Study Cites Hate Groups on I-5

The Associated Press/February 29, 2000

Seattle -- White supremacist groups are flourishing along the populous Interstate 5 corridor in Washington and Oregon, recruiting suburban young people who feel their culture is threatened, the Northwest Coalition for Human Dignity said Monday.

"We talk about (hate groups) as if they only exist in Idaho and Montana, and the heaviest concentration is right here in Puget Sound," said Terre Rybovich, coalition executive director.

In its first annual "Hate by State" report, the coalition that monitors hate groups drew a regional map, using iron crosses as symbols, showing 52 white supremacist groups.

They range from several chapters of the World Church of the Creator and other religious entities to Ku Klux Klan, and neo-Nazi organizations to militias.

Seventeen of the groups were in Washington and 13 in Oregon, all but a few arrayed along I-5, the main north-south highway from California to Washington.

There were also 11 in Idaho -- all but one in the Panhandle -- five in Montana and three each in Wyoming and Colorado.

Rybovich said she was surprised at the number of groups whose names were ferreted out in Washington and Oregon. She said the number was growing "and that is our greatest cause for concern."

Rybovich said while her organization had been able to get a count of organizations, it wasn't able to provide a head count of skinheads, neo-Nazis, religious and patriotic zealots and others counted among white supremacist ranks.

She said the numbers for each group are likely small, since those in the white supremacist movement have learned the best way to avoid detection is to work locally, using small meetings and e-mail.

Where they do show up, she said, is at public schools or other places they believe are ripe for recruiting.

James Aho, a sociologist at Idaho State University who has written two books on the white supremacy movement, took issue with the coalition's assertion that the white supremacist movement is growing.

He said there are occasional killings and "these are terrible tragedies." "But the right-wing rhetoric doesn't seem to catch the public imagination as it used to," he said.

The Northwest Coalition for Human Dignity was founded in 1989 as the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment by Catholic Priest and activist Bill Wassmuth in response to organizing and actions by the Aryan Nations and other supremacist groups.

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