Spreading Web of Intolerance

Racist Skinhead Project: Hate grows in I.E. on the Internet

Daily Bulliten Ontario, California/February 10, 2006
By Joe Nelson

The Inland Empire, Antelope Valley and greater Los Angeles area are the most active areas in the country for racist skinhead activity - fueled by rapidly changing demographics, the Internet, and an influx of other white supremacist media, the Anti Defamation League reported Tuesday.

"We've specifically seen a rise in (skinhead) activity in the Inland Empire - in San Bernardino, Riverside, Ontario, Menifee, Murietta, and the High Desert," said Joanna Mendelson, an investigative researcher for the Anti Defamation League's civil rights department.

The non-profit organization on Tuesday announced the launching of its online Racist Skinhead Project, which tracks the growth of skinhead groups across the country and the hate crimes often associated with such groups.

"With the advent of the Internet and rise of unaffiliated skinheads, we found a greater need to get information out there, especially to law enforcement," said Mendelson. She said the league gleaned its information for the study by monitoring on a daily basis thousands of white supremacist Web sites. The organization also tracked online message boards, extremist publications, concerts and rallies, and shared information with law enforcement officials.

"It is a fluid movement in which skinheads do not necessarily belong to a particular group. Viewed as a whole, the resurgence in activity by racist skinheads is significant and troubling," said the league's national director, Abraham H. Foxman, in a prepared statement.

Nationwide, the Anti Defamation League reported 110 organized skinhead groups that have been involved in 83 criminal incidents in the past several years, 17 of which involved allegations of murder, attempted murder, or manslaughter.

Several criminal cases in San Bernardino County were cited, including an attack on a black man and his three foster children by three skinheads at a Chino Hills park in May 2005. One of the suspects was arrested for attempted murder for using his vehicle to chase the children around the park.

Two months prior to the Chino Hills attack, the San Bernardino County Auto Theft Task Force arrested Loren Bull, a member of the Lucerne Valley-based Southern California Skins, for having a stolen handgun, illegal painkillers, and steroids, the league reported.

In May 2005, the Northern and Southern California chapters of Volksfront - a white supremacist group founded in Oregon in 1994 - united to create a statewide organization to be headquartered in San Bernardino County. The group distributes hate literature and organizes racist events and concerts, according to the Anti Defamation League.

Despite the dismal scenario, hate crimes declined in San Bernardino County in 2005.

"We average 15 or 16 cases a year, and this year it was nine countywide," said Deputy District Attorney Michael Martinez of the District Attorney's hate crimes unit. He said the crimes have not been clustered to one particular area, and were spread out across the county.

The three suspects in the Chino Hills attack on the man and his three foster children pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison, Martinez said.

Authorities have taken some aggressive steps in recent years in cracking down on hate groups in the county, Mendelson said.

In November 2003, the FBI and the San Bernardino and Riverside county sheriff's departments teamed to form a task force targeting Neo Nazis and other white power gangs in the Inland Empire, Mendelson said.

San Bernardino County sheriff's Sgt. John Ginter worked with federal prosecutor Dennise Willett, who used the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to prosecute and ultimately dismantle the High Desert Freakboys, a skinhead gang of about 20 members suspected of running guns and drugs in the Morongo Basin, Mendelson said.

Sheriff's deputies also worked to crack down on other skinheads in western Yucca Valley who were targeting and recruiting middle school children to join their hate groups. Among them: the Angry Nazi Soldiers, the Low Desert Skins, and the Crazy White Boys, Mendelson said.

A growing concern among law enforcement officials and civil rights advocates in the battle against hate is the Internet, which hate groups have embraced and used strategically.

"The Internet is another way to draw young people in. Young people are active and proficient on the Internet, and there are Web sites and message boards that help promote and encourage white supremacist ideology," Mendelson said.

White supremacist Web sites like Stormfront.org offer chatrooms and message boards for those looking for a place to belong. Kids not even old enough to drive are offered rides to white pride concerts and rallies, Mendelson said.

"It's an amazing resource for skinheads - a global resource," Mendelson said.

Foxman, the Anti Defamation League director, said in a prepared statement: "The Internet provides a borderless universe for recruitment and organizing, and racist skinhead groups have taken advantage of the technology to spread their hate through cyberspace and in the real world."

Illustrating the power of the Web as a recruitment tool for white supremacists, Brian Levin of Cal State San Bernardino's Center for Hate and Extremism said, "The Stormfront hate Web site has more registered users than all the skinhead and Klansmen in the country combined, probably about four or five times more. What it says is our traditional notions of who's a bigot are incorrect."

The league's report didn't ring an alarm bell for Levin. He said skinheads are not a new phenomenon in Southern California.

"This kind of activity ebbs and flows, and Southern California, for a long time, has had skinhead activity," Levin said. "Anywhere where you have a young population and changing demographics, you tend to get a growth in the racist skinhead population."

He broke down white supremacist groups into four categories: prison gangs, drug dealers and gun runners, small homegrown gangs or groups, and the more organized state and national overlay groups that hold rallies and distribute hate literature and other propaganda.

"It's not like San Bernardino County is teeming with skinheads. The problem is when these sociopaths act out, they tend to do it cyclically, serially, and more violently," Levin said. "Part of their whole social situation is them creating status by committing hate crimes. Like wildfires, a small number of these people will get more active."

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