After leaving community meetings at the town hall, Herndon residents have been returning to their cars recently to find anti-Semitic literature stuck under their windshield wipers, a disturbing trend that has raised questions about who is distributing the fliers and why Herndon is being targeted.
A spokesman for the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi organization based in Hillsboro, W.Va., said the group is recruiting members in the Herndon area with the goal of forming a cell.
"Our growth since 9/11 has been phenomenal," said Alliance spokesman Billy Roper, a former public school teacher in Arkansas. He declined to discuss membership numbers. But the Center for New Community, a Chicago-based group that monitors neo-Nazi and skinhead activity, said the National Alliance has about 3,000 members nationally.
The Anti-Defamation League, an 88-year old organization that fights anti-Semitism and bigotry, calls the National Alliance "the single most dangerous organized hate group in the United States today."
Roper said that fewer than 20 people, most of them college and high school students, have been recruited in Herndon. The National Alliance considers such a group a "proto-unit," which refers not so much to its size as its level of activity, such as distributing literature regularly.
When a group increases its involvement, including adding a phone number and mailing address, it is considered a full unit.
Herndon officials said they believe that the leafleting was probably the work of one person and expressed doubt about Roper's statements.
Mayor Carol A. Bruce, who has found the brochures on her windshield, said, "I would guess it's one person. I can't imagine a whole group of these folks."
Lt. Mike Ditmer, the bias crimes coordinator for Fairfax County Police, said National Alliance fliers have been distributed about five times in the Herndon and Reston area in the past year, some before Sept. 11.
"At nighttime, somebody would go out and put them out on driveways and so forth," Ditmer said. "One of the brochures was about Jews running the media." He said other fliers targeted African Americans and nonwhites in general.
Herndon is a diverse town of 21,655 people with no history of overt racial tension or sympathy to Nazism. Bruce, a Herndon resident for about 20 years, said the National Alliance does not reflect the community.
"You hate to see your hometown associated with this sort of garbage," she said.
Fairfax County's multiculturalism, Roper said, is an asset.
"What we find is that [white] racial consciousness increases with diversity," he said. "The most racially egalitarian people you will find are the people in the Midwest who never see African Americans, who don't know what Jews are really like. It's almost like racism is a disease carried by nonwhites."
On its Web site, the National Alliance, lists goals such as "white living space," "an Aryan society" and "an economic policy based on racial principles."
Herndon is among 30 towns and cities nationwide with a telephone number listed on the alliance's Web site. A call there leads to a voice recording of National Alliance leader William Pierce, a former physics professor and disciple of George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party.
"Millions of nonwhite illegal aliens are pouring into the country," Pierce says on the recording, "rapidly changing the racial complexion of our population and the quality of the civilization that our ancestors built." His speech ends with a brief recruiting pitch in which he asks callers to leave their names and telephone numbers.
Mark Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization in Alabama that tracks white supremacist groups, said the alliance has the idea that " 'we are an elite party that will lead the lemmings to where they need to be.' "
He added, "What's going on in Virginia is that a large number of white supremacist individuals and groups are trying very hard to appear mainstream and win backers, and to some extent they're being successful."
The Anti-Defamation League said the neo-Nazi organization is exploiting the attention it is receiving from leafleting Herndon and Reston. "They feed off publicity," a league spokeswoman said.
Roper said some alliance members were among the estimated 250 people who attended the American Renaissance Conference last month in Herndon.
American Renaissance is a magazine that is based in Oakton and that Potok called a bridge between groups such as the National Alliance and the mainstream. "In all parts of the world, whites are afraid to speak out in their own interests," began the online registration form for the conference.
Roper said, "There is some overlap, but not so much. American Renaissance is more conservative and moderate. The National Alliance, by comparison, is more radical and revolutionary."