Feathered Bastard

William Gheen's ALIPAC Withdraws from June 5 Nativist Rally at Arizona State Capitol Because of "Nazi Groups and Tom Tancredo" (w/Update)

The North Carolina-based nativist group ALIPAC (Americans for Legal Immigration PAC) is pulling out of a planned June 5 anti-immigration/pro-SB1070 rally at the Arizona state Capitol over what it claims are the white supremacist ties of one of the event's organizers.

ALIPAC head honcho William Gheen blasted "Phoenix Rising" event planner Dan Smeriglio and former Colorado Congressman and nativist firebrand Tom Tancredo for going forward with the rally.

Gheen describes reading a release from the anti-racist group One People's Project linking Smeriglio, a resident of Hazelton, Pennsylvania, to a guy named Steve Smith, the "regional coordinator" of a racist group called Keystone United

KU states on its Web site that it was formed by "a small group of skinheads" in Harrisburg, PA, with the goal of "uniting all racially aware skinheads in the state of Pennsylvania." Smith also posts to the well-known white supremacist message board Stormfront.org.

Of the One People's Project statement, Gheen says, "The group was attacking Dan Smeriglio claiming he was working with skinheads and Nazis and attacking ALIPAC for associating with Smeriglio."

After reviewing "the video and computer screen shots that our opposition possesses" regarding Smeriglio, Gheen says he "discovered that they are correct."

In fact, Gheen goes to great lengths to show connections between Smeriglio and Smith, offering a list of YouTube videos and screenshots, some of them from Smeriglio's Facebook page, where Smeriglio's also promoting the event.

"ALIPAC will not work with any group or event that is working with or supportive of neo-Nazis or anyone working with them," writes Gheen. "We do not feel comfortable asking our national network to travel into Arizona at great expense to attend an event that Tom Tancredo is attempting to undermine."

Gheen is ticked at Tancredo for going forward with "Phoenix Rising," despite Gheen's outspoken criticism of it. 

Recently, Tancredo Twittered an invitation for people to join him in Phoenix on June 5. And the event's Web site has posted a message it says is from Tancredo, stating the following:

"I am proud to be participating in the June 5 rally at the Arizona state capitol in support of Arizona's new law aimed at illegal immigration, SB1070. The allegations against one of the rally's organizers, Daniel Smeriglio, have been examined and are not only without merit, they are the worst kind of character assassination that no decent person in politics, left, right or center, should condone.

"One can only speculate about the motives behind this transparent smear campaign. But I do know that good citizens of Arizona and across the nation will not be deterred from expressing their support for Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce and the citizens of Arizona who have taken this bold step to control illegal immigration. The June 5 rally is going forward and information is available at www.phoenixrally.com."

In addition to Tancredo, the Phoenix Rising site offers a rogues gallery of nativist speakers and politicians it claims to have garnered for this hootenanny of hate, from our own Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Mexican-basher Russell Pearce to California nativist Barbara Coe and San Diego minuteman Jeff Schwilk. 

The Phoenix nativist organization United for a Sovereign America is promoting the June 5 event on its Web site. And the Arizona Legislature's calendar of events notes that both the state House and Senate lawns have been reserved for an immigration rally

Oddly, however, the Senate lawn has also been reserved by liberal Democratic state House Rep. Kyrsten Sinema for a pro-immigration vigil. So there is some serious conflict there. I've put in a call to the Capitol police about the matter, but have yet to hear back. 

Phoenix Rising says it's reserved all of Wesley Bolin Plaza as well, but I don't have confirmation on that so far.

The nativists are certainly known for their infighting, and Gheen's announcement is no exception to that fact. I have to say, it's more than amusing to watch them engage in prolonged verbal knife fights.

Thing is, the neo-Nazis and the nativists basically share the same views on immigration, and Gheen's attempt to clean up his act -- if that's what this is -- doesn't change that one iota.

Update, May 22: The Republic's Dan Nowicki followed the story today, though he made it seem as if this were only about one white power band organizer Dan Smeriglio had on his Facebook page. There's a little more to it than that. In any case, J.D. Hayworth has dropped out of the event due to some -- ahem -- scheduling conflict. 

A spokesman for the Capitol Police did confirm to me late this week that June 5 organizers have reserved all of Wesley Bolin Plaza. However, he was not able to explain the fact that at least one lawn at the Capitol is booked for two, opposing events that same day. 

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons