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For Supremacists, the Heat's Been Turned Up

In today's climate of fear, authorities are clamping down harder on white power groups.

November 20, 2002|Jeff Gottlieb and Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writers

Police say the suspects had razor blades and 50 gallons of gasoline to make bombs with, SS uniforms and replica cans of the gas the Nazis used in their death camps.

The arrests this week of the two suspects -- plus another man -- with links to white supremacy groups reflects authorities' heightened concerns about such organizations, though experts say most of their activities are geared less toward violence than pushing their message of hate.

Although violent hate crimes committed by members of groups such as Aryan Nations are relatively infrequent, the organizations are aggressively courting supporters.

The Costa Mesa-based Aryan Baby Drive provides food, clothing and other supplies to poor white racist families.

The Southern California Aryan Nations Web site features audio links to "Music for White Kids." A Ku Klux Klan group held a concert last weekend in Lake Elsinore, and the Aryan Nations tried -- but failed -- to throw a party in La Habra earlier this year for Hitler's birthday.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday November 22, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 18 inches; 658 words Type of Material: Correction
Supremacist concert -- A story in the California section Wednesday about white supremacists in Southern California mistakenly reported that a concert staged by a group with links to the Ku Klux Klan was held in Lake Elsinore. The concert was at the Lake Perris Fairgrounds.

Law enforcement and hate-crime experts said the groups are small, with interlocking memberships. But there are probably hundreds of sympathizers who participate in their activities.

"These are very tiny groups that are given attention way out of proportion to their numbers because their message is so odious," said Rusty Kennedy, chairman of Orange County's Human Relations Commission.

The three extremists arrested Monday -- one Long Beach man, an Anaheim woman and her boyfriend -- face various charges including perjury and owning bomb-making materials.

Law enforcement officials said the crackdown was meant in part to discourage others from joining the groups. "I hope this would have a chilling effect on those who might have some misperception about the legitimacy of these extremist groups, to chill their sense of wanting to act on their ill-placed hatred," said Nicholas S. Thompson, the Orange County deputy district attorney in charge of tracking terrorism.

He said his office stepped up surveillance of white supremacists after the Sept. 11 attacks. More recently, he said, surveillance was intensified because of worry that Palestinian-Israeli violence might encourage racists to attack Jews.

Authorities have no evidence of plots by local extremists. But a letter discovered in the Long Beach apartment of one suspect, John Frederick Steele II, talks of teaming up with Palestinians against the U.S. and Jews.

Joyce Greenspan, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Steele was trying to recruit people at an event on the Queen Mary in Long Beach this summer not by proposing violence but by appealing to racism.

Greenspan said racist and anti-Semitic leaflets have cropped up in recent months at a movie theater parking lot in Fullerton and in Tustin. E-mail invitations to the Church of Israel in Stanton were sent out saying: "We're all separatists so no blacks, jews, or hippies allowed."

Greenspan said the clear aim of these and other campaigns is to recruit younger members. "I am just concerned about this kind of information feeding individuals who are looking for excuses and places to blame," she said.

Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino's Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, said that only 5% to 10% of hate crimes are committed by members of white supremacist groups but that they commit the most violent assaults.

Although recruiting appears to be the primary focus today, authorities said they fear that extremists might become frustrated and resort to violence in the future.

Los Angeles Police Lt. Adam Bercovici, who tracks racist groups, cited the example of Buford O. Furrow, a neo-Nazi who wounded five people, at a San Fernando Valley Jewish center and killed a Philippine American postman.

Bercovici said an intelligence source told police that Steele was frustrated and might be getting ready to take violent action. And Thompson, the Orange County prosecutor, said Steele appeared to be casing L.A.'s Museum of Tolerance.

In Orange County, authorities this week charged Christine Greenwood and her boyfriend, John Patrick McCabe, with having bomb-making materials in their Anaheim apartment. They also had BBs, razor blades and 16-penny nails that could be used as shrapnel, police said.

The material was discovered during a search of the apartment in 1999. McCabe was on probation for a hate crime.

It was not until after the Sept. 11 attacks that authorities turned their emphasis to terrorism, and the Orange County Probation Department took the information about the bomb-making materials to the district attorney's office, authorities said.

Steele was charged with perjury and falsifying documents related to financial statements he was required to give his probation officer. He was on probation for assault with a deadly weapon that was not classified as a hate crime.

He pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court. His bail was set at $50,000. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Nov. 27.

Greenwood is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

The three were involved in a variety of racist groups. Greenwood was a member of Women for Aryan Unity and founder of the Aryan Baby Drive. She and McCabe were active with Blood and Honour, which promotes racist rock music.

Steele was higher in the white supremacist leadership. He was head of the state chapter of Aryan Nations and was involved with the KKK and the National Alliance, Bercovici said.

Steele refused to tell his probation officer the whereabouts of four guns of which he is the registered owner, Thompson said. Steele said only that he gave the guns to his friends and that they would be found when the Aryan Nations "goes to war" against the American government and the Jews, the prosecutor added.

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