Montana dealing with new influx of white supremacists

KXLY News 4, Montana/November 17, 2006
By Karina Shagrin

Kalispell, Montana -- An alarming but familiar trend is being seen in the Inland Northwest as the Montana Human Rights Network says that state is seeing a new influx of white supremacists.

In the Flathead Valley, the first snow is just one more excuse to get outdoors and the scenery and quaint towns attract thousands of visitors every year.

“Montana is a great place to live, Travis McAdam of the Montana Human Rights Network said. “They come for the quality of living, they come for the hiking, the camping ..."

But in the middle of this beauty and recreation a battle is brewing.

Over the past several years the network has noticed supremacists lead massive literature drops, run for state and local offices and are now attending local schools. The state noticed a similar trend in the early 1980s and as a result, formed the Montana Human Rights Network and for a while the group was declaring victory until recently.

Travis McAdam has kept a close eye on who's moving to the state and says the group, which was formed in the early 1980s because of a surge in white supremacist activity recently believed its mission, was met.

"We were sitting there saying, ‘Hey, we won, we can declare victory and go home’" he said.

The group's victory though was short-lived.

"It was two months later, white supremacist literature drops started all across the state," he said.

McAdam says that was the first sign of a familiar trend and can now point to several white supremacy leaders currently recruiting in Montana. Known white supremacist Kevin McGuire recently used his candidacy for school board in Bozeman to spread his message. Last December the American Nazi Party – which on its website says is 'inspired by Hitler' and uses what it calls the 'sacred' swastika as its symbol – announced it was creating a Montana chapter and now has offices in Butte, Billings and Libby.

One member, Shaun Stewart, just ran and lost his bid for the state house of representatives. Another member – Daniel Benson – recently served time after police say he and a second man, yelled racial slurs at a woman in Libby.

"They've already sort of went from talking about a race revolution and going out and putting it into action," McAdam said.

Supremacists like so many others are drawn to Montana's beauty, McAdam says, adding that the state's racial make-up is the primary reason why many are now returning to the state.

“Here in Montana, when you're talking 95 - 96 percent white population, they know not every white person here is going to like their message but what it does say is hey, there's 96 percent of the population that might be open to it," he said.

Recently ABC’s Primetime featured Lamb and Lynx Gaede, 14-year old twin girls who make up the singing group Prussian Blue. The two, since birth, have been fed white nationalist beliefs, and now share them in their music. The twins, who look like the girls next door and are often compared to Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson – have become the face and voice of the National Alliance, a white nationalist organization. Their lyrics are seen by many as a message of hate with some songs praising Adolf Hitler. The two girls spoke candidly about their admiration for Nazis and told ABC reporter Cynthia McFadden they want to preserve the white race. Their message is now found all over the internet, in their music, and the CDs and DVDs they sell on their website.

During the interview the girls’ mom told ABC they would be moving from Bakersfield, California because the city wasn't white enough.

Bill Matteer and his wife Rebecca happened to be watching the segment from their Kalispell home, shocked to hear the girls' statements. More shocked though, when he realized why the girls, and their mother, looked so familiar.

"I was like ‘Yeah … that's my neighbor, that's the lady," Matteer said.

Bill and his wife say it was incredibly unsettling to have an internationally-known family of white nationalists living just down the street. The couple, along with other neighbors decided to do what many white nationalists do: they distributed their own flyers with their own message, but they never expected the backlash which included phone-calls, letters and even death-threats, prompting a police investigation.

"Who would have ever thought that in the town of Kalispell something so heinous could be brewing,” Rebecca said. “It's frightening. It really is."

With her sixth child on the way Rebecca and her husband bill thought this would be the perfect neighborhood to raise their family. Close to town, quiet streets, a lot of children, but within months their idea of a peaceful life had been shattered by that ABC Primetime story on the Gaede twins.

After researching the Gaedes’ beliefs, after seeing the girls dance around a swastika in the documentary "Louis and the Nazis" the couple began the 'No Hate Here' campaign. The Matteers say they got the support of dozens of neighbors who displayed the 'No Hate Here' poster in their windows.

"I felt compelled to speak out,” Rebecca said. “They're using international media to spread their message then how much more do we have a right to respond, and say, ‘That's not OK here,’”

At Kalispell's local museum is a true example of what the First Amendment protects as Rebecca Matteer helped lead a community meeting to discuss her outrage over her new neighbors’ beliefs.

"I was just responding from as a parent,” Rebecca said. “I can't believe another parent would propagate that in their children."

The Matteers, who say their campaign was executed in the same way white nationalists hand out their literature and pamphlets, never expected the backlash but within days, their private information - their address and their telephone number – was smeared on white supremacist websites and they received threatening phone calls, letters and death threats.

“Parties on both sides have received what I consider death threats," Kalispell Police Chief Frank Garner says.

Most of the threats to both the Matteer and the Gaede family were made from people from out of the area, Chief Garner said, adding that regardless of where they came from all threats are being investigated.

“In fact we've identified people, and we anticipate prosecutions related to that," he said.

And while police investigate others in the community debate. Some argue the family should have been allowed to live anonymously while others say what's so wrong, with white pride.

"There wouldn't be anything wrong with it if the National Alliance didn't have a history of violence attached to it," McAdam said.

McAdam says when communities try to ignore the white supremacists living nearby, it can lead to more supremacists moving in. In fact, McAdam says the Gaedes are the latest in a string of white nationalists to move to Montana and they're using music, one of the most popular tools to recruit, and its aimed at a young demographic. The Matteers say the best, and most convenient audience is the girls' classmates.

"They should not be putting their propaganda in schools,” Bill Matteer said. “They shouldn't be allowed to hand out their CDs in schools."

That's why the Matteers are hesitant to allow their children to play alone with Lamb and Lynx though the couple believes the two are nice girls who don't fully comprehend the message they've been delivering.

Though this community recognizes it's a message protected by the First Amendment and the Matteers recognize they too, enjoy the same freedom of speech.

"It's completely outrageous for it to be OK for her to go on national television and say the things she does, its OK to distribute flyers, its OK to go on Primetime but its not OK for us in a neighborhood to put a sing in our home that says, 'No Hate Here',” Rebecca said.

The Matteers say they've never tried to force the Gaedes out of the neighborhood; they say they simply intended to spread their own counter-message.

Lamb and Lynx Gaede and their mother April were contacted for an interview for this story but April would only consent to it if we agreed to her requests. Those requests were not granted.

In response, April Gaede posted our entire e-mail exchange on at least three different white supremacist websites which in turn ignited hundreds of responses.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.