Best place...: For white supremacists?
Charlottesville is a favorite of best-place-to-live list makers. It also seems to have become a favorite of white supremacists, who continue to target the area for distribution of bigoted publications. The latest arrived on local doorsteps the weekend before the June 14 state primaries.
North downtown resident Ron Bailey got a copy. When the Second Street resident scanned the tabloid with its "Open Season on Whites" cover headline, "I got a visceral feeling of picking up filth," he says. "It was hideous, egregious, disgusting."
His neighbor, Fred Schneider, got one too. "I'm upset by it," says Schneider. "I'm upset that anyone thinks that kind of material passes as news and should be distributed in any neighborhood. It's hateful and divisive."
Schneider says his wife was particularly offended by the content, which included the "N-word" and other derogatory racial terms that might be seen by children. "Totally inappropriate," says Schneider.
Despite its liberal leanings, Charlottesville is no stranger to forays by those with opposing viewpoints. Last year, a West Virginia group called the National Alliance took responsibility for distributing racist fliers here on Martin Luther King Day and anti-Semitic leaflets around Thanksgiving.
Based in Hillsboro, West Virginia, the Alliance was started by The Turner Diaries author William Pierce, whose magnum opus inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
Tamar Kipper, spokeswoman for the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks extremist groups, says the National Alliance has been in decline since Pierce died in 2002. A leadership shake-up put Charlottesville on the white supremacist map courtesy of local resident Kevin Strom, who used to do a radio show for the National Alliance.
"He was fired for gross insubordination," says National Alliance chairman Shaun Walker. "He decided to form a splinter group."
Strom did not respond to a request for an interview about his faction, the National Vanguard. And, anyway, the latest round of racist journalism comes not from Strom but from another former Alliance member, Alex Linder, in Kirksville, Missouri.
"I have no more problem using the word 'nigger' than your paper would using 'white trash,'" says Linder.
Even the National Alliance shies from the N-word. "We would not use that," says Alliance boss Walker, calling it "so antagonistic."
He says he's never seen a copy of Linder's publication, the Aryan Alternative. "At one time, we had a link with his website," Walker says, "but we unlinked because the quality was unprofessional, and he didn't have the same message we have."
Has N-word-using Linder received any response from Charlottesville? "I know there was a TV reaction that portrayed us as haters," says Linder. "It was the typical biased, bigoted news reporting.
"Invariably," he continues, "reporters claim people are aghast at this material."
Linder argues that whites prefer to live around whites and move away when other races move in. He acknowledges fallouts with both the National Alliance and Kevin Strom, and says he doesn't have a group. But with his website, radio and paper, he hopes to attract 20 to 40-year-olds to his cause. "We're looking for young, intelligent white males," he says.
The latest Aryan Alternative, the group's second issue, had a print run of 20,000, according to Linder. "We have a low price, and people buy them and distribute them, likely a few hundred."
He declines to say who distributed the paper in Charlottesville.
NAACP president Rick Turner isn't surprised that white supremacists would be attracted to Charlottesville, but he wants some response. "I think there should be an outcry by city officials," he declares.
"I don't know anything about Charlottesville being attractive to white supremacists," says Mayor David Brown. "Charlottesville is the blue dot in a sea of political red. It's not the environment you'd expect to see extremist groups."
"Charlottesville has a reputation as a very tolerant, educated community that's respectful of people's views," notes Vice Mayor Kevin Lynch. "We're bound to attract a few nuts."
Publications like the Aryan Alternative continue to show up on local doorsteps.
Kevin Strom, formerly associated with the National Alliance, has started his own supremacist group– the National Vanguard– headquartered here in Charlottesville.
NATIONAL ALLIANCE WEBSITE