News Update: Fire, Feces and Freeways

FIRE IN THE HOLE: The double-wide mobile home of imprisoned Klan leader Charles Barefoot, who was recently declared incompetent to stand trial for allegedly arranging the murder of a fellow Klansman, burned to the ground on Tuesday in Dunn, N.C. “When I got home, ammunition was exploding everywhere and flames were shooting through the roof of his house,” one neighbor told the local newspaper, The Daily Record. “There were bullets going off, shotgun shells exploding and popping everywhere.” Barefoot’s Klan group and its many alleged crimes were detailed in a 2007 article in the Intelligence Report. Barefoot is being held indefinitely until his competency is restored. Local authorities say their investigation into the cause of the fire at his home is ongoing.

THE POOP ON POOP: Janis Dzelme, an assistant to a Latvian member of parliament, has been convicted of throwing a “stinking substance” at the car of a gay-rights demonstrator in July 2006 in Riga, the Latvian capital. And what was that stinking substance? That same month in 2006, members of Watchmen on the Walls, a U.S.- and Latvia-based virulently anti-gay outfit, gathered in Riga to “protect the city from a homosexual invasion.” As the Intelligence Report has noted, gay rights supporters at that rally were met by “a gauntlet of ultranationalists, neo-Nazi skinheads, elderly women and youths wearing ‘I Love New Generation’ T-shirts. They were pelted with eggs, rotten tomatoes and plastic bags full of feces.” Alexey Ledyaev, leader of the Riga-based New Generation Church and co-founder of the Watchmen on the Walls, attended Dzelme’s sentencing. Dzelme, along with his boss, parliamentary deputy Dainis Turlais, are members of Ledyaev’s New Generation Church. Dzelme was sentenced to 100 hours of “compulsory labor,” which is widely seen in Latvia as a more severe punishment than the alternative of paying a $3,400 fine.

SECOND THOUGHTS ON HIGHWAY OF HATE: Earlier this week, Hatewatch reported that the San Diego Minutemen (SDMM), a nativist extremist group, had been allowed to “adopt” a stretch of I-5 for cleanup that included the Border Patrol’s busy San Clemente checkpoint. No way, the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) says now, following a rash of negative publicity. Instead, officials say the SDMM will be offered a stretch of State Route 52, more than 30 miles north of the border checkpoint. Caltrans District Director Pedro Orso-Delgado told The San Diego Union-Tribune that he was concerned about public safety, not about the appearance of having favored the Minutemen by giving them that particular stretch of I-5 to keep clean. “It basically creates a lightning rod. ... Really, we don’t need that kind of issue on a freeway where we have so many cars traveling and there’s potential for having an accident or getting into a safety issue,” he explained. Howard Kaloogian, a former state assemblyman who is legal counsel for the SDMM, called the decision political and vowed to challenge CalTrans in court.