In late March 2009, Joseph Turner, who founded and leads Save Our State (SOS), a California-based anti-immigrant group, assumed the post of special projects coordinator for Neil Derry, a San Bernardino County Supervisor. Specifically, Turner will pen press releases and opinion pieces on Derry's behalf. Turner's appointment has generated controversy because of his statements promoting violence, his xenophobic views and activity, and his group’s appeal to racists. SOS events have attracted the attendance and support of white supremacists, who have been drawn to the group’s xenophobic, bigoted message.
Since founding SOS in 2004, Turner has made statements that promoted violence on the group's forum. In one post, he wrote “…I do believe that violence is a legitimate means to an end.” At one time in 2004, every comment Turner made on the group's forum was followed by his signature line of “Bring your bats, fellas. If we are lucky, we are gonna need them. PING!” Turner also used a statement from Barry Goldwater as a signature line in 2005. It said, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” His current signature line states, “I am at peace when I am at war.”
In addition to his comments, Turner has disseminated a xenophobic ideology. Like other anti-immigrant activists, Turner does not merely stand against undocumented immigration. His statements and activism target undocumented immigrants as criminals that will sully the United States. He has expressed these sentiments on the SOS forum. In one post, he wrote, “I'll be damned if I am going to sit back and watch my state turn into a third world cesspool.” He went on to write, “I consider accusations of bigotry and racism…to be complimentary. And while I don't thirst for confrontation, I dont [sic] fear it.”
In another post to the SOS forum, made in January 2007, Turner reiterated a few statements he made to a Spanish-language newspaper, one of which included, “Why would I want to make peace with illegal aliens. Would you make peace with someone who is burglarizing your home?”
In addition to his own statements, the Save Our State Web site speaks to Turner's views and affiliations. The site provides a list of links to “Partner Web Sites,” which includes several border vigilante Minutemen groups, xenophobic organizations, the racist VDare Web site, and California Coalition for Immigration Reform, a group run by racist Barbara Coe. The list also includes a link to the Web site of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the largest anti-immigrant group in the country. FAIR, which has employed a border vigilante activist and has founded groups that demonize Latino immigrants, hired Turner in March 2007 as its Western Field Representative. Several months later, Turner's tenure at FAIR mysteriously ended.
Racists have promoted SOS events on Stormfront, the largest and most popular white supremacist Internet forum, and many went beyond promoting SOS activity and actually attended the protests, where they networked with one another and supported the group's message. In September 2007, members of the Golden State Skinheads (GSS), a California-based neo-Nazi skinhead group, attempted to participate in a Save Our State rally in Simi Valley.
In June 2005, a group of Stormfront members showed up to an SOS protest in Baldwin Park after heavily promoting it on the forum.
That same month, a Save Our State rally at a Home Depot in Victorville, California, attracted the attendance of members of Stormfront and several members (including the leader) of the Las Vegas chapter of National Vanguard, a now defunct neo-Nazi group. The National Vanguard members took the opportunity to distribute racist propaganda.
Although Turner has reportedly asked white supremacists to leave his events, they clearly like his message. Their attraction to Save Our State has not been confined to events organized by Turner's group. A banner promoting Save Our State was used during a July 2005 protest in Santa Clarita, California, organized by Stormfront members and attended by neo-Nazi figures.
Neil Derry, the San Bernardino County Supervisor, told a California newspaper that Turner has “toned it down considerably,” after being advised to moderate his image in order to appropriately represent the county supervisor. Before assuming this position, Turner was already an employee of San Bernardino County, where he has served as an analyst for the Department of Public Health since January 2009.
Turner has sought public office before. In November 2007, he ran for the position of San Bernardino County Clerk. In 2006, he was a candidate for a seat on the San Bernardino County Unified School District Board. In October of that year, a School District union rescinded its endorsement of Turner, following accusations that claimed that he was a racist.
Turner's bigoted views may present a challenge as he fills another position in a county containing over 930,000 persons of Hispanic origin, almost half of the total population of just over two million, according to a 2007 statistic from the U.S. Census Bureau.