Cover Story

Too Close for Comfort: The Ku Klux Klan's Global Headquarters is in Glendale

klankoverweb.jpg
New Times Illustration

The global headquarters of the Aryan Nations Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is hidden in plain sight, not in some part of the country you might expect, but right here in metro Phoenix.

The KKK evokes images of mass rallies and terrorizing Black churches in the South, but today it's a far cry from the violent, secret fraternal society founded in Pulaski, Tennessee, on Christmas Eve 1865 to resist the emancipation of slaves.

They went from burning crosses near Atlanta and plotting to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building to hiding out in the Idaho Panhandle.

Now, a ragtag group of about 30 have set up the world HQ inside a Glendale apartment that fronts as a record store.

A paper trail of propaganda, legal documents, social media, and CDs unmistakably links the group's leaders, 40-year-old David James Miner and 66-year-old Morris Lynn Gulett, to an emerging campaign of hate in Arizona.

Local leaders are not bashful about it.

"It would be better if we let out who we are and our intentions," Miner told Phoenix New Times. "We want to make sure that we don't lose to the enemy: Satanic Jewish Forces."

click to enlarge David James Miner. - MARICOPA COUNTY SHERRIF’S OFFICE
David James Miner.
Maricopa County Sherrif’s Office

Gulett did not respond to multiple interview requests, however.

Long a formidable neo-Nazi group, the Aryan Nations Knights were "homeless, split, accused of blackmail, and in jeopardy of irrelevance" in 2019, before relocating to Arizona, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

While the KKK and Nazis are not synonymous, those ideologies overlap with the Aryan Nations Knights. The group praises Adolf Hitler's ideas and politics, leading it to "throw off several traditional Klan symbols," according to its recruitment website. The Nazi flag replaces the traditional Klan insignia, for instance. Love of Nazism distinguishes Aryan Nations members from other Klansmen.

The Klan has been ousted from its home again and again over the decades, crippled by lawsuits, internal tumult, and the evolving nature of alt-right extremism.

The U.S. Department of Justice and FBI have called Aryan Nations a domestic terrorism group.

The Aryan Nations Knights set up their latest global headquarters in 2020, using a modest Glendale apartment to sell hateful CDs. Long after abandoning an amply funded, militarized compound in the Idaho Panhandle, leaders thought Arizona would be an ideal place to recruit new members.

"I used to live in Glendale, and a lot of our kindred are here," Miner said.

He added that he now leads the national group after Gulett retired and that it relocated to Arizona earlier. Neither claim could be independently confirmed.

Experts are not surprised the group came here.

"There are states that emerge as havens for hate crime by the kind of hot-button issues that can be exploited," said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino. "Arizona is the perfect place."

Riding the U.S.-Mexico border, and controlled by Republicans — some of whom peddle extremist conspiracy theories themselves — Arizona was an attractive destination for the Aryan Nations Knights, Levin said.

The group's mission is as ambitious as it is vicious: to resegregate America and exterminate non-Aryans, primarily Jewish people, along the way.

"It is sad that radicalized individuals feel the need to join small extremist groups like this," said Paul Rockower, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix.

"Hate is a powerful drug," he added.

The trappings of the KKK, the flowing white robes, pointed hoods, and the Blood Drop Cross, are vestiges of the past. They no longer represent the new face of alt-right extremism. Other groups, with overlapping messages, are in the ascendancy. But the Aryan Nations Knights of the Ku Klux Klan are evolving with the times.

click to enlarge Tim Bishop, member of the National Socialists Movement, warms up by the fire of his campground at the Aryan Nations World Congress June 21, 2003 at Farragut State Park, Idaho. - JEROME A. POLLOS/GETTY IMAGES
Tim Bishop, member of the National Socialists Movement, warms up by the fire of his campground at the Aryan Nations World Congress June 21, 2003 at Farragut State Park, Idaho.
Jerome A. Pollos/Getty Images

So You Want to Be a Klansman?

If you dial the Nazi group's West Valley phone number, you may think you reached a record store.

It's really the living room of that Glendale apartment on 80th Avenue — the new world headquarters for the group that once staked claim to an Idaho fortress on 20 acres of alpine forest.

The residential address is also listed on the website of Black Metal Cult Records, a National Socialist "hate music" group associated with Aryan Nations, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The group might be short on members, but aspiring Nazis still need to prove their worthiness with a written test.

Applicants face such conventional Bible trivia questions as "Do you know who Adam and Eve were?" followed by a thought-provoking open response question with enough space for a five-word answer: "What are your feelings about Jews?"

click to enlarge The Klan’s membership application questionnaire. - ARYAN NATIONS
The Klan’s membership application questionnaire.
Aryan Nations

If the test is returned with favorable marks, all that remains is to send $30 to the Aryan Nations' official CashApp account, which is linked directly to the recruitment website.

Once the nation's most notorious enclave for anti-Semitism and racism, Aryan Nations now milks its followers for money by selling $100 magazines, charging monthly dues, and begging for contributions to a "building fund" that would liberate members from their Glendale apartment and allow for a new church and world headquarters to be built in Phoenix.

Black Metal Cult Records

Tumbleweeds bounce gently through the dirt in the front yard of the triplex apartment building at 7000 block of North 80th Avenue in Glendale.

It's a stone's throw from Independence High School in the Glendale Crossings neighborhood.

Overturned garbage cans litter the dead-end road lined with palm trees and unassuming stucco multi-family homes.

The building is meant to house three families.

Instead, apartment #1 was occupied by Aryan Nations' Arizona leader David James Miner until 2019, public records show, but it still serves as the hate group's headquarters. It's not clear who rents the space now, but neighbors describe a white woman there. She stands out in the predominantly Latino neighborhood.

Two Hispanic families live next door to a notorious anti-Mexican hate group and had no idea what was going on behind closed doors in the other unit.

"I've never seen anything weird. She has more visitors than anyone," said a 44-year-old mother who works at Amazon and has lived there since June. New Times is choosing to withhold her name to protect her safety. "I see people come and go."

click to enlarge The Glendale apartment/record store that serves as the KKK HQ. - ELIAS WEISS
The Glendale apartment/record store that serves as the KKK HQ.
Elias Weiss

The building's owner, Juan Enrique Ramos, did not respond to questions from New Times.

Black Metal Cult Records prides itself as "a record label for white people" in a Google link to its website.

Since it was established in 2007, the record label has signed 17 neo-Nazi bands in the U.S. and Europe, according to Encyclopaedia Metallum.

Music held a unique significance and power in the Nazi imagination. It was used in the Third Reich to stir up anti-Semitic sentiment.

click to enlarge Gaskammer’s Beware of Jews!,  part of Black Metal Cult Records catalog. - BLACK METAL CULT RECORDS
Gaskammer’s Beware of Jews!, part of Black Metal Cult Records catalog.
Black Metal Cult Records

Hitler carried a knapsack into the field of battle during World War I which included music by composer Richard Wagner, who authored an anti-Semitic essay in 1850 called "Judaism in Music," insisting the Jewish population poisoned public taste in the arts.

The neo-Nazi music scene inherited the tradition of using hate in music to strike a chord with followers in the Klan and other National Socialist groups.

Record labels like Black Metal Cult Records peddle Nazi ideals in lyrics between the tones of heavily distorted and low-tuned guitars.

In 2018, the record label released Beware of Jews! from the band Gaskammer, the Dutch word for gas chamber. The band hails from Bulgaria, once an ally of Nazi Germany, but it relocated to Phoenix to produce music for the Aryan Nations-controlled record company.

"Do not trust any Jew and be aware of them," lead singer Georgi Georgiev, who goes by the stage name Okupator, sings on the track. "Everything they have done is to destroy our lives. History will prove that they have no place in our times. ...Worthless human scum."

Counterfeit COVID Cards

As the desperate search for new members puts a strain on the once-powerful organization's consolidated operation near Glendale Avenue, attention has shifted to churning out counterfeit COVID-19 vaccine cards.

The Aryan Nations website, touting that its "World Headquarters" is in Phoenix, makes accessible a fraudulent proof of a vaccine printout and asks members to "copy and share this with everybody you know."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides bona fide clinics across the country with legitimate COVID-19 vaccine cards stamped with the federal emblem to give to patients who receive the vaccine.

The CDC logo appears on the counterfeit printout, constituting a federal felony offense for any Aryan Nations member who takes the bait.

A conviction for federal forgery warrants five to 10 years in prison and fines ranging from $10,000 to $25,000.

Last June, Aryan Nations peppered neighborhoods in Glendale and Litchfield Park with anti-Semitic and racist flyers.

The flyers, depicting Jewish people as rats and calling them "THE REAL PLAGUE," littered predominantly white neighborhoods in the West Valley.

Three months later, Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers censured "hateful and threatening speech that has been, or ever will be, distributed in and throughout our city," although the origin of the propaganda campaign wasn't fully known to city leaders at the time.


click to enlarge One of Aryan Nations’ racist flyers that was distributed on the west side. - ARYAN NATIONS
One of Aryan Nations’ racist flyers that was distributed on the west side.
Aryan Nations

The Aryan Nations is defiant. Miner told New Times the group plans to renew leafleting in Phoenix during Passover, which starts April 15.

The practice of leafleting, a recruitment method that tests the appetite for extremism in a neighborhood, didn't have a large impact on the Aryan Nations' self-reported membership of just 30 people.

As recently as late February, the organization pleaded to users of the alt-tech social networking service Gab, known for its alt-right user base, to join the Klan.

"Adolf Hitler is a true hero to our people," Miner posted on Gab in early March.

A Tradition of Hate

Modern extremists are replacing swastikas, Klan robes, and stiff-armed salutes with the star-spangled letter Q, experts agree. But the conspiratorial predecessor to QAnon shares some of its scare tactics.

"In today's fragmented world, extremists are intertwining not only different conspiracy theories but also the brand names of that past," said Levin, the extremism expert at California State University-San Bernardino.

Levin verified that the Aryan Nations recruitment website is real.

"In the 1980s, it was the Nazification of the Klan," he said. "In 2022, it's the Klanification of the Nazis."

click to enlarge Rev. Richard Butler, one-time leader of the Aryan Nations, in the back of a truck at the beginning of the World Congress Parade in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in 2004. - JEROME POLLOS / STRINGER / GETTY IMAGES
Rev. Richard Butler, one-time leader of the Aryan Nations, in the back of a truck at the beginning of the World Congress Parade in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in 2004.
Jerome Pollos / Stringer / Getty Images

Aryan Nations leans heavily on the conspiracy theory that the white race is "endangered" and that, without resorting to violence, Aryans will be killed off by Jewish people who are also pedophiles.

Aryan Nations Knights claim that the Sieg Heil salute and swastika have biblical origins and bolster their conspiracy theories with fabricated biblical passages in which God says the white race is superior.

It's all peddled in the Phoenix-based Church of Jesus Christ Christian, a tax-exempt, registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Because of its status, tax documents detailing the group's finances and leadership are not public.

But according to its new Phoenix-area recruitment website, "Aryan Nations has always been, and always will be, the reason Jews walk down the street in fear."

That slogan is pasted on the website's homepage.

Coming to Phoenix

Twenty years ago, the Grand Canyon State was far removed from the minds of today's Aryan Nations leaders.

click to enlarge Pastor Morris L. Gulett’s 2001 ordination ceremony took place on a Georgia hillside by the light of three fiery crosses surrounded by Georgia Klansmen performed by Pastor Ray Refeairn. - ARYAN NATIONS
Pastor Morris L. Gulett’s 2001 ordination ceremony took place on a Georgia hillside by the light of three fiery crosses surrounded by Georgia Klansmen performed by Pastor Ray Refeairn.
Aryan Nations

Gulett's face was illuminated by the light of three fiery wooden crosses at his ordainment on a Georgia hillside in 2001. He was becoming the leader of what he today calls "the most feared and revered White Supremacist organization the world has ever known."

In 2001, Aryan Nations was licking its wounds. It had gone belly up on a $6.3 million lawsuit after armed guards at the Hayden, Idaho, compound shot Victoria Keenan and her son Jason in 1998.

Bullets whizzed through the crisp Rocky Mountain air, repeatedly striking the family car until it crashed into a ditch. Klansmen held the mother and son at gunpoint until it was determined the Keenans were white non-Jews.

As plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the Keenans alleged Aryan Nations founder Pastor Richard G. Butler and his organization were "grossly negligent in selecting and supervising the guards."

An Idaho District Court judge ordered Aryan Nations to surrender the 20-acre compound near the Canadian border to the Keenans, who had been driving home from a wedding. The traumatized family sold the property to a philanthropist who donated it to a local college.

Both the group and its founder, Butler, were on the brink of death. Butler entrusted Gulett, then a bright-eyed 46-year-old Nazi, with lifting the organization off its deathbed.

click to enlarge Morris Lynn Gulett. - SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER
Morris Lynn Gulett.
Southern Poverty Law Center

With the help of neo-Nazi protégé Shaun Patrick Winkler, the Aryan Nations Knights of the Ku Klux Klan resurrected the Idaho compound, complete with a church, guard towers, and several other buildings, in 2012. It hosted cross-burning ceremonies there until 2019.

Nazi flags billowed from each side of a guard tower where robed sentinels watched for police and protesters around the clock. Another massive Nazi flag was painted on the roof.

"I say this again today, that we need to look at the perspective of the Jews and look at what they've done to us to fire back," Winkler said at the time, as quoted by the Southern Poverty Law Center. "We're messengers, and Pastor Butler said the same thing. We don't carry out deeds unless we feel the Holy Spirit moves us to do so. We're generally a legal organization."

Winkler ran for sheriff in Bonner County, Idaho, but his bid tanked and he finished last among three candidates.

After the loss, he tangled with anti-Aryan Nations protesters at a Mexican Restaurant in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, calling one a "retarded Hispanic cunt" who "needed to leave his town because she was not welcome," the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded.

He was arrested, but the city prosecutor declined to pursue charges. Winkler could not be reached for comment.

Then, Winkler and his circle of intimates dropped off the radar. Until recently.

Gulett and Miner haven't made much progress recruiting new members since relocating to the Valley.

"We have some recruiting we want to do," Miner told New Times. "The problem is that our members are getting arrested."

Gulett followed in the footsteps of his predecessor Butler as a career criminal.

"Gulett has an extensive criminal history which includes shoplifting, aggravated assault, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, homicide, felonious assault, possession of drugs, and receiving stolen property," an FBI agent wrote in a 2005 affidavit, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In 1997, Gulett spent time in prison for ramming a police car in Dayton, Ohio.

After his arrest in 2005 for conspiring to rob a bank, Gulett pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to six years, finally getting out in 2010.

His 40-year-old disciple hasn't stayed out of trouble either.

Miner was detained at a neo-Nazi event in Arizona last April that coincided with Hitler's birthday. He harassed people at Chandler's Eastlake Park, spouting profane racial slurs and destroying the flag of Israel.

The group ripped and burned Israeli flags at the park, a landmark for the Black community, before trekking to the U.S.-Mexico border to witness "evidence" of an illegal migrant crisis.

Miner's co-conspirator at the event, National Socialist Movement leader Burt Colucci, was arrested and indicted on aggravated assault charges by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office last month.

Colucci twice confronted a group of Black men and "began throwing trash on their car, using racial slurs, and threatened to kill them," police alleged in a booking sheet filed in court records.

Colucci did not deny drawing his gun during the altercation, according to the same court records.

Miner's own criminal record dates to 1999 and includes numerous felony convictions on charges such as drug possession, aggravated assault, criminal damage, assault with a deadly weapon, and theft, all in Maricopa County, records show.

Miner is a familiar face at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, spokesperson Kahri Harrion said.

Aryan Nations was responsible for far worse crimes over the years. In the 1980s, members murdered Alan Berg, a Denver talk-show radio host who was Jewish. They also bombed a synagogue, robbed banks, and stole millions of dollars from armored cars.

Aryan Nations Klansmen are also culpable for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Timothy McVeigh, the Aryan Nations member who detonated the bomb that killed 19 children and 149 adults, hatched his plan in Kingman with the aid of other residents of the city. McVeigh was executed in 2001.

click to enlarge Rev. Richard Butler gives a speech during the Aryan World Congress July 17, 2004 held in Cataldo, Idaho. Butler is the leader of the Aryan Nations that went bankrupt after a lawsuit in 2000 forcing the group to rent spaces for their annual world congress. - JEROME A. POLLOS/GETTY IMAGES
Rev. Richard Butler gives a speech during the Aryan World Congress July 17, 2004 held in Cataldo, Idaho. Butler is the leader of the Aryan Nations that went bankrupt after a lawsuit in 2000 forcing the group to rent spaces for their annual world congress.
Jerome A. Pollos/Getty Images

Since then, the group has failed to shed its reputation for committing violent crimes.

"We condemn violence, but there will be a day when everyone has to decide what side they're on," Miner said.

But just last month, a judge in Sacramento sentenced Phoenix Aryan Nations member Nicholas Wayne Sherman to 180 days in jail for his role in an anti-Semitic terrorism spree.

Sherman, 33, was arrested in December on 12 counts of terrorism and one count of desecrating a religious symbol two months earlier. He was found guilty of plastering photos of Hitler across a menorah at a nearby synagogue.

He was also caught on security footage littering an elementary school with swastikas, officials said at the time.

"All crimes hurt not just the victim, but the entire community," Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said after the arrest. "This is especially true of crimes motivated by hate."

Prosecutors noted that one condition of Sherman's probation was to bar him owing or spreading Nazi propaganda.

Not that Miner, who confirmed Sherman's membership, cares.

The Glendale Aryan Nations recruitment website urges members to attend Holocaust remembrances and "steal the show by disputing what they have to say" and to "be as radical as you feel the situation warrants."

Phoenix police "do not have any trends involving the KKK," Sergeant Philip Krynsky told New Times.

The FBI declined to comment about whether it was aware of the domestic terrorism group's existence in Phoenix.

Regardless, the ideology it peddles is reprehensible, said Levin, the terrorism expert.

"The Klan used to be able to go out in public because they represented the community," he said. "Now, even if you're an extremist, that's not the hill you want to plant the flag on."

click to enlarge Richard Butler, founder and leader of the Aryan Nations, is surrounded by bodyguards at the Aryan Nations World Congress June 21, 2003 at Farragut State Park, Idaho. - JEROME A. POLLOS/GETTY IMAGES
Richard Butler, founder and leader of the Aryan Nations, is surrounded by bodyguards at the Aryan Nations World Congress June 21, 2003 at Farragut State Park, Idaho.
Jerome A. Pollos/Getty Images

Boomer Extremists

Levin describes today's Aryan Nations Klansmen as the Baby Boomers of the extremist world: washed-up, unthreatening, and obsolete, as some experts believe.

The domestic terrorist groups of the 1980s have been replaced with soft-pedaled racism that streamlines the indoctrination process.

They might not plant bombs in federal buildings or gun down Jewish radio personalities anymore, but the power to recruit online and groom prospective members could be even more dangerous, in a way.

The group still wields influence.

Between 2017 and 2020, Gulett donated to former President Donald Trump's failed bid for reelection 17 times, totaling more than $2,000, according to Federal Election Commission data.

Another big Trump backer, QAnon, lets one explore extremism without the potent symbolism of violence like the swastika or Klan robe.

"This is the tip of the iceberg of bigotry," said Levin, who is about to publish a hate crime study spanning 2020 and 2021.

"Hate crime is up," he said.

It's just not the Ku Klux Klan that's committing those crimes anymore.

click to enlarge A meeting of the hooded members of the American white supremacist movement, the Ku Klux Klan, circa 1920. - HULTON ARCHIVE / GETTY IMAGES
A meeting of the hooded members of the American white supremacist movement, the Ku Klux Klan, circa 1920.
Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Levin asserts that modern extremists logroll their racism in such a way that they don't lose followers but they soften their public face. The Klan has been rebranded as "militia" and "patriots" by localized, informal associations of extremists who are bound by xenophobia and racism.

The name "Aryan Nations" doesn't carry the same weight that it did under Butler's leadership. It's a brand that has been placed on the clearance rack as the new inventory of Proud Boys, Patriot Front, and QAnon.

"It's almost an anachronism," Levin said.

But the Valley hate mongers vowed not to acquiesce as they once did in Idaho.

On February 22, Gulett renewed his promise to Aryan Nations in Arizona: "I [will] do my best to rebuild it to its former glory."

As they always have before, they bounced back.

The Ku Klux Klan cannot be killed.