James Tyler Williams — are expected to be charged in the crimes, along with the attempted torching of a building housing an abortion clinic, early in the year 2000.
Two weeks after the arsons, the bullet-riddled bodies of two gay men, Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder, will be found in their home near Redding, Calif. Within days, the Matthews brothers are arrested trying to use Matson's credit cards. Matthew Williams, who uses his middle name, will tell newspaper reporters that he — but not his brother — carried out the murders.
Matthew Williams is linked to the anti-Semitic Christian Identity religion by letters and other documents. "The Bible," he writes, "is a code which reveals itself to me as Yahweh sees fit."
July 2 On the day after neo-Nazi World Church of the Creator leader Matt Hale loses an appeal of the denial of his law license, longtime Hale confederate Benjamin Smith goes on a shooting rampage in Illinois and Indiana, killing two people and wounding nine others. Smith commits suicide when police close in on him on the third day of his spree.
Although Hale claims only a distant relationship with Smith, it turns out that earlier in 1999 Hale had honored Smith with his top award — "Creator of the Year." Hale also boasts of up to 30,000 followers, but the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that it has documentary evidence showing that the group, despite immense publicity, has fewer than 150 members.
Aug. 7 U.S. marshals, acting on a judge's orders, seize the Tampa, Fla., headquarters of Greater Ministries International Church to prevent destruction of evidence.
The seizure comes five months after a federal grand jury indicted seven officials of the antigovernment church on charges of money laundering and fraud, saying the church — which had promised to double the money of donors within 17 months — was actually a huge pyramid scam.
The alleged $400 million-plus rip-off exemplifies the burgeoning number of "Patriot-for-profit" scams that prey upon antigovernment fervor to separate victims from their money.
Aug. 10 Former neo-Nazi Aryan Nations official Buford Furrow Jr. storms into a Jewish community center near Los Angeles and allegedly wounds three children, one of them critically, and two adults. Hours later, he allegedly murders a Filipino-American postal worker he happens upon.
After surrendering to the FBI, Furrow reportedly tells agents, "I'm the one who killed the kids."
Furrow, who had been discharged from a psychiatric hospital earlier in the year, is charged with a series of crimes that could bring him the death penalty.
Sept. 22 The second bomb in a month goes off in a men's room at historically black Florida A&M University, and is followed by a call to a TV station from someone saying, "We need to get rid of some of them niggers." Lawrence Michael Lombardi, described by a former boss as "a survivalist type," will be arrested and charged within weeks.
Dec. 4 Two militia members are arrested in Sacramento after allegedly planning to blow up two huge propane tanks — containing 24 million gallons of gas — in a bid to kick off a race war at the turn of the millennium.
One of the two San Joaquin County Militia members, Kevin Ray Patterson, had reportedly participated in what officials suspect was an aborted 1998 attempt to break members of the Montana Freemen out of a Billings jail.
Dec. 8 Don Beauregard, former leader of the Southeastern States Alliance militia umbrella group, is arrested in Florida for allegedly plotting to rob armories of explosives in order to blow up power lines and other facilities. Officials say that during their two-year probe, an informant heard Beauregard discuss blowing up a nuclear power plant.
Dec. 31 Despite the threats of some radicals to start a race war with the millennial date change — and the fears of many more that the "New World Order" will impose martial law at the stroke of midnight — nothing of the kind occurs.
But, in a development reflecting a consolidation of many of the nation's most radical groups, the neo-Nazi National Alliance reports that it has grown some 50%, which translates to some 1,500 members.