A recent wave of Nazi graffiti in downtown Grand Rapids is tied to the organized white supremacist movement according to research conducted by Media Mouse. The graffiti, primarily consisting of swastikas and the letters “WAR,” is connected to the White Aryan Resistance (WAR) movement as well as a new group that appears to have formed in the Heartside area, the Heartside Boot Boyz. The Heartside Boot Boyz graffiti is accompanied by either a swastika or the logo for the World War II era Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS). The graffiti is part of an increase in neo-Nazi and white supremacist activity in the state of Michigan over the past two years. In April, the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM) held their national in convention in Grand Rapids and a national rally in Lansing. The NSM has been active across the state, including in Grand Rapids, conducting a variety of leafleting and recruiting actions. The National Alliance has also been active in Michigan, as has the Council of Conservative Citizens, a racist group that has organized against immigrants and in support of the anti-affirmative action Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI).
However, unlike these membership organizations, less is known about the activities of White Aryan Resistance and the Heartside Boot Boyz. White Aryan Resistance is a neo-Nazi and white supremacist organization that formed in the 1983 by former Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon and influential racist Tom Metzger. In addition to being involved with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK)—work that placed him in prison for 45 days in 1982 for burning a cross—Metzger has been involved with the John Birch Society and was ordained as a minister by the New Christian Crusade Church, a church involved in the white supremacist Christian Identity movement. White Aryan Resistance, while less influential than it once was, has long been a major force in the racist right. Metzger was one of the first white supremacists to organize racist skinheads in the 1980s, has been involved in the international skinhead movement, has organized extensively within the United States’ prison population, operates The Insurgent self-described as the “most racist newspaper on earth,” has made extensive use of new forms of media (computer bulletin board systems in the 1980s, public access television in the early 1990s, and the Internet in the mid-1990s), and has articulated a form of fascism known as “Third Position” that is neither rightist or leftist, rejecting both capitalism and communism. This “Third Position” ideology seeks to overthrow the United States government and replace it with a nation built around a white supremacist ideology, while also distorting leftwing politics, with White Aryan Resistance describing itself as revolutionary and supporting “white working class” militancy including opposition to United States military actions abroad, supporting union activity, women’s rights (to a certain degree), and advocating for environmentalist policies. Of course, the racism is obvious in Metzger’s Third Position fascism, with the Nazi imagery, racist cartoons and “jokes,” and declarations that “WAR is strictly racist” and that race is the primary issue. However, despite its obvious racism, Third Position ideology is a serious threat as its adherents often attempt to organize working-class youth directly while many left or “progressive” movements ignore such populations, while white supremacists ideologies appear to provide a potential outlet for their anger.
The strategy of White Aryan Resistance and Tom Metzger is one that has both the potential for and a history of violence. Beginning with his work in the Klan in the 1970s, Metzger led his followers towards violence by organizing armed Klan patrols to capture undocumented immigrants along the United States-Mexico border. Metzger organized an armed “security” force that operated for the Klan and clashed with police and anti-Klan demonstrators. The Anti-Defamation League asserts that Metzger also trained Klan members in guerilla warfare and paramilitary activities. The rhetoric of Metzger and his White Aryan Resistance movement, whose The Insurgent newspaper bears the slogan “the most racist newspaper on earth,” has occasionally incited adherents to violence. Perhaps the most famous case was in 1988 when a skinhead gang in Portland, Oregon, murdered an Ethiopian student after being trained by a White Aryan Resistance recruiter. Metzger praised the incident, claiming that the skinheads were doing their “civic duty” (source). Metzger was eventually found responsible for this killing and a jury awarded $12.5 million in damages to the family of the murdered student, a fine that Metzger continues to pay. Metzger has also praised actions such as racially motivated killings by individuals.
While the Portland case reduced White Aryan Resistance’s influence, Metzger has continued to develop it into a loose network for white supremacists and still advocates a violent white supremacy. However, instead of continuing to function as a membership organization, Metzger and White Aryan Resistance now advocate “lone wolf” attacks by racists against the system as part of a “leaderless resistance.” This activity, which cannot be traced as easily by law enforcement officials, has become prominent in some areas of the white supremacist movement, with white supremacists adopting the idea of individual or small group activity in order to avoid state repression. White Aryan Resistance also urges white supremacist activists acting under the White Aryan Resistance banner to never talk to the police and posts tips for dealing with the police and avoiding state harassment on their website.