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September 9, 2016

Who’s Who in White Lives Matter

WLM protest at NAACP office in Houston, Texas

WLM protest at NAACP office in Houston, Texas

In late August, around 20 so-called “White Lives Matter” (WLM) activists attracted national attention after staging an armed protest in front of the Houston, Texas, offices of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

A WLM spokesperson claimed that the extremists were there to protest against the purported failure of the NAACP to speak out against alleged “atrocities” committed by the Black Lives Matter movement.

When white supremacists toting assault rifles show up in front of NAACP offices, that’s news.  The incident understandably caused concern.  But what is White Lives Matter?  Is it a group?  A movement?  Just a slogan?

The best way to describe WLM might be as a network—a small network of hardcore white supremacists with connections to a variety of hate groups.  These extremists started organizing events and activities under the banner of “White Lives Matter,” regardless of what group or groups they actually belonged to.

The white supremacist movement in the United States has a history of this type of organizing; in 2012-2014, various white supremacists around the country engaged in similar activities as part of the so-called “South Africa Project” and related “White Genocide Project,” designed to raise awareness of purported (but actually fictional) “genocides” of whites in South Africa, the United States, and elsewhere.  WLM follows squarely in this tradition.

Most such campaigns fade away after a year or two, but because WLM is in effect an active white supremacist protest against Black Lives Matter, it theoretically has the potential to last as long as that movement does.  It is important to stress that the Black Lives Matter movement and the WLM network are in no way equivalent or comparable, either in size or the nature of their beliefs and goals.

White Lives Matter Activities

WLM fliers for distribution

WLM fliers for distribution

“White Lives Matter” began as a transparent white supremacist slogan designed to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement, a protest movement that emerged in late 2014.  No single person came up with the slogan; by early 2015, numerous white racists were already using “white lives matter” as an on-line rallying cry.

It did not take long before some white supremacists began to take the concept out into the physical world, with the distribution of WLM fliers in neighborhoods in Connecticut in April 2015.  Most WLM activities since then have taken place in Connecticut, Texas or California, with a few scattered incidents elsewhere.

White supremacist posting WLM handbill

White supremacist posting WLM handbill

WLM matters activities have typically taken the form of on-line promotion of white supremacy using the “White Lives Matter” slogan, organizing WLM protests and rallies, distributing WLM fliers, handbills or stickers, and releasing red balloons into the sky “for Caucasian victims.”  The latter takes place on a very small scale and is usually caught on video to use on the Internet.

White Lives Matter: The Cast of Characters

Dozens of white supremacists around the country have taken part in one or more WLM activities since 2015, but the network is not very large.

In fact, a small handful of individuals are responsible for conducting or organizing most of the on-line and real-world WLM activities.  The first to become active, in the spring of 2015, were Ken Zrallack from Connecticut and his friend, Travis Golie, who has recently lived in Texas and Georgia.

By late 2015, the Aryan Renaissance Society (ARS), a longstanding white supremacist group based primarily in Texas, had also begun promoting WLM—to the irritation of the others.  In October 2015, Golie groused about ARS, which he described as a “brand new self proclaimed group” and a “silly gang,” claiming they stole WLM materials and put their own logo on them.  The materials appear to have been transmitted through Rebecca Barnette.  Barnette herself is disliked by some other WLM activists.  California WLM activist Mellissa Dennis described Barnette in September 2016 as “a bottom feeder who wants attention.” A WLM facebook page apparently run by Zrallack claimed that Barnette “has absolutely nothing to do with what we are doing.”

Key WLM activists include:

White supremacist Ken Zrallack

White supremacist Ken Zrallack

  • Ken Zrallack (aka Kevin Harris and other pseudonyms).  Zrallack, who more than any other person may lay claim to starting the WLM network, is a long-time hard-core white supremacist from Connecticut who in the early 2000s with his brother founded the Connecticut White Wolves, a racist skinhead group.  In the mid-2000s he was involved with another hate group, White Revolution; later, he helped form yet another white supremacist group known as Battalion 14. In 2010, Zrallack and two other men were arrested in an alleged conspiracy to sell grenades and guns to a police informant posing as a white supremacist.  While one of the trio was convicted, Zrallack and the other defendant were acquitted.
  • Travis Golie.  Golie, who has lived most recently in Texas and Georgia, is a key ally and partner to Zrallack in WLM.  Golie is the current head of the Nationalist Movement, a small but longstanding white supremacist group, which is probably one reason why some of the early WLM fliers sported the address of the Nationalist Movement website.  Golie served time in prison in Iowa for second degree robbery, which caused Ku Klux Klan members to protest at his prison in 2009 in support of him.  He was released from prison in 2012.
  • Rebecca Barnette.  Barnette, who has perhaps received more publicity than anyone else associated with WLM, has not necessarily played one of the most important roles.  Barnette has claimed that WLM was started by Zrallack and herself “and a few others.”  She was an early on-line promoter of WLM, but her one attempt at organizing a WLM rally, in Buffalo, New York, in July 2016, was an embarrassing failure, with only 1-3 people showing up—but not Barnette herself.  After this debacle, she lost standing with other WLM activists. Barnette is from Tennessee, where she has been very active with the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement. She has also had ties of varying strengths to other white supremacist groups, such as the Aryan Renaissance Society.
  • Ken Reed.  Reed, a Texan (though he spent several years in Rhode Island as a mattress salesman), is probably the most active figure in the Texas contingent of WLM.  He is one of the leaders of the Aryan Renaissance Society (ARS), a longstanding white supremacist group that dates back to the 1990s, when it was a racist skinhead group known as Aryan Reich Skins. It has also used the names White Power Liberation Front and Aryan Liberation Front. Originally based in New Jersey, ARS’s center of activity later moved to Texas, where it became something of a prison clique.  More recently, it has given itself a neo-Nazi makeover.  What has remained constant throughout is its white supremacy.
  • Doug Chism  Chism is the leader or “president” of ARS,  of which he is a long time member, dating back to its Aryan Reich Skin days.  He spent much of his membership behind bars in Texas, serving time on various convictions until 2009.  He lives in the greater Houston, Texas, area. Chism, born in 1969, is one of the oldest of the WLM activists.
  • Horace Scott Lacy.  Lacy is another ARS member from the Houston area; like Chism, he is one of the oldest WLM activists, born in 1967. Before Lacy was involved with ARS, he was a member and “special assignments major” in the large and violent Texas-based white supremacist prison gang known as the Aryan Circle. He became an Aryan Circle member in the 1990s and was still a member as late as 2009. Lacy is a felon with an extensive criminal history dating back to 1985, including convictions for possession of a controlled substance, aggravated robbery, and multiple theft charges.  He was arrested in April 2016 on aggravated robbery charges.
  • Bill Hagan (aka William Quigg).  Hagan, who publicly goes by the pseudonym William Quigg, emerged as part of California’s white supremacist scene in 2015 as the “West Coast Grand Dragon” of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. In February 2016, Hagan and other white supremacists organized a “White Lives Do Matter” rally in Anaheim, California, an event that received considerable media attention after insufficient police crowd control allowed left-wing counterdemonstrators to attack the white supremacists, turning the event into a bloody brawl that resulted in numerous serious injuries and multiple arrests to and of people from both sides.  Hagan also got media attention for claiming to “endorse” Hillary Clinton for president, then later claiming that he had somehow raised $20,000 in donations for Clinton from members of his tiny group. Hagan also has close ties to the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement and attends many of their events.
  • Melissa Dennis.  Dennis, another Californian living in Bakersfield, is a member of the Noble Breed Kindred, a small white supremacist group. Dennis has been one of the most active West Coast promoters of WLM, both on-line and in the physical world, where she has passed out fliers and released red balloons.  She also sells WLM t-shirts and other white supremacist paraphernalia. Like Zrallack, she has also promoted “Free Matt Hale” events.

whitelives-matter-4-from-vk

Selected White Lives Matters Incidents/Events

  • September 2016: WLM flier drops by Zrallack in Connecticut. WLM members in Texas claimed to have “hand delivered food aid to Whites effected [sic] by the flooding in Baton Rouge, LA.”
  • August 2016: WLM flier drops by Zrallack in Connecticut. WLM protest in front of NAACP office in Houston, Texas.
  • July 2016: WLM flier drops by Zrallack in Connecticut. Small WLM protest in Dallas, Texas, in front of Bank of America Tower.  Failed WLM protest in Buffalo, New York.
  • June 2016: WLM flier drops by Zrallack in Connecticut. WLM flier drops in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, apparently by Ken Reed.
  • May 2016: WLM flier drops by Zrallack in Connecticut.
  • March 2016: WLM /“Free Matt Hale” flier drops by Zrallack in Connecticut. Matt Hale is a white supremacist serving a 40-year federal prison sentence for soliciting the murder of a federal judge. Many WLM activists also are vocal Matt Hale supporters.
  • February 2016: WLM/“Free Matt Hale” flier drops by Zrallack in Connecticut. Small WLM protest in Anaheim, California.
  • January 2016: WLM supporters put up handbills, apparently in Bakersville, California.
  • December 2015: WLM flier drops in various locations.
  • October 2015: WLM red balloon releases (“for Caucasian victims”) in different locations.
  • September 2015: WLM red balloon releases in different locations, plus distribution of fliers and stickers in California and Connecticut.
  • August 2015: WLM red balloon releases in different locations. Flier drops in Connecticut.
  • May 2015: Flier drop in Westport, Connecticut.
  • April 2015: Flier drop in Milford, Connecticut.

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September 11, 2015

Marching for Fairness – the NAACP Journey for Justice

After participating in the historic voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery on March 21, 1965, Rabbi Abramson Joshua Heschel famously said:

“For many of us the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.”

Sandmel

ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs Rabbi David Sandmel and NAACP President and CEO Cornell Brooks on the road to Washington DC as part of the Journey for Justice.

 

That march played a significant role in prompting Congress to enact the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) – perhaps the most impor­tant and effec­tive civil rights leg­is­la­tion ever passed.   In the half cen­tury since then, the VRA has secured and safe­guarded the right to vote for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans. Its suc­cess in elim­i­nat­ing dis­crim­i­na­tory bar­ri­ers to full civic par­tic­i­pa­tion and in advanc­ing equal polit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment is unde­ni­able.

Sometimes legs pray.

And sometimes legs carry you to Washington DC to demand progress toward justice and fair treatment for all.

Today, fifty years after the passage of the VRA, and two years after a deeply troubling Supreme Court decision that essentially gutted the heart of the legislation — marchers are on their way to Washington to demand voting rights protections again.  The NAACP has organized America’s Journey for Justice, which started in Selma on August 1.  The Anti-Defamation League is one of the supporting organizations for the 1000-mile march, as we had supported the original Selma to Montgomery march.  Then-ADL National Director Ben Epstein wrote,

“We walked together—more than 3,000 Americans: Negroes and whites, ministers, rabbis, Catholic nuns, students, representatives of organizations, those who belonged to no group other than the human race—all in peaceful demonstration against blind violence, in ‘gigantic witness’ to the constitutionally guaranteed right of all citizens to register and vote.”

Journey to Justice culminates in an Advocacy Day on the Capital Hill on September 16.  Marchers and their supporters will have dozens of meetings with Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.  The principal focal point for the lobbying will be the need to address the devastating impact of Shelby County v. Holder, a 2013 Supreme Court decision which gutted a key provision of the VRA, dramatically limiting its effectiveness and reach.

Last November – the first major election since Shelby County – there were new restrictions on voting in 15 states, endangering voting rights for hundreds of thousands of Americans. From voter ID laws that threaten to disenfranchise African Americans, Latinos, students and elderly voters, to cuts to early voting and onerous requirements for voter registration, the right to vote is in peril.

The proper response to the Shelby County decision is the bipartisan Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 (S. 1659/H.R. 2867).  The VRAA reasserts appropriate federal oversight over efforts to change state and local voting laws and provides additional safeguards for voting.

Since, 1965 reaffirming the nation’s commitment to full voting rights for all has never been controversial.  Each time the VRA came up for reauthorization it has received overwhelming, bipartisan Congressional support.  The last time Congress extended the VRA, in 2006, it did so after an exhaustive hearings on voting discrimination and the impact of the VRA – resulting in thousands of pages of documentation.  The legislation passed overwhelmingly: 390 to 33 in the House of Representatives and 98-0 in the Senate.

As we have commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) this summer, we have been reminded just how far we have come – how impactful the VRA has been in ensuring the rights of all Americans to have their say in our democracy.   Journey for Justice marchers and their supporters are demonstrating that Congress must do more than merely commemorate anniversaries of historic civil rights victories.  They must act.  Now is the time for Congress to act to restore the protections of the VRA and secure the right to vote for all Americans.

 

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March 11, 2014

President’s Civil Rights Nominee Rejected For Defending Civil Rights

Last week, on March 5, a majority of Senators voted to block the nomination of Debo Adegbile, President Obama’s choice to be the next Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights – replacing Tom Perez, now Secretary of Labor. The vote to refuse to confirm Adegbile was 47-52 (with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) casting a “no” vote in order to preserve the possibility of bringing the nomination to the floor again).debo-adegbile

Adegbile’s nomination had attracted considerable support – including the American Bar Association and a number of leading conservative advocates who had been on the other side of legal arguments with Adegbile in the past. The Anti-Defamation League was among 86 national civil rights, religious, and law enforcement organizations that had endorsed his nomination in a letter to Senators

Adegbile was not defeated because he was unqualified for the post. To the contrary, Adegbile, a voting rights expert who had argued two cases before the United States Supreme Court, is one of the pre-eminent civil rights litigators of his generation. He had served as Director of Litigation and, later, as Acting President and Director-Counsel of the storied civil rights organization, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF). 

Instead, opposition to Adegbile was focused, almost exclusively, on the fact that the LDF became counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal during his tenure. Abu-Jamal was convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. Far from “seeking to glorify an unrepentant cop-killer,” as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrongly asserted, LDF lawyers had not argued that Abu-Jamal was innocent or wrongly convicted. They argued, in post-conviction appeal proceedings, that his death sentence had been tainted by jury instructions that were flawed and improper – an argument that prevailed in the courts.  Adegbile was involved in the case tangentially, in a supervisory capacity.

As the controversy over Adegbile’s LDF involvement in the Abu-Jamal appeal grew, the President of the American Bar Association felt it necessary to write to Senators to remind them how the criminal justice system in America is supposed to work: 

I was alarmed to learn that there is some opposition to Mr. Adegbile’s nomination based solely on his efforts to protect the fundamental rights of an unpopular client while working at the Legal Defense Fund. His work, like the work of ABA members who provide thousands of hours of pro bono legal services every year, is consistent with the finest tradition of this country’s legal profession and should be commended, not condemned.

Following his defeat, many commentators have rightly labeled the Senate’s treatment of Adegbile unfair, contrasting his involvement in representing a highly unpopular defendant with similar legal representation by former President John Adams and Chief Justice John Roberts – who both, famously, represented individuals charged with murder.  In 1770, John Adams represented British soldiers indicted for murdering five people in what would later be called the “Boston Massacre” during British occupation of the colonies. Six of the soldiers on trial, including their commanding officer, were acquitted of the charges, and two others were convicted on manslaughter.   And when he was in private practice, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts represented a Florida death-row inmate who, with two co-defendants, had been convicted of killing eight people in 1978. 

The defeat of Debo Adegbile’s nomination sends a deeply disturbing message to lawyers who might now think twice before affiliating with advocacy groups or serving justice by representing controversial figures or causes.

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