I'm not the type for formal to-dos. The dress code kills me. Last time I wore a suit was for Methodist Sunday school, back before I'd had my first smoke.
I made an exception for the Anti-Defamation League of Arizona's Torch of Liberty Award Dinner, held recently at the Camelback Inn. Nah, I didn't don a tie. But I did sport a clean shirt, mainly because some folks I respect were attending, speechifying, or being honored.
Foremost among those speaking was Don Logan, former director of Scottsdale's Office of Diversity and Dialogue, who was targeted (allegedly) by white supremacist twin brothers Dennis and Daniel Mahon with a package bomb that exploded in his hands in 2004, seriously injuring him and others at his office.
Logan is an impressive man and an inspiring speaker. He refuses to accept the mantle of victim and has appeared in federal court to confront the duo accused by the U.S. Attorney's Office of attempting to foment racial discord on behalf of neo-Nazi Tom Metzger's white-power propaganda machine W.A.R., or White Aryan Resistance, which Metzger now refers to as The Insurgent.
Though the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was the lead investigative agency on the case, the ADL was instrumental in helping the ATF put the Mahons in handcuffs. Logan acknowledged as much that evening by explaining that it was only in June, when the charges were announced, that he understood the extent of the ADL's involvement in the Mahons' collar.
"I learned all types of things," Logan told the hundreds assembled, "including the work that the ADL had done. The ADL was there from the beginning, providing the support behind the scenes that was totally oblivious to me."
The nearly 100-year-old civil rights organization often provides critical intelligence to law enforcement so that cops can arrest violent racists, skinheads, and domestic terrorists. No wonder the unofficial theme of the evening was the partnership between local authorities and the ADL.
The dinner was actually a tribute to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona CEO Richard Boals, who garnered the evening's top plaudit. But the real star was Phoenix police Lieutenant Heston Silbert, present to receive the George Weisz-ADL Law Enforcement Award for his work heading up the department's Major Offender Bureau and Career Criminal Squad. The second unit specializes in going after street-level organized crime, particularly white-supremacist gangs such as the Aryan Brotherhood and Hammerskins.
ADL regional director Bill Straus noted in his introducing Silbert that Silbert's squad made 25 arrests of heinous criminals involved in neo-Nazi-ism and white nationalism in the past year.
"And they don't pick them up for jaywalking," joked Straus. "Charges range from murder and aggravated assault to armed robbery and illegal weapons violations."
Silbert, who has since moved on to other duties at the Phoenix PD, gave props to ADL investigators for aiding his men and singled out each member of his former squad in the audience for being the reason he was at the podium.
A quick review of one of their higher-profile busts, that of tattoo artist and neo-Nazi boot boy Chad Kerns, makes it clear what sort of villains Silbert and his men dealt with. Kerns, who is inked all over his body and face with white-supremacist imagery — including a portrait of Adolf Hitler over his heart — is doing a 10-year stint in the Arizona Department of Corrections for his part in two hate crimes perpetrated by him and members of a vicious wolf pack of racist skinheads.
Both assaults occurred in 2007, and police reports of the incidents read like something straight out of A Clockwork Orange or the screenplay for American History X. In March of that year, Kerns and four or five other skinheads wearing the standard red braces, black jackets, wife-beaters, and Doc Martens congregated inside the Rogue West bar at 35th and Northern avenues. They flipped each other sieg heils, talked about "white power," and asked one patron whether the establishment was a SHARP bar. SHARP stands for Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice, the scions of the original non-racist skinheads in England and the neo-Nazi skinheads' deadly enemies.
They were told it was not a SHARP bar, but eventually a Hispanic man entered the place wearing an anti-Nazi shirt with the motto "Keep your country clean" and a stick figure tossing a swastika in a trashcan. The skinheads spotted the shirt and swarmed over the man, pushing him, punching him, and smashing him over the head with a bar stool. The victim ran to the front door, was tripped, and fell outside, where he was kicked and punched 'til the Nazis sped away in their cars. The man ended up with a 2½-inch cut on his head from the unprovoked, cowardly attack.
Three months later, Kerns was involved in another assault, this one involving a black man and two of Kerns' skinhead pals, Doolin Onion and Jamie Lyon. Lyon and Onion approached the man in a Walgreens at 34th Avenue and Dunlap Road and called him a "fucking nigger" while passing by him, which provoked an argument that led to a confrontation outside the drugstore.
Lyon and Onion called their skinhead comrades on their cell phones, including Kerns and Aaron Smith, both of whom had been involved in the Rogue West attack. Soon, as many as 10 skinheads were wailing on the unarmed African-American. At some point, Kerns pulled a knife and stabbed the man twice in the abdomen, puncturing his bowel twice and injuring his liver. Fortunately, the victim survived after he was rushed to the hospital by the Phoenix Fire Department.
There were no CSI moments in the investigation, no silver bullets. Rather, Silbert's squad made the case with countless hours of interviews, lineups, surveillance, reviewing photos of the perpetrators, and consulting with the ADL. The fact that Kerns bragged about the attack afterward at a party helped seal his fate.
This year, all five men the police arrested for the brutal attacks copped plea deals. Kerns, the worst of the bunch, pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault and, as mentioned, earned the sentence of a decade behind bars. Smith did likewise and caught five. The others got off relatively easy, with three years' probation.
None of them would have seen the inside of a courtroom for these assaults had not the Phoenix PD and the ADL been on their games. For that, we owe our thanks.
It seemed appropriate that the only casualty in Saturday's National Socialist Movement march to the state Capitol occurred after the march, when a car full of swastika-sniffers made a wrong turn at Seventh Avenue and Van Buren Street, colliding with a truck.
One black-shirt was hurt, and as he writhed on the curb, in pain from a leg injury, anarchists rushed to the corner and taunted NSM members milling about as their comrade waited for an ambulance.
Cops separated the two sides, as each dared the other to cross the police line.
The Hitler worshippers, including Mesa neo-Nazi J.T. Ready and NSM spokesman Charles Wilson, eventually retreated, getting a ride from another Doc Martens-wearing schmuck. They claimed they were heading to the Arizona State Fair, but the wanna-be schutzstaffels bee-lined to a swastika-burning after-party in Maricopa, according to my sources.
Later via phone, I asked Wilson to confirm the location, but he declined. He asked me why I wanted to go. I told him I'd never seen a swastika burning and I wanted to let the anarchists know where they could join in the fun.
As for the collision, Phoenix police Sergeant Brian Murray confirmed at the scene that the Nazi driver was at fault. (Apparently, certain members of the "master race" can't drive a lick.) Unfortunately, the driver of the truck had no ID or proof of insurance and, therefore, was taken into custody. Murray said the man would be cited and released as long as he had no outstanding warrants. Though the anarchists were angered by the truck driver's arrest, they were jubilant that a Nazi sustained a busted leg.
They weren't the only ones.
The Nazi gathering on the Senate lawn earlier was also a wreck. About 150 anarchists and assorted counter-protesters flipped off the NSM putzes and created so much noise by yelling and shaking homemade rattlers that the neo-Nazis could barely hear each other.
Despite boasts by NSM leaders that they could turn out 200 white supremacists, they barely hit the 60 mark. After tromping down to the Capitol from 12th Avenue and Adams Street, where they left their cars parked, they ended up jabbering through a microphone at a hostile crowd, held back by a cordon of about 100 Phoenix cops, DPS officers, and Capitol police, including Phoenix PD cops on horseback.
A couple of water bottles and a can full of dry beans (one of the aforementioned rattlers) were tossed at the Nazis, but that was as physical as it got. The Nazis generally acted like lumpen oafs, ripping up Mexican flags and wiping their rears with them. Apparently, it was an act of hygiene at which the Nazis were unpracticed.
Most of the Nazis were out-of-towners, including speakers like ex-NSM führer Clifford Herrington and current NSM "commander" Jeff Schoep. Schoep has a record for accompanying his daughter's mom as she ripped off $4,000 in computer equipment in 1998. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, "Four children were in the back of the car during the arrest." Call it Nazi family values.
Herrington, a pear-shaped geezer in a period S.A. outfit, was embroiled in a scandal in the Nazi ranks when it was discovered that his wife is a high priestess in the Joy of Satan Ministry, and that the Satanist church was using an NSM post office box as its address. Man, do Nazis give Satanists a bad name.
At the demonstration, the Nazis waved swastika flags while cowering behind red shields. They claimed they were using the NSM logo on the shields to demonstrate against illegal immigration. Now if ever there was a reason to support the undocumented among us!
But Nazis being Nazis, they spent most of their energy blaming everything on the Joos. Herrington kept shouting, "Death to the Jewish traitors!" like his pathetic life depended on it.
One of the tattooed skinheads shouted at the crowd through a bullhorn, telling those who appeared Jewish, "You'd make a nice lampshade."
J.T. Ready, the Ernst Roehm of the East Valley, got in on the Jew-baiting bandwagon during his brief remarks. Sporting a fuzzy Tyrolean chapeau, the morbidly obese social reject who was twice court-martialed and booted from the U.S. Marines, blamed "people with yarmulkes on their heads" for supporting "criminal elements" in the community. A laughable charge coming from a guy with a criminal record.
There was a lot of posing from these pseudo storm troopers, with one cue ball from Missouri actually getting in my face. The anarchists, however, were in rare form, chanting, "Follow your leader and kill yourself," a reference to Hitler's offing himself in his führer bunker toward the end of WWII.
Ultimately, the Nazis proved themselves the lowlife degenerates that they are, and the anarchists proved themselves a viable force to be reckoned with, doing the job that none of the civil rights activists in town wanted to take on — letting the Nazis know they're unwelcome.
The cops deserve kudos for keeping order, though they were basically protecting the Nazi maniacs from getting their butts kicked. You decide whether the latter would have been a positive.
Local nativists mostly steered clear of the Nazi rally. They have their own prejudice picnic coming up, on November 14 on the Capitol lawn. It's an Anti-Amnesty Tea Party, one of about 50 promised nationally by the North Carolina-based Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, led by notorious Hispanic-basher William Gheen.
The tea party may lack swastikas, but much of the rhetoric assailing Latinos will be the same as the Nazis'. Local anti-immigrant group United for a Sovereign America, which has been pimping the event on its Web site, has accepted neo-Nazis such as J.T. Ready and old-line storm trooper Elton Hall into their meetings, as well as other assorted racists, Klan members, and bigoted insaniacs.
One person likely to be there Saturday will be nativist and U.S.A. member Lynne Stevens, a meaty 65-year-old who sports a Smith & Wesson on her hip and a Gilligan cap on her head. She was present as an observer at the neo-Nazi shindig, videotaping the proceedings for her YouTube site, Jackie40d.
Stevens has been a persistent protester outside Salvador Reza's Macehualli Day Labor Center and is known for making provocative statements in her videos. In one, she lamented that she couldn't just start shooting pro-immigrant activists. In another, she looks at a small group of day laborers and fantasizes, "Throw in one grenade and kill 'em all with one shot."
Imagine my surprise to learn that Stevens, who is white, may be a member of a persecuted minority herself. At least that is what I thought when someone sent me a link to her profile on the Web site "MySpace for T-Girls," which bills itself as the "Premier Crossdresser and Transgender Social Networking Site."
There, Stevens is pictured in a dark wig and lingerie. She describes herself as "transsexual" and states that she's been "living as female for years now." Her turnoffs are "extreme fruitcakes and open-border people."
When I asked Stevens about the page recently, she admitted it was hers but maintained that she's been a woman since birth and fakes being a transsexual only so that she can talk to TSers online.
"I'm a genuine, guaranteed lezzy," Stevens told me. "I just have crazy TS girlfriends."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
On her biker vest, Stevens wears a patch that reads, "Lesbian and Proud of It." She discerns no cognitive dissonance in courting one oppressed class of folks and threatening another. She insisted she's not anti-Mexican before telling me that she has hunted illegal immigrants along the border, calling them "fair game."
"I have a .22 [handgun], which is for eliminating people down at the border," she told me nonchalantly. "I have a .22 rifle, which is for plinking them off at longer distances."
Stevens was probably pulling my leg, but she does seem to enjoy talking about killing people. Illegal entry into the United States is a federal misdemeanor, BTW. Murder, a capital offense.
It ain't likely that Stevens would take kindly to people bragging about offing lesbians or transgenders, even if they were just fooling. What betrays Stevens' sick mind is not her sexuality but her psychopathic hatred of Mexican immigrants. A hatred for which she — transgender or not — is embraced in the nativist scene.