Leafleting: Looking for a few white separatists
Although Charlottesville is often depicted as a liberal community, that hasn't stopped a "white separatist" group from trying to spread its message here with anti-Semitic leaflets.
Matt Wilkinson spotted the neatly rolled, rubber-banded fliers in yards all over his Fry Springs neighborhood as he left for work November 30. One sheet blamed high gas prices on "Zion"; the other denounced the Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, as "America's greatest enemy."
Both were courtesy of the National Alliance, a group whose late founder, William Pierce, wrote The Turner Diaries, the notorious novel that reportedly inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
"I was shocked that somebody would spend so much time doing something so moronic," says Wilkinson, "especially in this day and age in Charlottesville."
Across town, on Lexington Avenue near Locust, Nell Goddin unrolled the anti-ADL fliers left in her front yard. "Oh, my God," she exclaimed. "'Let's deport these arrogant Jews'? This is horrifying."
This wasn't the National Alliance's first visit to Charlottesville. Leafleters came through town earlier this year on Martin Luther King's birthday, startling many residents who found what they considered racist literature littering their front lawns.
However, that episode– aimed at the supposed evils of interracial romance– generated enough interest to establish a Central Virginia branch of the organization seven months ago, according to the group's chief operations officer, Shaun Walker.
Based in Hillsboro, West Virginia, Walker says most of the unit's members hail from the Shenandoah Valley– with a couple from Charlottesville.
Why leaflet here again?
"Charlottesville's got the mixed neighborhoods and quite a few foreigners– Indians, Pakistanis," answers Walker. "People are waking up. We're getting the audience we want."
Some Lexington Avenue residents would disagree. "I find it appalling," says Deborah Murray, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Live Arts director John Gibson didn't notice the fliers in his yard and believes the white-obsessed group is wasting its time. "I think those are seeds that will not sprout in the enlightened liberal atmosphere of Lexington Avenue," he says.
The Anti-Defamation League monitors National Alliance activities and estimates its national membership at 1,500.
"Of all the hate groups out there attempting to get their message out, they've easily supplanted the Klan," says ADL regional director David Friedman. "They make it easy for people to download their fliers. They're so highly organized, that's why they're considered dangerous."
Friedman calls the group an "extremist" organization "deeply steeped with white supremacists and neo-Nazis."
"We're a white separatist, not a white supremacist group," specifies state National Alliance spokesman Pete Harwood, who says the latter want to rule over other cultures while the former prefer to live apart.
David Miller is a member of the local unit. He declines to say whether he was involved in last week's leafleting and exactly how many people are involved in his group. "It's not our policy to give out numbers," he says. But he does offer one number: Approximately 500 fliers were distributed.
And to those who are offended by the National Alliance message, Miller points out that it's Constitutionally protected speech. He denies the National Alliance is an extremist group.
"We feel our views reflect the silent majority," he says. "I would say the same thing to the Anti-Defamation League– they're an extremist hate group advocating strictly on behalf of the Jewish population."
The ADL's intense monitoring of hate groups and hate speech has, in recent years, hit some unlikely targets– including an August scolding of presidential candidate Ralph Nader for using the word "puppets" to describe the relationship of Congress and President George W. Bush to Israel.
Friedman recommends reporting further leafleting to the police and to the ADL.
"Citizens should realize this doesn't mean they have the National Alliance in their neighborhood or that there will be an upsurge in hate crimes," he says.
Still, he suggests realism tempered by awareness. "The danger is that individuals are capable of violence when they believe in the extreme positions of the National Alliance."
"We don't advocate violence," Miller counters.
Unlike the Martin Luther King Day barrage, Charlottesville police got no complaints about the recent fliers, but after a reporter made them aware of the fliers, the police collected a few and filed a report, says Sergeant Mike Farruggio.
"I don't think this is a community where the National Alliance is going to get a lot of support," says Vice Mayor Kevin Lynch, who lives near Lexington Avenue. "Typically when you look at these groups, you find it's a couple of people with a lot of time on their hands."
America's greatest enemy? The National Alliance leaves its message in Charlottesville yards.
Nell Goddin was not pleased to find that the National Alliance had left literature in her yard.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO