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March 18, 2016

Seeking Justice: The Pardon of Leo Frank

This week marks the 30th anniversary of a significant event in ADL history – the decision by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to posthumously pardon Leo Frank.  Frank was the Jewish manager of an Atlanta pencil factory who was falsely accused and wrongly convicted in August 1913 of the rape and murder of Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old girl who worked in the factory. leo-frank-anti-semitism

Anti-Semitism was rampant in the early 1900’s and Leo Frank’s trial attracted national attention and significant press coverage – including irresponsible press outlets that inflamed the public with base and salacious anti-Semitism.  The trial itself was infected with a pervasively-hostile and anti-Semitic atmosphere – from the arguments of the prosecuting attorney to furious mobs shouting “Hang the Jew!” outside the courthouse.  Leo Frank’s trial and conviction shocked and galvanized the American Jewish community – and underlined the importance of the establishment of the Anti-Defamation League, which was founded in Chicago in 1913 with a mission to “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.”

Frank appealed his conviction – all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled 7 to 2, that Frank’s constitutional due process rights had not been violated.  Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Charles Evans Hughes strongly dissented:  “Mob law does not become due process of law by securing the assent of a terrorized jury. “

After all appeals were exhausted, Georgia Governor Georgia John M. Slaton reviewed the case and commuted Frank’s death sentence to life imprisonment. That courageous decision in June 1915, enraged many and sparked riots in the streets.  Two months later, a mob of armed men kidnapped Frank from his prison cell, drove him over 100 miles to Marietta (Mary Phagan’s hometown) and lynched him.

Leo Frank lynching

Efforts to vindicate justice for Leo Frank were strengthened in 1982, when eighty-three-year-old Alonzo Mann, who ran errands in the factory as a boy, came forward to announce that he had seen the factory janitor carrying Mary Phagan’s body to the basement on the day of her death.  The janitor had threatened to kill him if he told anyone.  ADL’s Atlanta-based Southern Counsel, Charles Wittenstein and prominent immigration lawyer and national ADL leader Dale Schwartz led a vigorous legal campaign to clear Frank’s name.  And on March 11, 1986, those efforts were rewarded with a pardon.  The landmark decision, however, did not exonerate Frank and prove his innocence.  Instead, Georgia pardoned Frank because of their failure to protect him and bring his murderers to justice.

 It’s hard to imagine a trial steeped in such anti-Semitism or racism today, but our nation is far from free of anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant discrimination and hate crimes.  Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said:  “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  The anniversary of Leo Frank’s pardon is teachable moment and a reminder that the arc does not bend by itself – people striving for equality and justice – even justice, delayed – need to bend it.

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January 26, 2016

Failed White Supremacist Leaders Form New Christian Identity Group

Two leaders of the white supremacist movement, Paul Mullet of Bainbridge, Ohio, and Billy Roper of Mountain View, Arkansas, have joined forces to form a new group, Divine Truth Ministries and its “political arm,” the Nation of True Israel.  Both men have struggled for years to establish themselves in the movement and to recruit followers.

Mullet and Roper practice Christian Identity, a virulently racist and anti-Semitic religion. They believe not only that whites of European descent can be traced back to the “Lost Tribes of Israel,” but that Jews descended from a union between Eve and Satan. In addition to their Christian Identity beliefs, both men have embraced neo-Nazi ideology.

Symbol of Divine Truth Ministries, left, and Aryan Nations, right

Symbol of Divine Truth Ministries, left, and Aryan Nations, right

A late December press release by Roper announced they were “carrying forward the ideals and values of Aryan Nations under a new banner.” In the 1990s, Aryan Nations was one of the largest and most active neo-Nazi groups in the country, as well as a major Christian Identity group.

Presumably Mullet and Roper hope to capitalize on the small void left by the recent dissolution of Morris Gulett’s Louisiana-based faction of Aryan Nations. Gulett’s group was one of a number of factions that formed after the 2004 death of Richard Butler, the founder of Aryan Nations.

It is no surprise that Mullet and Roper’s first course of business has been to demonize Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Earlier this month, just days before the federal holiday marking Dr. King’s birthday, they sponsored a “Day of Education,” which encouraged all “white nationalists” to distribute anti-King flyers and literature alleging that King, among other things, was a plagiarist and communist.

They are also organizing an April march at Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park to protest legislation that would allow changes to existing Confederate displays and monuments, as well as a plan by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association to install a monument in King’s honor. Following the march, they are also planning a white power music event at a different venue.

Despite their ideological beginnings with prominent neo-Nazi groups, Mullet and Roper, just a year apart in age, have struggled to make their mark in the white supremacist world. Mullet started with Richard Butler’s Aryan Nations, while Roper, who came from a family of Klansmen, got his start with William Pierce and the National Alliance. In the early 2000s, Butler and Pierce died, leaving the neo-Nazi movement in disarray and both Mullet and Roper untethered.

Shortly after Pierce’s death, Roper, forced out by the remaining leaders of the National Alliance, started his own neo-Nazi group, White Revolution. Despite years of effort, White Revolution never amounted to anything more than a tiny propaganda group and Roper shut it down in 2011. For the last several years, Roper was active with Thomas Robb’s Arkansas-based Klan group, the Knights Party.

Mullet also experienced failures as he attempted to start several neo-Nazi and Christian Identity groups in the years following Butler’s death. His worst loss came in 2011 when Morris Gulett usurped a faction of the Aryan Nations that Mullet had founded in 2009. In 2011, Mullet attempted a comeback with the American National Socialist Party, but it also failed.

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September 17, 2015

Extremists Declare: Refugees Hastening Europe’s Demise

White supremacists in the United States are up in arms over the refugee crisis in Europe. They believe that the settlement of refugees from the Middle East and Africa in European nations will destroy white European culture and transform the continent. They are also hoping that the refugee crisis will push Europeans to embrace white nationalism.

In addition, anti-Semites within the white supremacist camp are promoting conspiracy theories that blame Jews for the crisis and accuse Jews of spearheading Europe’s demise.

The American Freedom Party (AFP), a white supremacist political group, posted an article by Joshua Bates, a self-identified white nationalist. Bates called the refugee crisis an “invasion” and asserted that “Europe clearly needs a swift boot to the face, and perhaps even to suffer tragedy, if that is what it takes to disturb its complacency and force it to fight back.” He added, “The rapacious and ungrateful invaders will do much of the dirty work for us through inevitable attacks on our culture and people.”

Kevin MacDonald

Kevin MacDonald

Like Bates, Jared Taylor, head of American Renaissance (AR), a white supremacist online publication, said in video on the AR website, that Europe was hastening its demise if it continued to accept refugees. He argued that white Europeans who welcome refugees don’t understand what they’re doing. He claimed, “They are giving away their culture, their heritage, their identity, their country. Kindness to strangers is cruelty to their own children and grandchildren. Europe will learn or Europe will die.”

Anti-Semites directly blame the Jews for encouraging non-white immigration to Europe. Patrick Slattery, who often provides commentary on anti-Semite David Duke’s website and Internet radio show, argued that Jews want Muslim immigration to Europe even if they’re fearful of anti-Semitism. Slattery asserted, “What really matters to Europe’s Jewish leaders is that millions of Muslim immigrants will make Europe unlivable for Europeans. Because what’s bad for the Europeans must be good for the Jews.”

Kevin MacDonald, an anti-Semite who runs The Occidental Observer, an anti-Semitic online publication, also claimed that Jews have self-interest in bringing refugees to Europe. He argued, “As always, the policies advocated for European countries are couched in terms of Jewish attitudes and interests, not the legitimate interests of Europeans to retain their cultures and demographic status.”

MacDonald added, “From the perspective of Jewish organizations and most Jews, Israel, but not Europe, is absolved from pathologically altruistic behavior toward refugees — pathological in the very real sense that this behavior compromises their legitimate long-term interests. “

AFP posted an anti-Semitic article to its website that alleges that Jews are forcing the refugees on the West. The unnamed author adds, “Genocide happens quickly when jews [sic] are steering the ship. And up until today they continue to advocate for open borders and amnesty, seemingly unwilling to stop until there are no more Whites left.”

White supremacists and anti-Semites are obsessed with the idea that the white Western countries are experiencing a white genocide. They are using the refugee crisis to promote that idea.

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