Hal Turner, White Supremacists Exploit Tensions in Kingston, NY

  • November 22, 2005


White supremacist Hal Turner's "rally against violence" in Kingston, New York, attracted about 50 supporters, about 100 counter-protestors, including anti-racist and anarchist groups, and a "show of force" among various law enforcement agencies.  Although Turner repeatedly asked white supremacists from around the country to join him to protest alleged assaults against white students at the local high school, the turnout was relatively small.  The approximately 200 law enforcement officers separating the white supremacists and the counter-group were able to ensure that the two sides did not clash.

Turner reportedly stated that he would bring the city "to its economic knees" by continuing protests in Kingston until officials protect white students there.  Unfortunately, the cost to cities and towns that try to prevent violence between opposing sides at these types of demonstrations is often quite high.  According to local media, the mayor of Kingston said that the city would not be "'threatened' by Turner's ultimatum about future rallies."  He also praised local residents for heeding town officials and staying away from the rally.

Hal Turner, a New Jersey-based white supremacist Internet radio show host, has organized a rally in Kingston, New York, on November 19, in response to an incident in which a white student was allegedly assaulted by a black student at the local high school, one of several recent conflicts in the area.  Law enforcement officials have said that they have no evidence that these incidents were hate crimes, but the investigation is continuing. 

White supremacists have publicized the incidents in order to exploit racial tensions and gain publicity.  In the weeks following the alleged assaults, cards depicting swastikas and racist slogans were distributed at various locations around Kingston.  But no white supremacist has exploited the situation in the town more than Hal Turner.

Initially, Turner called for a rally in October and asked racist skinheads and members of various white supremacist groups, including the Nationalist Socialist Movement, Aryan Nations, the Ku Klux Klan, National Vanguard and National Alliance, to participate.  In response to an allegedly threatening email he received regarding the rally, Turner also threatened to bring armed supporters and snipers to the event.  He was always vague about the actual date, and the rally never took place.  Turner later claimed he never planned to hold the rally but just wanted to "dampen the violence" against white students at the high school.  Turner also stated that he had deliberately hinted on his Web site that the event would be on October 27 as a ploy against anti-racist activists who had planned a counter-action. 

Turner, who routinely advocates violence on his radio show and Web site, claims that his November 19 rally in Kingston will be non-violent.  Another white supremacist, Jim Leshkevich, of the Hudson Valley unit of the neo-Nazi National Vanguard, has also taken a leading role in exploiting the racial tension in Kingston. Leshkevich has claimed to be in contact with the mother of the white student who was injured in the alleged attack   According to a local newspaper, the mother has said that even though she does not agree with the ideology of the groups holding the event and would not attend it, she believes the incident involving her son was racially motivated and that the rally would bring attention to the violence that exists at the local high school. 

In response to Turner's November 19 demonstration, Anti-Racist Action, a confrontational anti-racist and anarchist group, and other, similar groups have issued calls for activists to come to Kingston to hold a counter-rally.  In the past, such confrontations have frequently led to violence.  Most recently, an October march by neo-Nazis in Toledo caused large-scale rioting after opposing groups confronted each other. 

The mayor of Kingston and other town officials have encouraged community members to stay home on November 19; the county legislature also unanimously declared November 19 "Tolerance Day."

Turner's efforts have caused some controversy in white supremacist circles, as he has alienated some fellow racists in the past by making threats against them and because others consider him a liability for having urged violence against public figures. In fact, some white supremacists have said that they would only attend the event if Turner were not the one in charge. 

It is ironic that Turner is calling his demonstration a "rally against violence" since he has so often advocated violence against people, including federal officials, law enforcement officers, Jews, Hispanics, and African-Americans.  Even though Turner has repeatedly insisted that the march will be peaceful, some callers to his Internet radio show have suggested bringing firearms.  One claimed that he "would go down with as many of my enemies as I can." Another urged people to "strike the match and let's set this issue ablaze...America needs to be purged of all the brownskins."  

Turner himself has claimed that he has "detailed two dozen Ku Klux Klansmen to stand in plain clothes" among counter demonstrators, in case they become violent. Like many of Turner's claims, it is unlikely to be true, but it illustrates the widespread concern for possible confrontation and conflict at Kingston.