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Will the Real Aryan Nations Please Stand Up?

When self-described Aryan Nations national director Paul Mullet went looking in February for a place to establish a new headquarters, he headed west to Grants County, Ore.

When self-described Aryan Nations national director Paul Mullet went looking in February for a place to establish a new headquarters, he headed west to Grants County, Ore. Rugged, rural and about 95% white, it must have seemed an ideal place to resuscitate the remnants of a once-leading neo-Nazi group. 

Mullet, 36, showed up in the town of John Day, population 1,850, wearing a blue shirt with a swastika patch and accompanied by three other men. They spent the night at a local motel, where they displayed a swastika banner for the benefit of a black and a Hispanic motel worker. Then they toured the town a second day.

"John Day is the perfect place for us," Mullet told a reporter.

Local residents vehemently disagreed. They turned out in such large numbers for two community meetings organized by the local newspaper that some were turned away. Dozens of folks took to the streets, carrying signs with slogans like "No room 4 hate." Everybody from the mayor and the police chief to ranchers and business owners voiced their opposition to the racist group coming to their town. Ironically, Mullet left spewing threats to sue the town for discrimination.

Unlike Mullet's organization — one of several purporting to be its rightful heir — the original Aryan Nations was once a leading white supremacist group that hosted major annual gatherings of the radical right on a compound near Hayden Lake, Idaho. That group was decimated after founder Richard Butler was ordered to pay $4.8 million of a $6.3 million judgment in a civil case brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of a woman and her son who were attacked by the group's security guards. Butler lost his compound at a bankruptcy auction. When he died in 2004, the group had been reduced to about 200 members around the nation.

Since then, in addition to Mullet's group, several racist activists have tried to claim the mantle of what was once America's best-known hate group:

August Kreis III, once briefly designated as Butler's heir, initially led one "Aryan Nations" from his home in rural Pennsylvania. He has since moved to Lexington, S.C. As of last year, his group claimed two chapters and a handful of members. Kreiss has recruited heavily among motorcycle gangs, and recently formed what he calls the 1st SS Kavallerie Brigade Motorcycle Division as a kind of security crew.

Another faction claiming to be the real Aryan Nations was originally headquartered in Lincoln, Ala. Today, that faction's founders have left, and the group has moved to the area around Coeur d'Alene, Idaho (near its original location), under the leadership of Jerald O'Brien. Last year, the group claimed to have four chapters. Yet another Aryan Nations faction, headed by Jay Faber in New York and boasting 12 chapters in 2009, is said to have recently merged with O'Brien's organization.

Finally, long-time neo-Nazi Martin Linstedt has started a one-chapter version of the group in Missouri that he calls the Church of Jesus Christ Christian/Aryan Nations, that appears to be only marginally active.

In a related matter, Charles Juba, a former Aryan Nations official, showed up in Odessa, Mo., in February, saying he planned to open a new, under-21 nightclub called the Black Flag. He was met with a reception similar to that given Mullet, with townspeople decrying his club and ideology, and he soon abandoned his plans.

For its part, Mullet's group, based in Chillicothe, Ohio, is believed to have 14 chapters. Its flyers have shown up on lawns in San Bernardino and Rialto, Calif., and in Idaho Falls, Idaho – the latter inside plastic eggs on Easter morning. Meanwhile, the Maryland-based World Knights of the Ku Klux Klan disbanded and became part of a local chapter of the Mullet-led Aryan Nations group. "Colonel" Gordon Young of the Klan group told followers that the move will promote white unity.