News

IT'S GROWING

In the past two years, Arizona's contingency of young neo-Nazis has doubled from 100 to about 200. This is according to the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, a group that monitors extremist hate groups in the United States. The ADL estimates there are some 3,000 skinheads nationwide.

"Phoenix is a cooling-off place and a recruiting place," says Joel Breshin, director of the ADL's office in Phoenix. The Valley skinhead movement is turning out to be quite resilient, he says. Police have broken up three neo-Nazi skinhead gangs in the past three years, moving the skinheads from Scottsdale to Tempe to Sunnyslope. Each time, a more vicious gang is formed after a period of dormancy.

That may be what's happening in the East Valley right now.
Lumumba Kenyatta keeps a Mach-Ten machine gun in his office at the Pepper and Salt pool hall in Tempe. It's a desperate precaution he decided to take in mid-September, after he and his wife began getting phone calls threatening their lives, and discovered a swastika and other graffiti on their back door.

Kenyatta says Tempe police have warned him that there's a neo-Nazi skinhead hangout nearby.

On September 12, just days before Kenyatta was targeted, racist graffiti was spray-painted on the walls of a Chinese Christian church in Chandler. Five bullets were fired into the church, which was empty at the time.

Tempe and Chandler police say it's still too early to tell if local skinheads are to blame for the incidents at Kenyatta's pool hall or the Chinese church, but Joel Breshin of the ADL suspects they might be. Breshin says he also suspects that skinheads were responsible for several similar desecrations of Valley synagogues from 1987 to 1989.

The spasm of hate crimes in the East Valley may signal the beginning of yet another neo-Nazi youth corps, Breshin says, now that Jimmy Miller and Case Colcord are behind bars.

"I have no doubt we'll see a new gang in the future," he says. "We've got 200 neo-Nazi skinheads in the Valley waiting for a new leader to come in and activate them. They've got a lot of anger to vent."

An especially violent neo-Nazi group was started here in 1988, when two members of the Dallas-based Confederate Hammer Skins moved to Phoenix to start the Arizona White Battalion, says Breshin. The Confederate Hammer Skins have strong ties to the local Ku Klux Klan as well as to White Aryan Resistance leader Tom Metzger, and once plotted to put poison gas into a Dallas synagogue's air-conditioning system. Twelve of the Dallas gang pleaded guilty in federal court to assaulting blacks and Hispanics and attacking Jewish synagogues. The most notorious member of the Arizona White Battalion gang is Michael Bloom, who last year pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bomb a Jewish day-care center and a black church. (New Times covered the Bloom case on November 1, 1989.) At the time of his arrest, Bloom possessed explosive devices and a map with thirty intended targets, including minority churches, synogogues and the Phoenix ADL office.

Last month, after serving less than twelve months of a four-year sentence, Bloom was nearly paroled after he convinced authorities he was no longer a white supremacist.

Breshin and the Maricopa County Attorney, however, convinced the parole board that Bloom was still a violent racist. To prove their point, they submitted a racist rap poem believed to be written by Bloom recently. It read in part: "Yeah, White Power, I believe it still/It's running through my head/It's making me kill."

"Shaving the head might be a fad, but the rest isn't," says one Valley police detective. "If what these kids believe is a fad, then it's been going on since the early 1930s in Germany." "We've got 200 neo-Nazi skinheads in the Valley waiting for a new leader to come in and activate them.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Terry Greene