Northwest Prosperity Drawing Hate Groups Out Of The Mountains

WXIX - Cinncinati/July 9, 2001

Seattle -- Hate groups and white supremacists are moving out of the backwoods and into suburbia.

Once thought to be centered in remote areas such as northern Idaho, such groups are now found just as frequently in the suburbs of Seattle and Portland, says a new report to be issued today by the Northwest Coalition for Human Dignity.

''We used to think they were mostly in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana,'' says Terre Rybovich, executive director of the coalition, which monitors hate groups in the Northwest.

It was a complete surprise to us'' to find almost two dozen such groups in areas along Interstate 5 between Seattle and Eugene, Ore., she says.

While white supremacist activity is not new here, the increased presence ''may come as a shock to people who think of us as just Birkenstocks and latte drinkers,'' says coalition research director Jonn Lunsford. With once all-white rural towns swallowed up by urban sprawl, he says, there are increased racial tensions and more groups that exploit them.

Hate groups have been identified in this region since 1973, when Richard Butler founded the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho. He issued a manifesto, The Northwest Territorial Imperative, which urged the emigration of white Christian activists to the Northwest to establish an Aryan ''national state.''

The coalition's report, Hate by State, summarizes activities by neo-Nazi, skinhead, and religious extremists in six Northwest and Rocky Mountains states.

The report makes no effort to compare hate groups in this region with those in other parts of the country. But Lunsford says, ''The Northwest has become one of the hot spots in the nation for groups active in the white supremacy movement.''

The report also expressed concern that hate groups might try to get a foothold in mainstream organizations by manipulating political issues involving Native Americans and immigrants.

Many of the racist groups mentioned in the report are small and keep a low profile. Several leaders, however, concur that the I-5 corridor is prime territory.

''It's certainly a growing area for us,'' acknowledges Matthew Hale, head of the World Church of the Creator, a white supremacist group based in East Peoria, Ill. ''If I were a member (of the coalition), I'd be concerned, too.''

Melody LaRue, who runs the Sisterhood organization for Hale's church, lives quietly in the Seattle suburb of Lynnwood, and publishes national newsletters on home schooling and women's issues. Her husband, the Rev. Jason LaRue, was jailed briefly for a 1995 hate crime in Bellingham, Wash. He heads the church in Washington state. She doesn't doubt the report's conclusions. She says she sees other activists mostly at Martyr's Day, an annual gathering of white supremacists on Whidbey Island outside Seattle. The day commemorates the death of racial terrorist Robert Mathews, who died in a fiery shootout with federal officials in 1984.

However, she disputes the coalition's description of her group as violent. She notes that the church forbids violence. ''We have a few members, a tiny percentage, that are violent,'' she says. ''Like there are people who blow up abortion clinics, but you don't blame the pope.''

Tom Metzger, head of the White Aryan Resistance, headquartered in Fallbrook, Calif., says groups are drawn to Portland and Seattle ''for the same reason everybody else -- jobs, economic prosperity.''

He predicts racial discord. ''Portland is a chemical pot that is stewing,'' says Metzger, who has a $12.5 million civil judgment against him, his son and his white supremacist group for helping to incite the fatal beating of a black man in Portland in 1988. ''You're going to have major L.A.-type problems in Portland as they become more large and integrated.''

K.A. Badynski of Tacoma, Wash., a Ku Klux Klan activist named in the report, runs a Web site called ''Northwest Kinsman'' for whites moving to the Northwest. While he doesn't dispute the coalition's assertions about the I-5 corridor, he says he is not close to the other groups. ''I'm not out interacting,'' he says. ''The strategy now is decentralization.''

Some coalition critics, however, think the report is overblown. Michael Moynihan, a Portland author, says both the racists and the coalition have a vested interest in hyping the problem: The racists ''get more publicity, and this group gets more contributions.''

The stepped-up activity also has not escaped the attention of law enforcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Okianer Christian Dark, based in Portland, says hate crimes and their perpetrators are ''a high priority'' in her office. At the urging of U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, she says, the Oregon office has two task forces fighting hate crimes.

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