Saturday, March 07, 2015

Seattle Forum Focuses Concern on Anti-LGBT Hate Crimes in Key Neighborhood

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, right, and his husband, Mike Shiosaki, left
[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Shaken by a year-long spike in LGBT-bashing crimes in their predominantly gay neighborhood, community leaders from Seattle’s Capitol Hill area organized a public forum this week that drew several hundred participants, as well as the city’s mayor.

Ranging from an attempt to kill hundreds of people packed into a bar on New Year’s Eve to a steady stream of assaults and robberies motivated by anti-LGBT animus, the spike in hate crimes on Capitol Hill appears to be a violent backlash against recent gains in LGBT rights in Washington state, including the approval given to same-sex marriage by the state’s voters in 2012.

“I used to live on Capitol Hill, but I don’t anymore,” said Debbie Carlsen of LGBTQ Allyship, a local rights organization, to the crowd on Tuesday, echoing a number of other speakers. “And when I go to the Hill, I don’t feel culturally safe. It’s not a place that I feel safe anymore.”

A number of residents described to the crowd the kinds of assaults that they have endured in the past year, including verbal harassment escalating to physical assaults as they walked through the neighborhood, as well as one alleged assault by a police officer. One man stood up and removed his hat, revealing a large healing wound on his forehead, saying he had been attacked only a week before and had been unable to identify his assailants, “but they were all calling me names.”

Most of those who testified agreed that the worst, most violent attacks seemed to be directed at transsexual people of color.

The meeting, organized by Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant, featured a number of speakers offering a range of solutions. Some proposed more citizen patrols, while others opposed that step as potentially dangerous. Some argued for greater police involvement, while others blamed the police as part of the problem. Sawant spoke at length about how economic disparities often fuel the conditions that make the crimes possible.

Seattle’s openly gay Mayor Ed Murray, who attended the gathering with his husband, said he will help take the lead on this issue. “I think if people don’t feel safe, if they perceive they’re not safe, then we have a problem,” he said. “And we as a city and we as a community have to respond.”

Murray told KING 5 News that he believes the problem is real and substantial. “I think there is an increase,” he said. “I mean, we’ve been here before, we’ve seen this right on this very street before, back in the late ’80s and early ‘90s, when I was a young person. And we’re seeing it again.”

Shaun Knittel, the founder of Social Outreach Seattle, and one of the people who helped douse the attempted arson at Neighbours Bar on New Year’s Eve 2014, an act that eventually brought a heavy 10-year sentence for the perpetrator, told the crowd that it needed to resolve some of its internal differences if the community is going to form an effective response to the challenge.

“We have a perfect storm here on the Hill,” said Knittel, noting the split between people who support the police and those who blame the police. “What kind of message does that send to people who want to do harm to us?”

“We also have a nightlife culture here where everyone that’s opening a business here seems to think they need to be either a bar or a nightclub. How many do you need in one neighborhood?”

Knittel urged victims of bias crimes to resist the temptation to not report the matter to police at all, noting that doing so just encourages repeat offenses and escalation.

“We need to understand better about reporting, and we need to talk about what that looks like,” he said. “If you fear going to the police to report, we understand that. But please, reach out and find and advocate and let people help you report what’s happened. Because I can guarantee you that you’re not their first victim.”

Most of all, he noted, the community needs to make it clear that “bashing queers” is not a free sport for haters anymore.

“We need to lean into this notion that you can come up here and mess with us and we won’t do anything back,” he said. “Those days are over.”

Monday, March 02, 2015

Tales of the Montana Freemen: The Girl and Her Dog

The Freemen's cabin near the town of Roundup
Here's a story a collected while reporting on the saga of the Montana Freemen in the 1990s. I have always thought it was a revealing (not to mention disturbing) instance of the far-right "Patriot" mindset, particularly in how they viewed the world and the way children should be raised.

This is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of my first book, In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest, published by WSU Press in 1999. The chapter is primarily about the activities of the Freemen prior to their infamous armed standoff with the FBI of 1996, especially Ur-Freemen Rodney Skurdal and Leroy Schweitzer, in the little town of Roundup.


A sign on the Freemen property.
While their legal defeats were coming in rapid succession, the Freemen’s recruiting was going well. Another key follower showed up at the Freemen ranch that fall: Dale Jacobi. A Canadian businessman who had moved from Calgary in the 1980s south to Thompson Falls, Montana, Jacobi became involved in the radical right while operating a propane-gas business in the little Clark Fork River logging town just a few miles east of Noxon. He fell in with John and Dave Trochmann, and also became acquainted with another local Constitutionalist, John Brush.

Brush decided to move to Musselshell County in 1994, partly to be closer to the Freemen, so he bought a parcel of land out in the distant woods and set about raising and training horses with his wife and daughter. Jacobi, who became a Freemen follower after Trochmann recommended their four-day courses in the Militia of Montana newsletter that spring, sold his business and moved onto Brush’s land, living in a trailer on the property.

In one afternoon that fall, though, Brush not only disavowed Dale Jacobi but the Freemen as well. He later explained why to John Bohlman, the Musselshell County prosecutor: One morning, Brush told Bohlman, when he drove into town for supplies, Jacobi took Brush’s 8-year-old daughter, with her dog in tow, out to a remote part of their land. He carried with him a stool and a piece of rope. Under a tree, Jacobi set up the stool and placed the little dog on it. Then he made a noose with the rope, placed it over the dog’s neck, and slung it over the tree. He pulled the open end of the rope tight and held it at a distance from the dog, then told the girl to come stand in front of him. Call the dog, he told the girl. She did. It jumped off the stool and hung itself as Jacobi held the line taut.

The girl was in hysterics when her father returned home. Enraged, he asked Jacobi why he did it. Jacobi told him he felt the girl needed some toughening up, and that this would help her. Brush screamed at Jacobi to leave and never come back. Jacobi packed his things into his car and left.

He found an open room at [Rodney] Skurdal’s ranch, and soon was named one of the group’s constables. Brush announced he wanted nothing more to do with that bunch -- and asked Bohlman to remove the arms cache Jacobi had left behind. Bohlman and a deputy went out to Brush’s place and found PVC pipes hidden under some brush, stuffed with a few guns and a massive load of ammunition, reloading tools, powder and bullets, enough to make thousands of rounds with. Brush also told Bohlman he knew of similar caches like this in strategic spots throughout the Northwest.


Of course, none of this ended particularly well for any of the participants, most of whom wound up doing federal prison time after engaging the FBI in a record-setting 81-day standoff at another ranch outside the town of Jordan, a couple of hours north of Roundup. One hopes that John Brush's daughter eventually recovered. And that her daddy got a clue.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

AFA Now Has Its Own 'Hate Map': Targeting is OK When They Do It

"How it infuriates a bigot, when he is forced to drag out his dark convictions!"

Logan Pearsall Smith, 1931
It was a brave step, back in 2010, that the Southern Poverty Law Center took when it decided to designate a number of viciously anti-LGBT organizations who liked to pose as mainstream "pro-family" groups as "hate groups" -- most notably the Family Research Council and the American Family Association -- because they knew full well that there would be a backlash from conservatives and Beltway types who see these suit-and-tied operators as just ordinary-seeming folks, even if they are a little bigoted.

The designation was fully deserved, though, because as the SPLC then went on to demonstrate fully, these organizations indulge in hate-mongering that is not significantly different than the kind of vicious garbage that is regularly spread by outfits like the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations. The only difference is in that the target is based on sexual orientation and not race (and to be frank, the Klan and the AN target the LGBT community just as viciously too).

It's true that, unlike those latter groups, the suit-and-tied FRC and AFA and their anti-LGBT cohorts (all of them from the religious right) do not engage in systematic acts of violence against their targets. But then again, the SPLC monitors the Klan not just because of the violence that it actively commits, but also because of the violence that it engenders independent of its own activities through its hate speech.

Employing hate speech that encourages acts of discrimination and ultimately violence is the leading reason any organization winds up being designated by the SPLC as a "hate group." That's spelled out very clearly in their criteria:
All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics. ... Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing. ... Listing here does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.
And there's no other way to describe what the FRC and AFA do, on a regular basis, than engaging in anti-LGBT hate speech: claiming that pedophiles are more likely to be gay, or promoting quarantines of AIDS victims, or the criminalization of homosexuality. And that's really just a sampling of the fetid spew of bile that these outfits flood our discourse with on an ongoing basis.

So now, if there's anything these outfits hate as much as gays and lesbians these days, it's the SPLC and their hate designation. They constantly rail against the organization as "ultra liberal" (um, only if opposing bigotry is no longer the purview of conservatives, ya know what I'm sayin?) and essentially Satanic itself. My favorite recent example of this was when far-right pastor E.W. Jackson attacked the SPLC as being no different than slave-holding plantation owners. No really.

And the SPLC had to have known, back in 2010 when it made this choice, that these hate groups would claim that the only reason they had been given that designation was that they "favored traditional Christian values/marriage" -- rather than the truth, which was that they earned the title by viciously demonizing the LGBT community with false and dehumanizing smears. And yep, sure enough, that has been the entirety of their response.

Well, not the entirety. They have also seized upon the unfortunate and saddening attack on the FRC's Washington offices in August 2012 by a crazed man named Floyd Corkins who had read the SPLC's "hate map" and decided to retaliate violently against the people who had been stirring up hatred against gays. As we noted at the time, it was a betrayal of everything groups like the SPLC are about -- that is, defusing the kind of hate talk that encourages acts of violence and terrorism -- but that of course did not stop the FRC and AFA and all their conservative cohorts at places like Fox News from laying all the blame at the doorsteps of the SPLC. (The incident also was truly an outlier, one that has not been repeated to form any kind of trend.)

So now, whenever anyone brings up their hate-group designation, these outfits just yell "Floyd Corkins!!!" sort of the same way Tea Partiers yell "Benghazi!!!" whenever they want to slag President Obama.

And as if to emphasize just HOW much they hate the SPLC, and HOW much they hate hate hate hate their designation as a "hate group," the AFA recently decided to publish its own "hate map," a kind of cheesy ripoff of the SPLC's own long-recognized and respected hate-group map.

There are four categories of "anti-Christian bigotry groups", according to the AFA: "Homosexual Agenda" groups, "Atheists", "Anti-Christians," and "Humanists." (The SPLC, in case you're wondering, is designated "Anti-Christian." The site explains:
These groups are deeply intolerant towards the Christian religion. Their objectives are to silence Christians and to remove all public displays of Christian heritage and faith in America.

A common practice of these groups is threatening our nation’s schools, cities and states. By threat of lawsuit, they demand prayer removed from schools and city council meetings, Ten Commandments monuments stricken from courthouses and memorial crosses purged from cemeteries and parks.
Because of anti-Christian bigotry, private business owners have been sued and forced to close their business. Families and businesses that express a Christian worldview on social issues often face vicious retaliation from bigoted anti-Christian zealots.

Some members or supporters of these groups have committed violent crimes against Christians and faith-based groups. Physical and profane verbal assaults against Christians are methods frequently exercised in their angry methods of intimidation.
As Right Wing Watch observes:
At first glance, the map appears to be pretty heavily populated, but a quick search of the actual groups listed reveals that the AFA basically just listed every atheist, humanist, or freethinker organization it could find, as well as the state chapters of national organizations such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, SPLC, the Human Rights Campaign, and GLSEN ... 
A closer examination reveals a stunning bit of hypocrisy as well. If you go to the AFA's map, you will find that you can actually locate the street addresses of the organizations listed -- including the SPLC and People for the American Way -- not just in the towns but can drill down to see where they are located and obtain their actual street addresses. Here's what happens, for example, if you take a close look at their entry for the SPLC:

You'll get a similar map if you look at every other organization listed. Each of these organizations -- many of which are just run out of people's homes -- can now be targeted by kooks who might want to harm them in the same manner as Floyd Corkins, but that's apparently OK with the AFA, as long as it only affects the people they perceive as their enemies.

Ironically, this is exactly what the AFA and the FRC accused the SPLC of having done in the Floyd Corkins case. The FRC's Tony Perkins, on the day after the attack, claimed the SPLC had given Corkins a "license to shoot" by identifying their D.C. offices on their hate map. And indeed, Perkins continues to claim to this day that "the source of Corkins' hit list was, in fact, the SPLC's "hate map," that listed FRC's address."

But if you look at the SPLC's map for D.C., and its listing for the FRC, this is all you will actually see:

If you try to zoom in closer, you can't. There are in fact no addresses listed.

Most likely, this is because the SPLC has always recognized that giving specific addresses for groups it is criticizing is a bad idea, for a large number of reasons. One of those is that it might in fact become the grounds for someone's act -- or it might even be construed as a deliberate attempt to target the organization.

Obviously, that's not what the SPLC wants, as it has made clear in the wake of the Corkins affair. It is identifying these groups as hate groups as a matter of accountability for the violence-engendering rhetoric and ideas that they peddle.

It's not so clear, however, that the AFA's intent is so innocent.

Judge Clears Way for Simcox To Represent Self in Child-Molestation Case

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

A judge this week granted Chris Simcox, the former nativist extremist known sarcastically among those on the border as the “Little Prince” because of his arrogant bearing, the right to represent himself in his forthcoming trial in Phoenix for child molestation — charges that could put him away for life.

Simcox’s trial was rescheduled on Monday for March 16 by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jose Padilla, who stipulated several rules for Simcox’s plans to conduct a self-represented (pro se) defense on three counts of child molestation and two counts of sexual conduct with a minor.
Simcox's booking shot

All this means that Simcox likely will be personally cross-examining his two young victims, who were ages 6 and 5 in 2013 at the time of their alleged abuse. According to the papers filed by prosecutors, Simcox “is alleged to have digitally penetrated his biological daughter’s [vagina] on two occasions, penetrated her vagina with an object on [one] occasion and to have fondled the genitals of his daughter’s friend on two occasions.

Jerry Cobb, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, told Hatewatch that victim advocates with backgrounds in dealing with sexual abuse cases involving children had been assigned to the two young girls.

But cases in which the victims of a sexual assault are required to face their accused attackers on the witness stand are relatively rare. Even rarer, according to legal experts consulted by Hatewatch, are pro-se cases involving child sex assault victims. In fact, allowing accused perpetrators of a sexual assault to directly cross-examine their alleged victims remains a controversial component of American jurisprudence. The practice recently came under intense scrutiny when a rape victim in Seattle, distraught with the prospect of having to face the man she said attacked her when she was a child, threatened suicide at the courthouse, after he won the right to represent himself.

“Judges can be very creative about this, but the fundamental constitutional right of somebody to represent themselves in trial is pretty strong,” said Patty Eakes, a former prosecutor now with the Seattle firm Calfo Harrigan Leyh & Eakes. “So it’s always a tricky position for a judge when someone decides they want to go pro se, and when they go pro se, then technically he has the right to examine the person.”

This often throws the courts into a balancing act between the rights of the victims and the rights of the accused. In any event, Eakes observed, Simcox was dooming his chances in court, as well as closing off at least one avenue of appeal (inadequate representation), by asking the court to represent himself.
“He may have delusions of grandeur about what a great job he’s going to do, but he’s going to have two strikes against him with that jury before he stands up, just because he chose to do this, right?” Eakes said.

Simcox had initially been offered a plea bargain that would have required him to serve 10 years in prison, but he refused and insisted on taking the case to trial. According to a report by Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times, Simcox engaged in a tense back-and-forth with Judge Padilla during the hearing to determine if Simcox would represent himself.

“In a sense, I kind of welcome the trial,” Simcox said at the time. “I would relish the opportunity for the truth to come out.”

The developments are the latest in a long and twisted road to trail for Simcox, who previously had suggested he would present a “grand conspiracy” defense that he had been targeted for prosecution, and the evidence against him invented, because of his prominent role as a leader and co-founder of the nativist extremism group called the Minutemen.

At the height of the border movement, Simcox was president of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a nationwide, anti-immigration vigilante organization with armed “citizen border patrols” in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas, along with a smattering of states on the Canadian border where Minutemen had deployed to protect America from northern invaders. Never modest, the cigar-chomping Simcox was a hyper and relentless self-aggrandizer who came across with the smug egotism that quickly earned him the nickname “The Little Prince.”

But even then, there were allegations of sexual abuse.

As the SPLC reported in 2005, Simcox was accused by his first wife of molesting another daughter when she was a teenager, though no complaint was ever made to police. His second wife also sought custody of their teenage son because, she said, Simcox had become violent and unpredictable. His third wife — the mother of his current accuser — took out a restraining order against Simcox in 2010 when she divorced him.

When Hatewatch contacted Simcox then, he refused to answer four direct questions about the allegations.

“I would never answer those questions to you. You can’t ask those questions,” he said. “You’re on a witch hunt and you’re trying to discredit our movement, which is to secure the borders. … My personal life has nothing to do with anything that goes on here.”

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Kinds of Things You Might Learn in an Oklahoma AP History Course

The results of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921

So the Oklahoma Legislature has voted overwhelmingly to ban an Advanced Placement course on American history because it contains too many of the "negative" aspects of history and is not overwhelmingly "positive." In its place, the lawmakers propose replacing the course with a farrago of blather, half-truths, and right-wing religious propaganda.

One could say, "Only in Oklahoma." But not. Already it's spread to Texas. And look for other state legislatures to take up the torch, so to speak.

But one can easily imagine WHY this began in Oklahoma. After all, there's more than a little "negative" history that the white right-wingers of the state have long ago swept under the carpet there, and they bygawd intend to keep it that way.

Here are some important moments in Oklahoma history that future students in the state will almost certainly not learn about, because they decidedly fall into the "negative" category.

The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921

Like so many of the "deadly ethnic riots" that erupted in America between 1890 and 1930, this one had its beginnings with a young black man offending virtuous white womanhood, bringing a mob of angry white men in vengeful pursuit. In this case, it was 19-year-old black shoeshiner named Dick Rowland who got onto an elevator at the building where he worked that was operated by a young white woman. Upon his arrival at the ninth floor, a nearby clerk heard her shriek and saw Rowland fleeing; upon arriving at the elevator, he found the young woman in a "distraught" state, and assumed she had been assaulted. (In fact, he likely had only stumbled upon leaving the elevator and the woman had shrieked out of concern for him.)

Nonetheless, authorities were summoned and briefly investigated the matter. Rowland was held in jail a few hours and questioned and then released.

But the Tulsa Tribune was on the case. "Nab Negro for Attacking Girl In an Elevator" shouted the front-page headline. Though no copies of this have survived, an editorial warning that Rowland might be lynched, headlined "To Lynch Negro Tonight", reportedly ran on the paper's interior pages.

Soon gangs of angry white men were seen roaming the area around Greenwood, the black commercial area known as the "Negro Wall Street" for its stunning financial success. Dick Rowland lived in a neighborhood there. And soon armed bands of black men had begun gathering too, determined not to permit another young black man to be lynched at the hands of whites for an imagined crime.

One of these groups of black men approached the white sheriff and offered their assistance in maintaining order. Not only did the sheriff refuse the offer, but a white man at the scene demanded one of the black men hand over his gun. When the man refused, shots were exchanged. Soon a full-scale riot erupted.

Rampaging whites brought guns and torches and began destroying everything and everyone in Greenwood. For the remainder of the day, groups of armed blacks and whites were squaring off and firing at each other. The next morning, a siren sounded at daybreak, which seemed to signal a fresh assault by whites on the black neighborhood. Soon they were setting fires and the black residents began fleeing in panic. Mob members entered people's homes and forced them to flee in the streets. A couple of biplanes flew overhead, dropping incendiary bombs on the black neighborhood and shooting at people below.

At the end of the violence, hundreds of people were dead, though the numbers remain in dispute. News reports at the time counted 173 dead, most of them black. The NAACP estimated that between 150 and 200 black people were killed. Some estimates run as high as 300.

The entire commercial section of Greenwood was destroyed, including 191 businesses, a junior high school, several churches and the only black hospital in the district. Some 1,256 houses were burned to the ground.

The surviving black populace, about 6,000 in all, were arrested and herded into several detention centers. These included injured blacks, who were unable to seek medical help because the black hospital had been destroyed, and the local white hospitals would not admit them.

A subsequent grand jury blamed the riots on the negligence of the police chief, and he was fired. That was the extent of any white accountability for the riot.

The Osage Reign of Terror

Rita Smith, left, and her housekeeper,
Nellie Brookshire, both killed by an assassin
The Osage Indian tribe, whose reservation is located in the northeastern part of Oklahoma, are perhaps best known to Americans as the ragtag band of remainders who populated some of the pages of Laura Ingalls Wilder's 'Little Home on the Prairie' books. Wilder wrote disparagingly of the Osages, upon whose lands, in fact, the Ingalls family were actually squatters, and were eventually thrown off their first 'little home on the prairie' for doing so.

What most Americans don't know is that by the 1920s, the Osage Indians were fabulously wealthy, the beneficiaries of having oil under the lands that had been designated their official reservation. The oil was discovered in 1894, and by 1920 it had become a major source of income for the tribal members who retained the mineral rights to the parcels of land each had been given in their original treaties. Some tribal members built mansions, bought fancy cars, hired servants, and sent their children to Harvard.

But by the mid-1920s this great gusher of wealth attracted the usual vultures who come to feast on the greed that permeates when large sums of money are involved. These included a large number of white men who realized that a number of these oil "headrights," as they were called, belonged to women, and would pass to their descendants upon their deaths.

William K. Hale
So these white men would move to Osage County, marry these Osage women (sometimes by plying them with liquor) and then, when the time was right, simply disposed of them. At least, that was the most common scam run by white men circling around these oil rights, but some of them -- notably a character named William King Hale, who called himself "King of the Osage" because he had managed to collect so many of these headrights -- came up with a variety of schemes to obtain them, including murder.

Eventually this faction had complete control of Osage County, including law enforcement, leaving the majority of the tribal population in abject terror that they too might be targeted for death because some white man lusted after his headrights and could get away with killing him. By the time that federal authorities finally moved in and got control of the situation, it's estimated that over 60 Osage tribal members had perished.

One of the most notorious of these involved Hale's assassination of his most vocal critic, a local man named Bill Smith who had been a close friend of a previous Hale victim, and whose wife owned a headright that Hale was scheming after. Hale sent a man to bomb the Smiths' home as they slept, which he did.

These crimes, in fact, constituted the newly-formed Federal Bureau of Investigation with its first big case, and the FBI maintains a fascinating archive of documents related to that investigation. 

What Learning About These Incidents Means

An understanding of Oklahoma history would not be complete without at least some knowledge of these incidents, particularly because they loom so large in the history of race relations in America as a nation.

It also would give young people a clearer and fuller picture of the scope and nature of how history has shaped modern race relations in America. At a bare minimum, it will prevent privileged and sheltered whites from asking ignorantly: "Why haven't blacks done any better since we ended slavery?" or asking: "Why do Native Americans insist on clinging to their reservations?"

This and similar kinds of examinations of the darker chapters of American history actually do a great deal to shed light on our current dilemmas, particularly when it comes to issues of race, ethnicity, and religion, and particularly by white folks. By understanding our own culpability in creating current conditions, and confronting them honestly -- which includes embracing the moral responsibility that comes from being the long-term beneficiaries of this history -- there's at least a glimmer of hope of finding real solutions and creating a future that works for all our children.

Or ... we can just embrace the ignorance and doom ourselves to repeat history.

And believe me, there are a lot of ugly chapters in it.

Simcox Seeks to Act As His Own Attorney in Child-Molestation Trial

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

Onetime Minuteman leader Chris Simcox has filed papers seeking to act as his own attorney in his upcoming trial in Phoenix on child-molestation charges, raising the prospect that he could wind up cross-examining his own alleged young victims on the stand.

Simcox was arrested in July 2013 and accused of molesting his daughter and her friend at his home on two occasions when the girls were ages 6 and 5, respectively. Both are now in their preteens. The charges are all felonies, and if convicted, Simcox could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Simcox's booking photo
Invoking the 1975 Supreme Court ruling in Faretta v. California, Simcox on Feb. 12 filed a request with Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jose Padilla saying that, “after conferring with his assigned attorneys in this matter,” he “invokes his right to represent himself for all further proceedings, including the jury trial set in this matter for March 2, 2015.”

Simcox has been in prison since his arrest, and the t
rial has been delayed multiple times, largely at Simcox’s request, as he has gone through multiple defense attorneys in the case.

Simcox is known nationally for his role as one of the two founders of the Minuteman movement, an array of armed groups that patrolled the southern border looking to apprehend migrants illegally crossing into the United States. Among other things, he became known for ridiculous statements like his claim to have seen Chinese Army soldiers massing at the American border.

Prosecutors had requested another delay in the trial earlier this month, explaining that the lead prosecutor in the case was currently in court with another case. However, Judge Padilla denied that request, so the trial is currently scheduled to begin as scheduled on March 2. However, a pretrial conference on Monday, at which Simcox and Judge Padilla are expected to establish ground rules in his attempt to represent himself, could change that schedule yet again.

According to the documents filed by prosecutors in the case, Simcox “is alleged to have digitally penetrated his biological daughter’s [vagina] on two occasions, penetrated her vagina with an object on [one] occasion and to have fondled the genitals of his daughter’s friend on two occasions.” He has also been charged with providing harmful materials to a minor.

Prosecutors at one time had offered Simcox a generous plea deal that would have given him a 10-year sentence. However, according to Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times, the spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said the offer had been taken off the table.

Earlier filings made by Simcox’s attorneys suggested that he might attempt a defense based on claims that he was targeted for prosecution because of his high political and media profile. He also appeared to be claiming that the charges against him were based on evidence from a daughter who was subject to “parental alienation” because of a “contentious divorce.” The judge hearing the case at the time warned Simcox that he could not plan an attempting a “grand conspiracy” defense.

As the SPLC reported in 2005, Simcox was accused by his first wife of molesting another daughter when she was a teenager, though no complaint was ever made to police. His second wife also sought custody of their teenage son because, she said, Simcox had become violent and unpredictable. His third wife — the mother of his current accuser — took out a restraining order against Simcox in 2010 when she divorced him.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Illinois Woman With Neo-Nazi Leanings Charged In Canadian Mass Murder Plot

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

A young woman from Illinois with an apparent taste for neo-Nazi symbolism and white-supremacist beliefs was one of two people arrested last week in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for plotting to commit a mass murder at a Halifax mall on Valentine’s Day.

Lindsay Souvannarath
Lindsay Kanittha Souvannarath, a 23-year-old from Geneva, Ill., was arrested along with Randall Steven Shepherd, 20, of Halifax, at the local airport after she had flown in to meet him there. According to authorities, she confessed to the plot shortly after her arrest.

A young man associated with the plot, James Gamble, 19, of nearby Timberlea, Nova Scotia, shot himself in the head as police surrounded his home on Friday morning. A fourth young man was arrested with Shepherd at the Halifax airport and then released after police determined he had nothing to do with the plot.

Canadian authorities said the trio planned to invade a local mall on Valentine’s Day, armed to the teeth, and begin killing as many people there as they could. However, all of the officials involved insisted that it was not a terrorist act, since there was no “cultural” component to the plotters’ motives.

“The attack does not appear to have been culturally motivated, therefore not linked to terrorism,” Justice Minister Peter Mackay told assembled reporters at a press conference devoted to the case on Saturday.

However, several Canadian media outlets have questioned this, including Halifax blogger Robert Cevet and Derrick O’Keefe at Ricochet Media, noting that several of the would-be perpetrators, notably Souvannarath, had clear ideological affinities that seemed to motivate them — far-right affinities.

The website Political Gates collected a number of Souvannarath’s online postings from over the years, dating back to when she was a teenager, and found a long list of images and posts that made clear that she advocated fascist and neo-Nazi ideologies, and similarly was a fan of mass violence and fantasized about it.

These images included one that she dubbed “me taking notes in class” that was a classic “White Power” logo complete with a swastika and SS symbol. Another photo shows an arm with the bloody words “White Power” carved into it with a razor. Other images include fascist flags over America and young men posing in a swastika shape with their arms. One features Adolf Hitler surrounded by prancing cartoon ponies.

The Internet sleuths at the site Kiwi Farms, where she had at one time been an active member, further tracked Souvanarrath’s activities and ascertained that she had also been an active member at a forum devoted to fascist ideology called Iron March, which is apparently operated by a man named Alexander Slavros.

Nor was Souvannarath the only member of the trio with such leanings. James Gamble’s online postings also included a fascination with mass killings, and some of his Tumblr blog posts contained admiring references to Hitler and Nazis.

Both Souvannarth and Shepherd were initially charged with conspiracy to commit murder. On Tuesday, additional charges came down against the pair, including conspiracy to commit arson, illegal possession of weapons for a purpose dangerous to the public and making a threat through social media.

Souvannarath graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 2014. Her family in Geneva is reportedly cooperating with the investigation.

A former neighbor, Eva Schooley, recalled the woman as a young girl. “My granddaughters ran around with Lindsay,” she said. “Lindsay was a little strange. I think at one point she went kind of gothic on us for a while. She liked to dress in black, the whole gothic style.”

In his denials that the planned mass murder was a terrorist event, Justice Minister Mackay remarked: “An individual that would so recklessly and with bloody intent plot to do something like this I would suggest would also be susceptible to being motivated by groups like ISIS and others. This is the main concern — that any individual in Canada, whatever their motivation or proclivities might be, would also be susceptible to being recruited or radicalized.”

Clearly, these young people had indeed been radicalized, but not by ISIS.

Monday, February 09, 2015

No Arrests As Planned Washington State Capitol Protest Fizzles

Some protesters brought their children along with their guns.
[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

The plan was for everyone carrying a gun into the chambers of the Washington House gallery on Saturday to get arrested — an antigovernment act of civil disobedience to call attention to the state’s new gun control law. But as the crowd of about 50 antigovernment gun owners gathered in the drizzle, waiting for the right moment to go it, the plan hit a snag.

The legislature was not in session. The governor was gone. The House gallery was closed and the doors to it locked. In other words, there was nothing there that the gun owners — who toted a variety of weapons to the protest — could do as an act of civil disobedience to protest a ban on citizens bringing weapons in the state House and Senate chambers.

“What’s the world coming to when there are people who want to break the law and they won’t let you do it?” Dave Grenier, 58, of Tumwater, a protest participant, told the Associated Press.

Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe, addresses the crowd.
Organizers had advertised the protest as an act defying the legislature’s attempts to keep people from brandishing weapons in the chambers of the House and Senate. It was the latest in a series of protests that began in December after Washington voters approved Initiative 594, which required background checks on most gun sales. After protests erupted over that issue, legislators approved measures prohibiting guns from being displayed in both the House and Senate galleries, and banned them from all legislative hearings in the Capitol, as well. The law does not, however, affect people with concealed carry permits.

Rep. Elizabeth Scott
The gun owners organized Saturday’s rally to protest those new rules, and promotional posts about the gathering warned that gun owners planned on being arrested. But, it seems, the protest might have been a failure in the making.

“We informed them beforehand that the doors are normally locked on Saturdays,” said Robert Calkins, spokesman for the Washington State Patrol, which had a number of officers on hand on Saturday. “That did not seem to affect their plans, though.”

Despite knowing the outcome in advance, organizers did little to hide their dismay. How could they possibly perform an act of civil disobedience if the doors were locked?

“It is unacceptable that the WA state gov locked the people out of our own house gallery,” organizer Sam Wilson tweeted.

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley
The protest went on, however. The day was drizzly and breezy, but by the official start time — an hour before Capitol doors opened — about 50 would-be participants had gathered. Most of them had some kind of long arm strapped to their back. Some had children in tow.

They spent the hour listening to speeches from various antigovernment luminaries, including “III Percent” movement co-founder Mike Vanderboegh, and a couple of far-right state legislators. Washington Reps. Elizabeth Scott of Monroe and Matt Shea of Spokane Valley touted the need for individual gun ownership and their evident belief that the Second Amendment gives people an absolute right to own weapons. They both referred repeatedly to the “tyranny” of I-594.

In his main speech, the text of which he posted at his blog, he painted the gathering as a historic instance of patriotism. He also described a protester at a previous rally a "moron."

“We see here today on this miserable winter day in Olympia Washington — so seemingly distant from the struggles of the Founders in 1775 yet so very, eerily, close — that the Founders were right,” Vanderboegh said. “Tyranny can be voted in by a majority as it was with I5-94. Tyranny can also come from a duly-elected parliament or state legislature. The test for us is – do we submit? Or will we resist?”

Protesters enter the Capitol

Shortly after the Capitol doors opened, the protesters began making their way up the marble stairs to the gallery. However, the crowd stopped moving when the first protesters hit the locked doors, and much of the gathering waited in the stairway. Among them was Vanderboegh, who told the people gathered on the stairs: “They count this as a victory. But they have lost. They just don’t know it yet.”

Rally organizer Anthony Bosworth, left, and Mike Vanderboegh read the demands
posted on the door of the House gallery.

A list of demands from the protesters was taped to the door of the gallery. The protesters then made their way downstairs to the governor’s offices and posted an identical list of demands there. Then they made their way back out into the rain, held a brief prayer, and departed quietly.

Friday, February 06, 2015

'No Go' Zones Were First Made in America

Many signs outside of 'sundown towns' were less tactful.
Projection, I have observed more than once, is more than a mere trait of the American right wing, it's a conscious strategy designed to marginalize their opposition and open the field to nearly any behavior it chooses.

One of the more revealing instances of this projection is the sudden rise of claims from various right-wing elements that radical Muslim immigrants in both Europe and the United State have created "no go zones" where "Sharia Law" is enforced and where white non-Muslims are unwelcome and unsafe. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has made something of a national ass of himself touting these claims, which of course originate deep in the fetid cesspools of the far right.

And it is telling that all this talk about "no go zones" is arising even as anti-Muslim hate crimes are spiking (with the help of the gung-ho war film American Sniper). The even broader context is that this talk is occurring even as more people are opening discussions about the ongoing influence of white privilege in both our discourse and our polity, spurring angry denials from the right that such privilege even exists.

So perhaps it is not surprising to see the persistence of these beliefs on the right, thanks in no small part to the ongoing disinformation spewing out of our TVs on Fox News on a daily basis.

That alone tells us these ideas emanate from the ugly, pestilent id of right-wing American politics, the lizard-brain component of the electorate that denies the toxic presence of racism and bigotry in our social fabric even as it spreads it. It is innately irrational, morally corrupt, and projects all of its own worst tendencies onto its enemies at the drop of a hat.

In other words, from the same dark underbelly of white American culture that invented the "no go zones."

In their day, we called them "sundown towns." That meant that the life of any nonwhite person found within the town limits after sundown was forfeit. It was typically enforced by lynching.

All this has been thoroughly documented in James Loewen's remarkable work Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, which, as longtime readers here know, is an important informative study for my work on eliminationism.

Just so current readers understand the significance of this phenomenon -- and why it reveals a stunning hypocrisy among the same people on the right who pooh-pooh the possibility that white privilege even exists, let alone is a problem -- I'm replaying for you all the bulk of a post I wrote in 2007, as part of my series on eliminationism, exploring the history of "sundown towns" -- beginning with the observation that Loewen's book was criminally ignored in the press:


The media (and general public) reception for Sundown Towns stands in somewhat stark contrast to the fawning reaction that followed the publication, a decade earlier, of the two books for which it is possibly the most effective antidote: The Bell Curve (which attempted to put nice respectable statistical clothing on age-old eugenicist nonsense) and America in Black and White, the Thernstroms' enormously self-congratulatory (for white people) tome on the state of modern race relations. Both were national bestsellers that happened to find big audiences with suburban readers.

Sundown Towns is an effective antidote to both because, unlike the Thernstrom book, which glosses over such matters, it reveals one of the real continuing racial fault lines in America and explains how we got to where we are; and in stark contrast to The Bell Curve, it explodes much of the mythology of race in America, particularly long-held stereotypes about why we live where we do and why blacks have difficulty succeeding in America.

The American landscape it reveals is not the one we have created in our own minds, one in which the bulk of racial bigotry resides south of the Mason-Dixon line, while the enlightened northern states have, comparatively speaking at least, provided both a racial refuge and social justice. Rather, it reveals that racism is not only woven throughout the nation's social fabric, but that the brand of bigotry practiced throughout much of the North was even more noxious in nature than that in the South.

Specifically, while the South actively oppressed its nonwhite population, Americans in most of the rest of the country chose not to even tolerate their presence, and actively engaged in an ongoing campaign of eliminationist violence to drive them out, forcing them to cluster in large urban areas for their own self-protection and survival. The benign, polite white face of suburban and rural America outside the South is revealed as both deeply deceptive and ultimately lethal.

What exactly is a "sundown town"? Loewen defines the term [pp. 28-30] thus:
A sundown town is any organized jurisdiction that for decades kept African Americans or other groups from living in it and was thus "all white" on purpose.

... Beginning in about 1890 and continuing until 1968, white Americans established thousands of towns across the United States for whites only. Many towns drove out their black populations, then posted sundown signs. ... Other towns passed ordinances barring African Americans after dark or prohibiting them from owning or renting property; still others established such policies by informal means, harassing and even killing those who violated the rule. Some sundown towns similarly kept out Jews, Chinese, Mexicans, Native Americans, or other groups.

Independent sundown towns range from tiny hamlets such as DeLand, Illinois (population 500) to substantial cities such as Appleton, Wisconsin (57,000 in 1970). Sometimes entire counties went sundown, usually when their county seat did. Independent sundown towns were soon joined by "sundown suburbs," which could be even larger: Levittown, on Long Island, had 82,000 residents in 1970, while Livonia, Michigan, and Parma, Ohio, had more than 100,000. Warren, a suburb of Detroit, had a population of 180,000 including just 28 minority families, most of whom lived on a U.S. Army facility.

Outside the traditional South ... probably a majority of all incorporated places kept out African Americans.

Moreover, as he details, the appearance of sundown towns occurred in every region, every state:
There is reason to believed that more than half of all towns in Oregon, Indiana, Ohio, the Cumberlands, the Ozarks, and diverse other areas were also all-white on purpose. Sundown suburbs are found from Darien, Connecticut, to La Jolla, California, and are even more prevalent; indeed, most suburbs began life as sundown towns.

These towns formed neither naturally nor accidentally, but emerged well after the Civil War as the embodiment of emerging white supremacist beliefs, particularly eugenicist notions about the evils of "race mixing" and the innate inferiority of nonwhite races.

As Loewen explains, in the first quarter-century after the Civil War, African Americans actually fanned out across the country to resettle and start new lives with their newly won freedom. Outside the South, they lived in rural areas and small towns as well as big cities, filling all kinds of occupations:
[I]n Republican communities, in the period 1865-90, letting in African Americans was seen to be the appropriate, even patriotic thing to do. It was in tune with the times. Many Americans really were trying to give our nation a "new birth of freedom" -- freedom for African Americans -- for which, as Lincoln had suggested, Union soldiers had died at Gettysburg. Opening one's community to black families after the Civil War seemed right -- like opening one's college campus to black families after the Civil Rights Movement a century later. Congress said so: the 1866 Civil Rights Act declared that "citizens of every race and color ... shall have the same right ... to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property." Presidents said so -- James A. Garfield at his inauguration in 1881 ... clearly stated that the nation had granted equal rights to African Americans and that this was fitting and proper. Quakers in particular, abolitionists before the war, now made it their business to welcome African Americans to their communities, hire them as farmworkers, blacksmiths, or domestics, and help them get a start. So did Unitarians, Congregationalists, and some Methodists and Presbyterians. We can see the results in census figures [...]: African Americans went everywhere after the Civil War. By 1890, all across the North -- in northeast Pennsylvania river valleys, in every Indiana county save one, deep in the north woods of Wisconsin, in every county of Montana and California -- African Americans were living and working.

... Northern communities, especially where Republicans were in the majority, enjoyed something of a "springtime of race relations" between 1865 and 1890. During those years, African Americans voted, served in Congress, received some spoils from the Republican Party, worked as barbers, railroad firemen, midwives, mail carriers, and landowning farmers, and played other fully human roles in American society. Their new rights made African Americans optimistic, even buoyant. "Tell them we is risin'!" one ex-slave said to a northern writer, come to see for himself how the races were getting along in the postwar South. The same confidence fueled the black dispersal throughout the postwar North.

But this heyday was short-lived, and by 1890, the beginning of what is known as "the Nadir of race relations" -- which was to last another forty years, until 1930 -- set in. It was the period "when African Americans were forced back into noncitizenship," as Loewen puts it, and it produced what he calls the "Great Retreat" -- the forcible elimination of blacks from rural and suburban communities,from which they fled to larger black communities within a handful of urban centers [pp. 30-31]:
Unfortunately, "the new order of things" was destined to last only six more years. In 1890, trying to get the federal government to intervene against violence and fraud in southern elections, the Republican senator from Massachusetts, Henry Cabot Lodge, introduced his Federal Elections Bill. It lost by just one vote in the Senate. After its defeat, when Democrats again tarred Republicans [as they had before the Civil War, and since] as "nigger lovers," now the Republicans replied in a new way. Instead of assailing Democrats for denying equal rights to African Americans, they backed away from the subject. The Democrats had worn them down. Thus the springtime of race relations during Reconstruction was short, and it was followed not by summer blooms but by the Nadir winter, and not just in the South but throughout the country. ...

The Republicans' capitulation on race marked the beginning of a long era of overt racial oppression in America, not just in the South but nationally -- though of course Dixie politics played a special role [pp. 33-34]:
We have seen that the Republicans removed themselves as an effective anti-racist force after about 1891. The Democrats already called themselves "the white man's party." It followed that African Americans played no significant role in either political party from 1892 on. Now regardless of which party controlled it, the federal government stood by idly as white southerners used terror, fraud, and "legal" means to eliminate African American voters. Mississippi pioneered the "legal" means in 1890 when it passed a new state constitution that made it impossible for most black Mississippians to vote or hold public office. All other southern and border states emulated Mississippi by 1907.

In 1894, Democrats in Congress repealed the remaining federal election statutes. Now the Fifteenth Amendment was lifeless, for it had no extant laws to enforce it. In 1896, in Plessy v. Ferguson, the United States Supreme Court declared de jure (by law) racial segregation legal, which caused it to spread in at least twelve northern states. In 1898, Democrats rioted in Wilmington, North Carolina, driving out the mayor and all other Republican officeholders and killing at least twelve African Americans. The McKinley administration did nothing, allowing the coup d'etat to stand. Congress became resegregated in 1901 when Congressman George H. White of North Carolina failed to win re-election owing to the disenfranchisement of black voters in his state. No African American served in Congress again until 1929, and none from the South until 1972.

The deterioration of the status of African Americans was widespread throughout every aspect of society [pp. 36-37]:
Occupationally, blacks fared even worse. Before the Nadir, African Americans worked as carpenters, masons, foundry and factory workers, postal carriers, and so on. After 1890, in both the North and the South, whites expelled them from these occupations. ...

... Indeed, in some ways the North proceeded to treat African Americans worse than the South did. Ironically, segregation, which grew more entrenched in the South than in the North after the end of Reconstruction in 1877, created some limited opportunities for African American workers in Dixie. If the job was clearly defined as inferior, southern whites were happy to hire African Americans to cook their food, drive their coaches and later their cars, be their "yard boy," even nurse their babies. (The term boy, applied to adult male African Americans, itself implies less than a man.) Thus traditional white southerners rarely drove all African Americans out of their communities. Who would then do the dirty work? During and after slavery, this pattern spread to the North, but only to a limited degree. Around 1900, many white Americans, especially outside the traditional South, grew so racist that they came to abhor contact with African Americans even when that contact expressed white supremacy. If African Americans were inferior, they reasoned, then why employ them? Why tolerate them at all?

The models for driving out the "unwanted" blacks from their communities, like the core attitudes themselves, probably originated in the South, where Indian massacres had eventually given way to lynching as the main expression of the eliminationist impulse.

Often the violence was merely a matter of harsh threats and demands that blacks leave, which were usually complied with fully. An illustrative example was the "race riot" that occurred Sept. 30, 1905, in Harrison, Arkansas:
A white mob stormed the building and took these Negroes from jail along with several others, to the country, where they were whipped and ordered to leave. The rioters swept through Harrison's black neighborhood with terrible intent. The mob of 20 or 30 men, armed with guns and clubs, reportedly tied men to trees and whipped them, tied men and women together and threw them in a 4-foot hole in Crooked Creek, burned several homes, and warned all Negroes to leave town that night, which most of them did without taking any of their belongings. ... From house to house in the colored section they went, sometimes threatening, sometimes using the lash, always issuing the order that hereafter, 'no Nigger had better let the sun go down on 'em.'

These attitudes came to prevail not just in the South but throughout the country. As Loewen explains [pp. 37-38], it was clear that by the 1890s, most white Americans had convinced themselves that blacks themselves were "the problem":
How were northern whites to explain to themselves their acquiescence in the white South's obliteration of the political and civil rights of African Americans in places such as Harrison? How could they defend their own increasing occupational and social discrimination against African Americans?

The easiest way would be to declare that African Americans had never deserved equal rights in the first place. After all, went this line of thought, conditions had significantly improved for African Americans. Slavery was over. Now a new generation of African Americans had come of age, never tainted by the "peculiar institution." Why were they still at the bottom? African Americans themselves must be the problem. They must not work hard enough, think as well, or have as much drive, compared to whites. The Reconstruction amendments (Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth) provided African Americans with a roughly equal footing in America, most whites felt. If they were still at the bottom, it must be their own fault.

Ironically, the worse the Nadir got, the more whites blamed blacks for it. The increasing segregation and exclusion led whites to demonize African Americans and their segregated enclaves. African Americans earned less money than whites, had lower standing in society, and no longer held public office pr even voted in much of the nation. Again, no longer could this obvious inequality be laid at slavery's doorstep, for slavery had ended around 1865. Now "white Northerners came to view blacks as disaffected, lazy, and dangerous rabble," according to Heather Richardson. "By the 1890s, white Americans in the North concurred that not only was disfranchisement justified for the 'Un-American Negro,' but that he was by nature confined to a state of 'permanent semi-barbarism.'"

These events were recorded piecemeal at the time, and were rationalized in the press under a number of different theories, the majority of which reflected similar rationalizations regarding lynching: that is, they were only "natural" community responses to the "problem" of African Americans. A New York Times story of July 14, 1902, captures the attitudes fairly well:
Negro Driven Away
The Last One Leaves Decatur, Ind., Owing to Threats Made

The last Negro has left Decatur, Ind. His departure was caused by the anti-Negro feeling. About a month ago a mob of 50 men drove out all the Negroes who were then making that city their home. Since that time the feeling against the Negro has been intense, so much so that an Anti-Negro Society was organized.

The colored man who has just left came about three weeks, and since that time received many threatening letters. When he appeared on the streets he was insulted and jeered at. An attack was threatened ...

The anti-negroites declare that as Decatur is now cleared of Negroes they will keep it so, and the importation of any more will undoubtedly result in serious trouble.

The chief means of driving out nonwhites was what Donald Horowitz calls "the deadly ethnic riot," wherein one racial or ethnic group takes up arms en masse and attacks another group systematically and thoroughly with the intent of eliminating their presence. As Loewen puts it [p. 92]:
Often white residents achieved their goals abruptly, even in the middle of the night. In town after town in the United States, especially between 1890 and the 1930s, whites forced out their African American neighbors violently, as they had the Chinese in the West.

... Towns with successful riots wound up all-white, of course, or almost so, and therefore had an ideological interest in suppressing any memory of a black population in the first place, let alone of an unseemly riot that drove them out.

Whites also tried to "cleanse" at least fifteen larger cities of their more substantial nonwhite populations: Denver (of Chinese) in 1880; Seattle (of Chinese) in 1886; Akron in1900; Evansville, Indiana, and Joplin, Missouri, in 1903; Springfield, Ohio, in 1904, 1906, and again in 1908; Springfield, Missouri, in 1906; Springfield, Illinois, in 1908; Youngstown, Ohio, and East St. Louis, Illinois, in 1917; Omaha and Knoxville in 1919; Tulsa in 1921; Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1923; and Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1929.

Perhaps the most symbolic of these "race riots" was one that occurred in 1908 in the home and final resting place of Abraham Lincoln -- Springfield, Ill. Philip Dray, in his text At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America [pp. 167-169], notes that "when rioting broke out in August 1908, Springfield was in the midst of preparing for the February 1909 centenary celebration of the birth of the Great Emancipator." By then, evidently, Lincoln's legacy was viewed dimly by his hometown:
The riot's underlying cause was white anxiety over an influx of Southern blacks into two Springfield neighborhoods, Badlands and the Levee. The violence began on August 14, when a lynch mob surrounded the city jail and demanded two black men -- one accused of assaulting a married white woman, the other of murdering a white man who'd tried to stop him from outraging his daughter. The sheriff asked the fire department to race its trucks up and down the street to distract the crowd while he spirited the two out of town in an automobile owned by Harry Loper, proprietor of Springfield's best-known restaurant. When the mob realized it had been fooled, it surged toward Loper's restaurant and inflicted considerable damage. Cursing the town's most famous son and his Emancipation Proclamation, and uttering such oaths as "Lincoln brought them to Springfield and we will run them out!," the crowd then moved on to the Levee and Badlands and began setting homes and stores on fire. They also burned shops run by Jews and other known "nigger lovers."

The state militia, summoned from Decatur, thirty-nine miles away, did not arrive until the middle of the night, and so for several hours the crowd roamed virtually unrestrained -- smashing windows, looting and burning black-owned homes and businesses to their foundations. After much destruction of property, the mob targeted the home of a black barber named Scott Burton, who, fearing for his life, fired on the rioters with a shotgun. Whites tackled Burton when he tried to slip out a side door, grabbed a clothesline from an adjacent backyard, and strung him up in a tree. With flames illuminating the scene the mob filled Burton's suspended body with bullets before perpetrating "fiendish cruelties" upon it with pocketknives and shards of glass.

While the lynchers were preoccupied with fighting over the souvenirs from the Burton lynching, a line of militia approached. When an order to leave the area was ignored, the soldiers fired into the crowd, wounding several people. Only after this confrontation did the crowd disperse.

The chaos resumed the next morning, when bands of rioters stormed those black residential areas that had been left unprotected by the militia. ... Once again, the militia restored order, although by the morning of the sixteenth, after two consecutive nights of street violence and arson, Springfield was a smoking shambles. Whole blocks had been leveled. Citizens who'd lost their homes wandered the streets like refugees in a time of war, along with curiosity seekers from Chicago and St. Louis who'd come to view the damage. Many of the visitors went first to the spot where Burton had been lynched, and by noon the tree on which he'd died had disappeared, torn apart by souvenir hunters. Postcard views of the damaged buildings and a photograph of one of the alleged rape victims were selling briskly. Meanwhile, the city's newspapers reminded readers that the trouble had been ignited by the "hellish assault" that had been perpetrated by a "Negro fiend," thus arousing a feeling of righteous indignation among the people of the city. The articles defended the necessity of the riot's violence and praised the "good citizens" who, due to the conditions present in the city, "could find no other remedy" in dealing with black "misconduct, general inferiority [and] unfitness for free institutions."

In addition to the two blacks lynched, four whites had been killed and hundreds of people of both races had been injured, and the costs of the damage were staggering. Much of the worst violence had taken place close to Lincoln's home and his tomb. And although the riot was over, feelings of racial animosity had hardly cooled. A white boycott of black businesses was under way, and black people had been threatened with violence if they dared retaliate for the riot. In a neighboring hamlet, a sign posted at an interurban stop read: ALL NIGGERS ARE WARNED OUT OF TOWN BY MONDAY, 12 PM SHARP. (SIGNED) BUFFALO SHARP SHOOTERS.

Sundown towns were unusually popular in Illinois; Loewen reports that he was able to identify 475 of them. They also enjoyed great popularity in states like Indiana and Oklahoma.

These "race riots" often occurred whenever any black community tried to stand up to lynching violence. When this happened, the "race riot" actually comprised wholesale lethal assaults on black communities by whites. They became particularly prevalent during the "Red Summer" of 1919, when such riots broke out in some 26 American cities.

The most notable of these race riots occurred in 1921 in Tulsa, where a prosperous black population was literally bombed out of existence over two days of complete lawlessness. The rioting was set off by a black youth's alleged assault on a local white girl that later turned out to be harmless consensual contact. The youth was promptly arrested without incident, but the local press played it up with garish headlines that ignored the real nature of the incident, and one Tulsa newspaper publicly called for the young man's lynching.

This attempt, however, met with real resistance from the black community. When a group of local blacks attempted to ward off a lynch mob by meeting them at the jailhouse, the fighting broke out. Soon the entire district was swarmed over by gun-wielding whites who began mowing down black residents at random, setting fire to homes and businesses, and looting, raping and maiming. There are reports that an airplane flew over the black community and dropped incendiary bombs. By the time the violence had subsided, as many as three hundred black people were believed killed, many of them buried in a mass grave, and thirty-five city blocks lay charred. The death toll has never been properly calculated, largely because of the ways the bodies were disposed of, but some counts reach as high as 300 or more. And Tulsa's African-American community, at one time known as the "Negro Wall Street" because of its prosperousness, was never the same. Most of the survivors simply left.

The Ku Klux Klan, which had played a formative role in the lynching phenomenon generally, was closely connected with the formation of sundown towns, especially in their second incarnation as a national organization after 1916. As the Wikipedia entry on the Klan explains:
The second Ku Klux Klan rose to great prominence and spread from the South into the Midwest and Northern states and even into Canada. At its peak, most of the membership resided in Midwestern states. Through sympathetic elected officials, the KKK controlled the governments of Tennessee, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Oregon in addition to those of the Southern Democratic legislatures. It even claimed to have inducted Republican President Warren Harding at the White House. Klan delegates played a significant role at the 1924 Democratic National Convention in New York City, often called the "Klanbake Convention" as a result. The convention initially pitted Klan-backed candidate William McAdoo against New York Governor Al Smith, who drew the opposition of the group because of his Catholic faith. After days of stalemates and rioting, both candidates withdrew in favor of a compromise. Klan delegates defeated a Democratic Party platform plank that would have condemned their organization. On July 4, 1924 thousands of Klansmen converged on a nearby field in New Jersey where they participated in cross burnings, burned effigies of Smith, and celebrated their defeat of the platform plank.

David M. Chalmers describes the Klan's national political aspirations thoroughly in Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan, particularly its brief reign in statehouses scattered across the country [pp. 200-201]:
In 1922, the Klan helped elect governors in Georgia, Alabama, California, and Oregon, and came close to knocking Missouri's Jim Reed out of the U.S. Senate. It was reported that perhaps as many as seventy-five members of the lower house had received help from Klan votes. An undetermined, and unguessable, number of congressmen, veterans, and newcomers, had actually joined the hooded order, and E.Y. Clarke was asking the local chapters to suggest likely candidates for the future. The next year, the Klan continued to expand, with its greatest strength developing in the upper Mississippi Valley and in the Great Lakes kingdom of D.C. Stephenson.

Eventually, the Klan stumbled nationally and crumbled apart, in large part due to the chaotic personalities and paranoiac egos it tended to attract as leaders. But its continuing appeal in the Midwest and elsewhere is reflected in the fact that one of its eventual offshoots, the Independent Klan of America, had its national headquarters in Muncie, Indiana.

It's worth noting that in many sundown towns, there were "exceptions" to the rules. Many such towns had one or two black residents, usually servants of local wealthy landowners, or people in subservient positions (hotel workers, nurses, janitors, shoeshiners) who had longtime resident status.

How did they manage it? As Loewen tells it, there were several survival strategies involved, including an emphasis on their eccentricity and individuality, which played to the way whites often responded to the cognitive dissonance of knowing blacks who were fine, upstanding, individuals, in contrast with prevailing stereotypes depicting them as lascivious criminals and rapists. That is, they made exceptions for them. Loewen cites an interview with a woman Klan member from Indiana:
"You get several of them together and they become niggers. Individually, they're fine people."

There was also a tendency to play to white stereotypes about negroes. All of this was designed to encourage whites to identify them as being on their side:
Overt identification with the white community was another survival tactic. Such blacks became "Tonto figures" -- taking pains to associate with the "white side," differentiated from the hordes of blacks outside the city limits. White workers in Austin, Minnesota, repeatedly expelled African Americans, and Austin became a sundown town, but like many others, it allowed one African American to stay -- the shoeshine "boy." Union member John Winkola tells about him:

And I'll tell you a good one: So one time we had Frank -- I forget his last name -- he was shining shoes in the barbershop and then afterwards he bell-hopped for the bus in town here, and everybody liked him ... He'd never go in the packing house because he knew he couldn't, he didn't want to go there.

So one day I was walking along ... and here came a couple of niggers, and they stood there by the bridge facing the packing house, and ... [Frank] says, "Y'know, John," he says, "when the damn niggers start comin' into this town, I'm gonna get the hell outta here." And he was black! He was black! He didn't want them to come into town either ... But we never had no trouble with Frank at all.

Indeed they didn't; Frank knew with which side of the color line he had to identify if he was to remain in Austin.

... Kathleen Blee, author of Women of the Klan, collected a good example from an Indiana woman in the 1980s: "We didn't hate the niggers. We had the Wills family that lived right here in [this] township. And they were like pet coons to us. I went to school with them." Often they got known by nicknames, such as "Snowball" for the only African American in West Bend, Wisconsin, or "Nigger Slim" for the father of the only black family in Salem, Illinois.

... The Austin, Minnesota, story shows another ideological payoff that allowing one household to stay when all others are driven out can have for whites, as they can claim not to be racist: "We're not against all African Americans after all -- look at Frank!" More accurately, whites can claim to be appropriately racist. The problem lies with those other African Americans -- "the damn niggers." Even Frank -- "and he was black" -- agrees. Thus instead of allowing their positive feelings about George Washington Maddox or Elizabeth Davis to prompt some questioning of their exclusionary policies, whites in Medford, Oregon, and Casey, Illinois, merely emphasized how exceptional these individuals were. In turn, this allowed whites to affirm once more how inferior other African Americans were, in their eyes.

Things, fortunately, have changed quite a bit since all this was true, though we continue to deal with the legacy of these times. Today, minorities who identify with anti-minority interests -- particularly the anti-multiculturalists of the paleoconservative right -- (and this certainly includes gay Republicans) no longer are doing so as a survival technique. Rather, it's a technique that creates all kinds of opportunities, both financial and otherwise.

Likewise, movement conservatives have proven skilled at appealing to sundown-town sensibilities without playing the race card nakedly. The key to the transformation of the G.O.P. from the Party of Lincoln to the Party of Lott lay in its adoption, in the early 1970s, of the so-called "Southern Strategy," which used coded appeals to white racists in the South. But these appeals had a broader effect as well. As Loewen notes [pp. 372-73]:
As a result of such leadership, Republicans have carried most sundown towns since 1968, sometimes achieving startling unaninimity. ... So the "southern strategy" turned out to be a "southern and sundown town strategy," especially in sundown suburbs. Macomb County, for example, the next county north of Detroit, voted overwhelmingly for Wallace in the 1972 Democratic primary. Wooed by Nixon, many of these voters then became "Reagan Democrats" and now are plain Republicans. The biggest single reason, according to housing attorney Alexander Polikoff, was anxiety about "blacks trapped in ghettos trying to penetrate white neighborhoods."

Indeed, the epicenter of the "sundown" mentality shifted over the years from small rural towns to the suburbs, particularly since the latter were so often specifically designed to facilitate white flight away from minorities. Loewen explains [pp. 109-110]:
Suburbs used the largest array of different weapons for becoming and staying all-white, beginning around 1900, although ultimately they too relied on violence. It is important to understand that the whiteness of America's suburbs was no accident. On the contrary, all-white suburbs were achieved. As Dorothy Newman wrote in 1978, "Residential separation rests on a system of formal rules (though no longer worded in racial terms -- the terms are illegal) and informal but carefully adhered-to practices which no amount of legislation has been able to penetrate."

... Elite suburbs that were built by a single developer were especially likely to begin life all-white on purpose. Tuxedo Park, New York, perhaps the richest of them all, may have gone sundown first, even before 1890. Affluent whites founded it "as a club community and maintained that discipline for nearly 50 years" ...

As the twentieth century wore on, Americans continued to build planned communities. Every planned town that I know of -- indeed, every community in America founded after 1890 and before 1960 by a single developer or owner -- kept out African Americans from its beginnings. Chronologically, these included Highland Park near Dallas in 1907-13 and Mariemont near Cincinnati in 1914, both of which won fame for their innovative shopping centers. Shaker Heights, east of Cleveland, was designed to be "utopian" and excluded blacks, Jews, and Catholics from its inception. Near Los Angeles, planned all-white suburbs set up around this time include Beverly Hills, Culver City, Palos Verdes Estates, Tarzana (developed by Edgar Rice Burroughs, from the proceeds of his Tarzan novels), and several others. Ebenezer Howard's "garden city" concept, imported from England, influenced at least seven suburbs or exurbs built around World War II; Radburn, New Jersey, in 1929; Greenbelt, Maryland, near Washington, D.C., Greenhills, Ohio, near Cincinnati, Greendale, Wisconsin, near Milwaukee, and Norris, Tennessee, in the 1930s; Richland, Washington, in 1942; and Park Forest, near Chicago, in the 1950s. All these planned communities were developed as sundown towns.

The insularity of suburban life also allowed the whites living within them to rationalize away the absence of nonwhites. Loewen notes that they had a variety of explanations, including climate and the lack of jobs, but most especially the notion that blacks didn't want to live in the suburbs [pp. 142-143]:
Some theories emphasize social isolation: why should African Americans move into out-of-the-way hamlets distant from centers of African American populations? In short, the lack of blacks was just "natural," or resulted from historical coincidence. I began my research with this hypothesis -- that most all-white towns never happened to draw any black residents -- but it didn't hold up. ... Before 1890, however, African Americans moved to counties and towns throughout America ... -- even isolated places such as northern Maine, northern Wisconsin, and Idaho north of the Snake River Valley. Then during the Great Retreat, they withdrew to the larger cities and a mere handful of smaller towns. ... In other words, because social isolation cannot explain the increases in black population in northern counties before 1890, it cannot explain why those increases reversed after that date. Something different went on after 1890.

Social isolation has even been used to explain overwhelmingly white suburbs: whites have imagined that African Americans prefer the excitement of the big city to such suburban values as home ownership, peace and quiet, tree-lined streets, and good school systems. This notion is absurd, as historian Andrew Wiese showed in 2004. Wiese summarized survey research as far back as the 1940s, finding no support for this stereotype. Among a sample of six hundred middle-income black families in New York City in 1948, for example, nine out of ten wanted to buy their own homes, and three in four wanted to move to suburbia. Many African American families have the same fervent desire for a patch of ground that white suburbanites manifest.

Other whites seem to think that it's somehow "natural" for blacks to live in the inner city, whites in the outer suburbs. This idea is a component of what law professor John Boger calls "the national sense that [residential segregation] is inescapable." ...

Indeed, blaming the whiteness of elite sundown suburbs on their wealth actually reverses the causality of race and class. It is mostly the other way around: racial and religious exclusion came first, not class. Suburbs that kept out blacks and Jews became more prestigious, so they attracted the very rich. The absence of African Americans itself became a selling point, which in turn helped these suburbs become so affluent because houses there commanded higher prices. ...

It would be one thing if, in the wake of the Civil Rights Era, Americans living in these former communities actively worked to overcome the segregationist mindset they represent. But instead, the legacy of sundown towns is one that reinforces, generationally, the false stereotypes that created them a century ago. Loewen observes [pp. 320-321]:
During the past 25 years, while teaching race relations to thousands of white people and discussing the subject with thousands more, I have found that white Americans expound about the alleged character and characteristics of African Americans in inverse proportion to their contact and experience with them. Isolation and ignorance aren't the only reasons why residents of sundown towns and suburbs are so ready to believe and pass on the worst stereotypes about African Americans, however. They also have a need for denial.

The idea that living in an all-white community leads residents to defend living in an all-white community exemplifies the well-established psychological principle of cognitive dissonance. No one likes to think of himself or herself as a bad person, argued Leon Festinger, who established this principle. People who live in sundown towns believe in the golden rule -- or say they do -- just like people who live in interracial towns. ...

What could make living in an all-white town right? The old idea that African Americans constitute the problem, of course. In 1914, Thomas Bailey, a professor in Mississippi, told what is wrong with that line of thinking: "The real problem is not the Negro, but the white man's attitude toward the Negro." Sundown towns only made the problem worse. Having driven out or kept out African Americans (or perhaps Chinese Americans or Jewish Americans), their residents then became more racist and more likely to believe the worst about the excluded groups.

That's why the talk in sundown towns brims with amazing stereotypes about African Americans, put forth confidently with nary an African American in their lives. The ideology intrinsic to sundown towns -- that African Americans ... are the problem -- prompts their residents to believe and pass on all kinds of negative generalizations as fact. They are the problem because they choose segregation -- even though "they" don't, as we have seen. Or they are the problem owing to their criminality -- confirmed by the stereotype -- misbehavior that "we" avoid by excluding or moving away from them.

Of course, such stereotypes are hardly limited to sundown towns. Summarizing a nationwide 1991 poll, Lynne Duke found that a majority of whites believed that "blacks and Hispanics are likely to prefer welfare to hard work and tend to be lazier than whites, more prone to violence, less intelligent, and less patriotic." Even worse, in sundown towns and suburbs, statements such as these usually evoke no open disagreement at all. Because most listeners in sundown towns have never lived near African Americans, they have no experiential foundation from which to question the negative generalities that they hear voiced. So the stereotypes usually go unchallenged: blacks are less intelligent, lazier, and lack drive, and that's why they haven't built successful careers.

Sundown towns and their continuing legacy have also had a profound psychological impact on blacks, including the internalization of low expectations, and the exclusion of blacks from cultural capital [pp. 353-355]:
Confining most African Americans to the opposite of sundown suburbs -- majority black, inner-city neighborhoods -- also restricts their access to what Patterson calls cultural capital: "those learned patterns of mutual trust, insider knowledge about how things really work, encounter rituals, and social sensibilities that constitute the language of power and success." ...

Making the suburbs unreachable for nonwhites similarly restricts them from making the social connections that are critical to forming networks that help us find work and move ahead in the workforce. Loewen notes that "the trouble is, these networks are segregated, so important information never reaches black America. ... Sundown suburbanites know only whites, by definition, except perhaps a few work contacts. Thus sundown suburbs contribute to economic inequality by race."
Loewen also notes [pp. 369-370]:
In his famous book An American Dilemma, written as World War II wound down, Gunnar Myrdal noted that residential segregation has been a key factor accounting for the subordinate status of African Americans. Separating people geographically makes it much easier to provide better city services to some than to others, and indeed to label some people as better than others.

The myths and attitudes engendered by the "sundown towns" and their legacy is constantly reinforced by conservative-movement propaganda that argues against such attempts to break up the entrenched segregation they created as affirmative action. It's easy to find pundits like Thomas Sowell -- whose arguments sound like those proferred by the "exceptions" -- offering commentary that obliviates the real history of black Americans:
Blacks only a generation or two out of slavery also had higher rates of employment and lower rates of crime than today.

What critics like Sowell neglect to mention, of course, is that there are real historical reasons for that -- namely, black Americans were given more opportunities to succeed in the first generation after the end of slavery than they were given for most of the succeeding century.

Fortunately, at least, there are some historians who recognize that addressing the legacy of "sundown town" eliminationism in America is critical to resolving the continuing racial divide in the country, especially since so much of it is a product of those practices and our failure to even acknowledge them, let alone atone for them.

Here in Seattle, University of Washington history professor James Gregory has begun digging through the records, and we at least are beginning to get a little better glimpse of our true historical selves:
Seattle thinks of itself as a liberal city, one that has a reasonable record of racial integration. But we are also a city with a short memory. One of the things we have been forgetting is that only a few decades ago, Seattle was a sharply segregated city. It was a city that kept non-whites out of most jobs and most neighborhoods, even out of stores, restaurants, hotels and hospitals.

... Until the late 1960s, Seattle north of the ship canal was a "sundown" zone. That meant that virtually no people of color lived there and it also meant that African Americans were expected to be out of the area when the workday ended. After dark, a black man in particular was likely to be stopped by the police, questioned about his business and informed that he had better not be seen in the neighborhood again.

North Seattle was not alone. Queen Anne, Magnolia and West Seattle also were sundown zones. The suburbs were even worse. Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Bothell, Bellevue, Burien, even White Center, vigorously and explicitly excluded people of color. But the ship canal was a special kind of boundary, an unmistakable dividing line between the part of Seattle where anyone might live and the part of Seattle that was off-limits to those whose skin was not white.

Until the early 1950s, North Seattle was also home to Coon Chicken Inn, which for almost 20 years stood as a beacon of bigotry on Lake City Way Northeast. Whites of a certain disposition made it a hugely popular restaurant and no one could drive along Lake City Way without noticing the massive grotesque "coon" head and the big-lipped mouth that served as the restaurant's front door.

Of course, eliminationism never settles down even after it is sated. In America, the impulse proved so thoroughly ingrained that, even as lynching began to decline, whites began finding new "threats" from other races and other peoples.


As I then explored further, the concept of demographic exclusion soon extended to Asian Americans as well, which had a similar effect on the shape of American suburbs.

Moreover, all of this created a structural legacy from which we have not escaped, one that extends to other minorities, including LGBT people and Latinos. And there is a human legacy as well:

Confronting the legacy of eliminationism is necessary for our well-being as a nation because its course through our past has directly shaped our present. Its thread runs directly through the critical fault lines -- racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, and cultural -- that continue to divide the nation today. Healing those fault lines take work.

Doing so, utlimately, entails overcoming the Lie -- not simply standing up to the outrageous falsehoods and the cold inhumanity its purveyors spew, but creating a culture in which engaging our common humannness informs our choices, our behavior, our beliefs, our politics.

It also entails looking honestly at our history and understanding how we came to be where we are today -- seeing that the virus of eliminationism has coursed through our history and shaped what we are today, and though its presence is far more hidden, it remains buried in our cultural soil, and infects us when we look the other way.