When North East White Pride (NEWP) announced it would protest in front of Boston's Afro-American History Museum on Martin Luther King Day 2006, the New England neo-Nazis were hoping to draw a crowd and garner attention for their fledgling organization.
When North East White Pride (NEWP) announced it would protest in front of Boston's Afro-American History Museum on Martin Luther King Day 2006, the New England neo-Nazis were hoping to draw a crowd and garner attention for their fledgling organization. And about 200 protesters did show up to confront the haters. But that was about the only part of their plan that came to fruition.
NEWP was more than an hour late showing up to their own event. Their train was delayed, founder Rob O'Donovan explained in a recent interview. Plus they only managed to round up 10 supporters for the demonstration.
The paltry, tardy but very determined group of racists assembled in front of the Massachusetts State House and prepared to march to the museum, unaware of the size of the impatient crowd that had been waiting for them for 90 minutes. Police intervened and tried to convince the NEWP members that walking into a restless and swelling crowd of angry anti-racists might not be in their best interests. "They tried to stall us for awhile, but the protesters got wind of it and walked to where we were," O'Donovan told the Intelligence Report. Just before the anti-racists caught sight of their targets, the neo-Nazis were whisked away in police cars.
North East White Pride leader Rob O'Donovan liked the approach to movement unity espoused by neo-Nazi Billy Roper (left), but later quit Roper's group. Once he had his own group, O'Donovan brought in movement stalwarts including Paul Fromm (right), a Canadian Holocaust denier.
"The police offered to give us a ride directly to the museum but wound up driving us around town and leaving us on the other side of town," O'Donovan admits sheepishly. "Until that point, we'd always had a lot of respect for the BPD [Boston Police Department], but since then we have agreed that we will no longer be trusting them or accepting their 'assistance.'"
It wasn't the proudest moment for what was then a relatively new white-pride organization. But in the nearly two years since its embarrassing MLK Day protest, NEWP has had more success in drawing so-called "net Nazis" from the Internet to real-world activism. While it remains primarily a Web-based organization, with 900 active online forum members, NEWP now also promotes concerts, protests, literature distribution drives, white pride picnics and other events in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. Based in Chelsea, Mass., the group also hosts monthly meetings whose locations rotate among the private homes of inner-circle members.
And NEWP aims for a big-tent approach to Aryan activism, hoping to bring the notoriously divided and squabbling movement together. It is not alone in that effort. In 2003, in fact, Billy Roper, former deputy membership coordinator for the neo-Nazi National Alliance, founded White Revolution, an organization meant to serve as a nationwide umbrella group for white nationalist factions. That idea of acting as a unifying presence in the movement — the key to Roper's approach — appealed to O'Donovan, now 27, and he joined White Revolution soon after its inception. At around that same time, O'Donovan also launched the NEWP website as a repository of news items and commentary by and for white nationalists across the northeastern United States.
The website slowly gathered steam, even as O'Donovan's enthusiasm for White Revolution faded. NEWP started organizing events on its own and O'Donovan added an online discussion forum to his website in September 2004. He has devoted his full energies to NEWP since quitting White Revolution in 2006.
"The leadership of White Revolution was feuding with some other white nationalist organizations and expected me to continue that feud locally. Later on, I was told by members in a leadership position that 'movement unity doesn't work' and [that] they were pursuing a strategy closer to that of the [elitist] National Alliance than as an umbrella group," O'Donovan said in the interview. "My leaving was a mutual decision and there are no hard feelings between us. Simply a difference of tactics, I suppose you could say."
O'Donovan added that his organization differs from White Revolution and others in that there are no dues (though the group does accept contributions) and no need to provide group leaders with personal information. White nationalists of any affiliation are welcome as long as they leave behind the "scene drama" and "movement politics" that has been so destructive to other groups, he said.
In effect, NEWP strives to be a white-power melting pot. "Our supporters consist of those with a wide array of beliefs, from neo-Nazis and Klansmen to conservatives and libertarians," O'Donovan claimed.
Meetings started small in 2005, while O'Donovan was still in White Revolution, drawing perhaps a half-dozen supporters. By the time of the split in 2006, though, the NEWP forum had grown to hundreds of members and NEWP began to have a more public presence.
Several newspapers reported on the MLK protest, and NEWP also held anti-immigration protests throughout last summer in New Hampshire.
But some bickering and infighting has occurred despite O'Donovan's best efforts. Earlier this year, questions about finances caused at least one member of the neo-Nazi Volksfront group to leave NEWP and several others to question O'Donovan's management, putting the usually upbeat O'Donovan on the defensive. "As far as I know, there's around 20 people who are wanting to know where the money is," wrote NEWP forum member using the name "vf/mo" (presumably indicating a Volksfront member from Missouri). "When one person drops out it could be chalked up to BS, but when 20 people do, it's not drama or BS. It's called a deserving protest."
O'Donovan claims those critical of him have instructed members of Volksfront and Women for Aryan Unity — another radical right group — to assault him. He strikes back at critics in the "APB" ("All Points Bulletin") section of the NEWP website, which identifies and exposes "movement traitors." These include Joe Bednarsky, a former NEWP moderator and Klan leader who claims to have left the white supremacist movement after finding religion (Bednarsky now signs his E-mails with the phrase "Where there is grace, there is no race.") Bednarsky, who ran the NEWP forum from 2004 until July 2005, told the Intelligence Report that he became alarmed by some of the postings there. "I was afraid the SPLC [Southern Poverty Law Center, the publisher of the Report] or someone was going to sue us personally if somebody ended up doing the things they were talking about, like hanging black people."
For the most part, O'Donovan's leadership has helped NEWP avoid the backstabbing and divisive feuding that have caused other organizations to rupture, and O'Donovan says he hopes the momentum NEWP has thus far achieved will cause the group to grow both in size and impact. Creating a virtual community is one thing, but getting people together in real time is another.
One year after the lamentable MLK protest, NEWP brought Canadian Holocaust denier Paul Fromm to Boston to speak at one of its events and attracted 50 people, which O'Donovan calls the group's biggest success to date.
"We hope to get at least one speaker to the area each year," O'Donovan said. "We are most concerned with uniting the Northeast area, and to a lesser extent the U.S. and white nationalists worldwide. Only as one united movement will we be able to move forward."