After completing his sentence for fraud, David Duke's celebratory homecoming included a weekend conference of extremists and a new coalition determined to bring white supremacy into the mainstream.
When David Duke was convicted last year of fraud — including pocketing his supporters' contributions — some people thought he might never regain his status as the superstar of the neo-Nazi world. They thought wrong.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, more than 300 extremists gathered in New Orleans in the less-than-glamorous Airport Plaza Hotel to cheer the end of Duke's one-and-a-half year prison term, which the former Klan leader calls his stint in "The Gulag."
By the end of the gathering, it looked like Duke could be poised to fill the power vacuum left two summers ago by the death of America's most powerful neo-Nazi, National Alliance founder William Pierce.
While the event was put on by Duke's European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), it was sponsored by several other hate groups, including the National Alliance, the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), and the Holocaust-denying Barnes Review.
Speakers from four countries warned the audience about the evils of international Jewry — a particular concern for Duke, who told his fans, "Anything that strikes out and weakens the Jewish supremacist power is good for us."
To promote unity between hate groups, Duke asked assembled leaders to sign his "New Orleans Protocol," a set of principles "pledging adherents to a pan-European outlook."
Several key white supremacists signed on, including former Klan leader Don Black, who runs the neo-Nazi Web site stormfront.org; Willis Carto, publisher of The Barnes Review; Sam Dickson of the CCC; Ed Fields, publisher of the white-supremacist newspaper The Truth at Last; and National Alliance leaders David Pringle and Kevin Strom.
With no apparent irony, Duke's Protocol mandates "honorable and ethical behavior" among its signatories, along with zero tolerance for violence and a "high tone" in public presentations.
The pledge to maintain a "high tone" didn't hold up for long. Dickson took the podium to mock Secretary of State Colin Powell as "someone who can't even pronounce his own name, Colin ["Caw-lin"], and has it confused with his lower intestine."
Dickson also ranted about the "very, very destructive" effect of opposing the Nazis in World War II — opposition that caused people to view Hitler's "normal, healthy racial values" as evil.
Paul Fromm, a Canadian racist who spent an hour raging against immigration and multiculturalism, mocked a Muslim woman as "a hag in a bag" and called Toronto's Sikh community "a nasty lot."
Nobody but Duke himself could have predicted the size of the audience that received these messages — not just the hundreds in attendance, but a whopping 67,000 visitors, according to Duke, who logged onto EURO's Web site for a Saturday simulcast.
Duke's fraud conviction has done little to dim the popularity of his books, either; longtime aide Roy Armstrong says that more than 580,000 copies of Duke's Jewish Supremacism have been sold worldwide. Duke hopes to stoke even more anti-Semitic sentiment — and profit — when his books are translated in the near future into Arabic and sold in the Middle East.