Several well-known national hate groups have announced that they will hold a joint meeting on January 12, 2002 at a public library in York, Pennsylvania. Matt Hale, leader of the anti-Semitic and racist World Church of the Creator, has cited his group's status as a "religious organization" as justification for their right to hold such gatherings across the country.
The York meeting, which Hale has described in letters to city officials as a "debate" on race, may also involve members of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Some reports have indicated that members of the Hammerskin Nation, a racist skinhead group, will also attend.
Hate groups generally use such gatherings to recruit members and generate publicity for their activities. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which closely monitors the activities of extremists, is aware of a small number of individuals in Pennsylvania who are affiliated with World Church of the Creator and the National Alliance. While both groups have histories of preaching bigotry in the state, ADL is not aware of any violent activity associated with either group in Pennsylvania. However, members of both groups have committed violent acts in various parts of the country.
York was likely chosen for the World Church meeting in response to a series of widely publicized arrests stemming from race riots in 1969.
The Mayor of York, Charlie Robertson, has been charged along with two other defendants of murdering or assisting in the shooting death of Lillie Belle Allen during the '69 race riots. Allen, a 27 year-old African-American, was reportedly shot during the riots by white males. Police were accused of supplying ammunition to the shooters. A former police officer, Robertson has admitted to being a white supremacist and yelling "white power" during the riots, but has said that he no longer adheres to racist ideologies. He removed himself from this year's mayoral election shortly after his arrest.
Additionally, two Black men have been accused of killing a white police officer during the '69 riots. Stephen Freeland, 50, and Leon Wright, 53, were arrested in October and have pleaded not guilty in the crime. The racially charged case is scheduled for trial later this year.
In its effort to counter the hate, ADL has been in contact with local and state police and the York County Human Relations Commission, offering information, resources and expertise. The York Sunday Dispatch newspaper recently published an ADL Backgrounder on extremist groups, which provided information about the groups and urged people of goodwill to stay away from the library on that day.
Instead, ADL and community leaders are urging residents and concerned citizens to join them at a rally scheduled to coincide with the gathering of haters. The York Unity Celebration will bring together Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders as well as representatives from the African-American, Hispanic and Asian communities.
"It is important to remember that the groups coming into York are not part of the central Pennsylvania community, and that the reason Matt Hale holds these public events is to create media and public interest in his organization," said Barry Morrison, Director of ADL's Philadelphia Regional Office, which includes York.
"World Church of the Creator intentionally invites extremist and racist groups in order to create conflict and to further generate media attention," said Morrison. "The community's goal is to turn attention away from the haters and to focus it on the citizens of goodwill who are willing to stand up and say `no' to hatred, to prejudice, to bigotry."
Hale has held similar meetings in other communities - most notably last March in Wallingford, Conn., where he was joined by white supremacists, skinheads and neo-Nazis from throughout the northeastern United States. Hale used that gathering to espouse his racist and bigoted beliefs about the supremacy of the "white race."
In the past, Hale's has purposely advertised his meetings on racially charged topics in an attempt to provoke a confrontation with left-wing extremists and anarchists. This includes groups such as Anti-Racist Action, International Workers of the World, Sharp Skins, Jewish Defense League and extremist Black separatist groups.