Local and Michigan Headlines: Measure Introduced to Repeal Ban on Same-Sex Marriage; Brother Defends Local Administrator of Racist Website

Here are some interesting articles covering Grand Rapids and Michigan that were published elsewhere on the web in the past couple of days:

  • Byrnes same-sex marriage initiative surprises Mich. Democrats – State Representative Pam Brynes is introducing legislation to reverse the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. According to Brynes, the time is right with recent polls showing that most Michigan residents support same-sex marriage and even former Vice President Dick Cheney saying that it’s time.
  • Appeals court allows ACLU challenge on public defender system to go forward – A Michigan Court of Appeals in Ingham County has rejected a claim of immunity by the state of Michigan and allowed a challenge filed by the ACLU on behalf of a class of indigent defendants against the state’s public defender system to go to trial.
  • Senate bills would weaken environmental rules, privatize review – Michigan State Senator Judson Gilbert has introduced two bills in the Senate that would weaken environmental laws by taking away the state’s ability to make laws stricter than their federal counterparts. The bills would also require state agencies to review all laws and asses their friendliness to business.
  • Michigan’s Unkindest Cuts – This is a short commentary piece published over at Michigan Liberal that criticizes the state of Michigan’s decision to cut funding for the arts. The author argues that arts funding–always the first to be cut–is a critical means of attracting new residents to Michigan.
  • Man died defending home despite U.S. eviction moratorium – Late last month, local and state police wearing SWAT equipment and using an armored truck showed up at an Allen Park home to evict a man who was living in his house despite its being foreclosed. The man was shot and killed when police shot a barrage of bullets at his house. Now, several weeks after the shooting, it’s still unclear what happened.
  • Most of West Michigan’s federal stimulus money flowing to road work – The majority of federal stimulus money being spent in West Michigan is going towards roads. The Grand Rapids Press has a handy map highlighting the various projects that have received funding.
  • A question of race? Working couple stopped by police – The Muskegon Chronicle has a disturbing report about racial profiling: an African-American couple quit their job distributing phone books in the predominately white town of Grand Haven because they felt unwelcome after two encounters with police.
  • Mike Lloyd: The special privilege of a Press career – Grand Rapids Press editor Mike Lloyd–who is leaving the Press–gushes about his brushes with power over the years. While not particularly newsworthy, it’s a good reminder of why I’m so glad to see him go.
  • Grand Rapids’ Downtown Development Authority: Did members assemble illegally? – Grand Rapids’ Downtown Development Authority used a secret meeting to discuss a controversial spending plan. Unfortunately, it isn’t the first time the DDA has used secret meetings. The Grand Rapids Press has more in this must-read article.
  • Brother defends hate site operator Steve Reimink who has ties to alleged Holocaust Museum shooter – The brother of Steve Reimink–who was tied to a racist website operated by the Holocaust museum shooter–is trying claim that Steve Reimink is just a normal guy with no ties to organized racism. In the article from the Grand Rapids Press, the Southern Poverty Law Center says that is extremely unlikely.
  • Fair Tax plan wins big at convention – Tea Party activists in Michigan–an outgrowth of national rightwing protests against taxes back in April–are considering a ballot measure to implement a so-called “fair tax” that would replace Michigan’s taxes with a single higher sales tax.
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Headlines: Obama Administration Urges Court to Toss Rendition Lawsuit; Top Minutemen Officials Arrested on Murder Charges

Democracy Now Headlines: Obama Administration Urges Court to Toss Rendition Lawsuit; Top Minutemen Officials Arrested on Murder Charges

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Iran Supreme Leader Calls For Probe Into Disputed Election

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered an investigation into allegations of election fraud in Friday’s presidential vote. Khamenei made the announcement following three days of street protests by supporters of opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi, who has accused President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of stealing the election. Khamenei’s decision to call for a probe has shocked many in Iran. On Saturday Khamenei had urged the nation to unite behind Ahmadinejad and called the result a “divine assessment.” According to the official election results, Ahmadinejad was re-elected with 62 percent of the vote but Moussavi claims the vote was rigged. Moussavi was planning to hold a major rally in Tehran today but Iranian officials ordered a ban on protests. Opposition websites report that over a 100 prominent opposition members were detained and then released over the weekend. At a rally on Sunday Ahmadinejad spoke before tens of thousands of his supporters.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “In our beloved Iran, democracy is a fundamental principle. First of all, it’s the nation which determines everything. It’s the people who decide. It’s the nation’s will that governs. It’s the nation which selects the rulers in every decision making level of the political system”

UN Approves New North Korean Sanctions

Tensions on the Korean peninsula continue to mount. On Friday, the United Nations Security Council agreed to a new round of sanctions against North Korea. North Korea responded by vowing to step up its nuclear bomb-making program by producing more plutonium and uranium. North Korea also threatened war on any country that dared to stop its ships on the high seas under the new sanctions. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is headed to Washington for summit talks Tuesday with President Barack Obama.

Netanyahu Backs Demilitarized Palestinian State

Palestinian officials have condemned a major policy speech by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu saying it closed the door to permanent status negotiations. During the speech on Sunday Netanyahu said for the first time he could accept a two-state solution but only if the new Palestinian state had no army, no control of its airspace and borders, and would recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Binyamin Netanyahu: “If we receive this guarantee for demilitarization and the security arrangements required by Israel, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation of the Jewish people, we will be prepared for a true peace agreement (and) to reach a solution of a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state.”

During the speech Netanyahu also said Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel and that israel would not concede to US demands for a complete halt to all settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat: “He is not with the two state solution, he is not going to stop settlements including natural growth so we have attempts to move a peace process which was moving like a turtle in the region, now Netanyahu tonight flipped it on it’s back. It’s really up to President Obama tonight, he has the choice. He can treat Israel like a country above the laws of men, apply double standards and this will be a costly road, or he can have the Israeli government oblige with it’s commitments eminating from the road map. The two state solution with ’67 borders and stopping settlement activities including natural growth. Tonight what Netanyahu told us-there will not be permanent status negotiations.”

Top Sunni Lawmaker Assassinated in Iraq

In Iraq, a top Sunni lawmaker was assassinated on Friday shortly after giving a sermon calling on authorities to investigate the widespread reports of torture in Iraqi prisons. Harith al-Obaidi is the third Iraqi lawmaker to be assassinated since parliament was elected in 2005.

Report: 30 Lawmakers Have Financial Holdings in Health Care Industry

The Washington Post has revealed almost 30 key lawmakers helping draft landmark health-care legislation have financial holdings in the industry, totaling nearly $11 million worth of personal investments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has at least $50,000 invested in a health-care index. Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, a senior member of the health committee, has up to $560,000 worth of stock holdings in major health-care companies, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck. The family of Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman held at least $3.2 million in more than 20 health-care companies at the end of last year. On Tuesday the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee plans to hold a key hearing to discuss health care reform. On that 22-member panel, at least eight senators have financial interests in the health-care industry. The hearings will be led by Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd whose wife serves on the boards of four health-care companies. She received more than $200,000 in salary and stock from her service last year.

Obama Administration Urges Court to Toss Rendition Lawsuit

The Obama administration is asking a federal appeals court to reconsider its decision to allow a Boeing subsidiary to be sued over its roles in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration is urging the court to throw out the case citing the State Secrets Act. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit against Jeppesen International Trip Planning on behalf of five former prisoners. Jeppesen is accused of arranging at least seventy flights since 2001 as part of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. Ben Wizner of the ACLU said: “This is a watershed moment. There’s no mistake any longer … the Obama administration has now fully embraced the Bush administration’s shameful effort to immunize torturers and their enablers from any legal consequences for their actions.”

Judge Rules Jose Padilla Can Sue John Yoo Over Torture

A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled Jose Padilla can sue former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo for coming up with the legal theories that justified his detention and torture. Padilla says he was repeatedly tortured while being held as an enemy combatant. Padilla, who is a U.S. citizen, was held for 43 months without charge in a Navy brig in South Carolina. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said QUOTE “Like any other government official, government lawyers are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their conduct.”

CIA Fires Mitchell, Jessen & Associates

CIA Director Leon Panetta has revealed the agency has fired Mitchell, Jessen & Associates and other contractors connected to interrogations. Mitchell, Jessen & Associates was run by two former military psychologists who helped design the CIA’s torture program. Panetta made the disclosure in an interview with the New Yorker Magazine.

CIA Head Says Cheney Almost Wishing U.S. Be Attacked Again

In the same interview CIA Director Leon Panetta harshly criticized former Vice President Dick Cheney for questioning the Obama administration’s national security policies. Panetta said of Cheney “it’s almost as if he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that’s dangerous politics.”

Peruvian President Alan Garcia Accused of Ethnic Genocide

Peruvian President Alan Garcia is warning that police may have to use a ‘heavier hand’ on indigenous protesters in the Amazon following the recent clashes that left over 60 people dead. Indigenous tribes fear losing control of natural resources after recent presidential decrees opened up investment on extending mining and oil drilling in the jungle. Indigenous activists in Peru are calling for investigations into the violence and the resignations of government officials, including Garcia. On Friday the actress Q’Orianka Kilcher spoke in Lima on behalf of the indigenous protesters.

Q’Orianka Kilcher: “And I hear that Garcia has publicly declared my brothers and sisters of the Amazon to be ‘not first-class citizens.’ I have to say, ‘Shame on you, Alan Garcia because we are all first-class citizens. We are all Peruvians. And I hear that you are criminalizing indigenous protesters by calling them terrorists and savages. Who gave orders to commit ethnic genocide?”

Obama Admin To Spend $350 Million On New National Educational Standards

In education news, the Obama administration has announced plans to spend up to $350 million to help develop national standards for reading and math. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the government’s spending will go for the development of tests that would assess those new standards.

Top Minutemen Officials Arrested on Murder Charges

Two top officials of the anti-immigrant group Minutemen American Defense have been arrested on murder charges in Arizona. Shawna Forde, the group’s executive director, and Jason Bush, the group’s operations director were both charged with two counts of first-degree murder. A third person was also charged. Police say the three broke into a home and a killed a man and his 8-year-old daughter. The Minutemen American Defense organization has sent teams of armed vigilantes to the U.S.-Mexican and U.S.-Canada border in an attempt to stop undocumented workers. It is a separate organization from Jim Gilchrist’s Minuteman Project.

Domestic Workers Rally in New York

And here in New York, over 200 domestic workers and their supporters rallied outside City Hall Sunday to urge state lawmakers to pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Speakers included Nisha Varia of Human Rights Watch.

Nisha Varia: “It’s an issue of having equal legal protections. It’s about having domestic work recognized as work. And the same sort of issues about not being paid for your work, not having time off, and not being respected-we really need to see the government and employers respond to that.”

Holocaust Museum Shooter has West Michigan Ties

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By now, most MediaMouse readers have probably heard that James Von Brunn shot and killed security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was the third shooting connected to the white supremacist movement in the past three months.

Not too long after the shooting, news came out that Von Brunn is actually a well-known white supremacist who has been active in the racist movement for years. According to Democracy Now, Von Brunn worked for Noontide Press, which later became a part of the Institute for Historical Review–a leading holocaust denial organization. Back in the 1980s, Von Brunn staged an attack on the U.S. Federal Reserve, claiming that it is a part of an international Jewish conspiracy. Von Brunn served six-and-a-half years in prison for that crime. When he emerged from prison, he became involved in the racist movement once again. According to The Washington Post, Von Brunn was interested in the potential of the Internet and supported himself by selling racist propaganda. In 1999, Von Brunn wrote a book titled Kill the Best Gentiles that ranted about the impending destruction of the white race.

West Michigan Ties to the Shooting: From the Racist Movement to the Ron Paul Movement

Although Von Brunn was from Maryland, he has ties to West Michigan. His website–HolyWesternEmpire.org–was (it is now down) operated by a West Michigan man by the name of Steve Reimink. Reimink lives in West Olive and allegedly took control of the website–which contains some of Von Brunn’s anti-Semetic writings–in the year 2000. . The domain’s email registration was steveo1488@hotmail.com. The “1488” is a reference to common neo-nazi numerology, with 14 referring to David Lane’s so-called “14 Words” motto (“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”) and the “88” being numerical shorthand for “Heil, Hitler.” The Grand Rapids Press looked into the West Michigan connections a bit, as did WOOD TV. They don’t uncover anything too interesting and generally don’t put the connection into the context of the larger white supremacist movement.

Interestingly, some blogs have been reporting that Reimink’s girlfriend is involved with Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty as an Ottawa County organizer. Her phone number is the same as what is listed in the registration for Von Brunn’s website. This wouldn’t be the first time that connections between Ron Paul’s organizations (Campaign for Liberty and his presidential campaign) were tied to white supremacy. Last year, MediaMouse.org reported that a Ku Klux Klan member from Michigan was a coordinator for Paul’s presidential campaign.

A Reminder of Why Anti-Fascist Organizing is Needed

Sadly, it isn’t much of a surprise that Von Brunn has ties to West Michigan–the state has a long history of connections to the racist movement. Michigan is home to prominent white supremacists including John Tanton (one of the key funders of the anti-immigration movement) and James Wickstrom. In addition, there are numerous racist groups active in the state and there have been several white supremacist events in the state.

While this is sad and outraging, at the same time, it’s a sobering reminder of why it is key to pursue anti-racist and anti-fascist organizing. All too often, much of the left–particularly the more mainstream portions–have written off white supremacists as fringe whackos who don’t need to be taken seriously. They’ll frequently make arguments that organized racists make fools out of themselves (thus neutralizing themselves, according to the line of arguing), that they don’t have any following, and that as reprehensible as their rhetoric may be, it is protected by the constitution and should just be ignored. Aside from being statements being made from a considerable amount of privilege, I don’t think they are true. When white supremacists are ignored, they make gains–whether that be by increasing their literature distribution, entering the electoral realm, or attempting to recruit teenagers–all of which have been used in Michigan.

I’m not sure that strong anti-fascist organizing could have stopped this shooting–or other similar “lone wolf” acts by white supremacists–but it can make it a whole lot harder for white supremacists to organize. Folks like Von Brunn operate within the organized racist movement and the smaller that movement, the less support they will have. Moreover, the more that anti-fascists confront the racist movement, the less traction the fewer inroads they will be able to make. It’s critically important that the racist movement be confronted at every turn, otherwise–as has been shown repeatedly in the past–they will continue to garner followers.

Hate Groups Increase Nationwide in 2008; Decline in Michigan

Hate Groups Rise Nationwide in 2008

A new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center documents a continued rise in the number of hate groups in the United States.

The organization says that in 2008 there 926 hate groups active in the United States. These groups range from neo-Nazi skinheads to Ku Klux Klan groups. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups has grown from 602 in 2000 to 926 in 2008.

The organization sees the potential for a further increase in hate groups–which were motivated in the past few years by the debate over immigration–with the election of President Barack Obama and the continued economic crisis.

This year, the report lists 23 hate groups in Michigan, down from 26 last year

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s report comes a few days after a government report that raised the prospect of an increase in rightwing extremism and violence.

Protests Force Former Congressman to Cancel Lecture at UNC

Protest Forces Tancredo Off Stage

Back in 2006, protestors at Michigan State University (MSU) confronted racist Congressman Tom Tancredo and disrupted his speech by chanting. In the aftermath, conservatives took to the airwaves claiming that Tancredo was the victim of violence.

Tancredo received a similar welcome earlier this week at the University of North Carolina (UNC):

Before the event, campus security removed two women who delayed Tancredo’s speech by stretching a 12-foot banner across the front of the classroom. It read, “No dialogue with hate.”

Police escorted the women into the hallway, amid more than 30 protesters who clashed with the officers trying to keep them out of the overcrowded classroom. After police released pepper spray and threatened the crowd with a Taser, the protesters gathered outside Bingham Hall.

The protesters relented, and Tancredo began to speak, describing failed state and federal legislation aimed at providing in-state tuition benefits for undocumented immigrants.

Two women stretched out another banner, first along one of the aisles and then right in front of Tancredo. Tancredo grabbed the middle of the banner and tried to pull it away from one of the girls. “You don’t want to hear what I have to say because you don’t agree with me,” he said.

The sound of breaking glass from behind a window shade interrupted the tug-of-war.

Tancredo was escorted from the room by campus police.

Event Follows Similar Script Tancredo’s Michigan State University Appearence

The event was surprisingly similar to Tancredo’s appearance at MSU in 2006. Like that event, the speech was organized by a student group that endorses racism and white supremacy under the guise of opposing “multiculturalism.” In this case, it was a group called “Youth for Western Civilization” a nationwide group that opposes undocumented immigration, multiculturalism, and affirmative action.

Of the group, its president said:

“This is an organization that seeks to promote Western civilization,” Matheson said at the event. “We believe that our civilization is under attack from liberal forces.”

Matheson said his organization supports people from every race participating in Western civilization, but that they must be properly assimilated to American culture first.

At Michigan State University, it was Young Americans for Freedom who organized Tancredo’s speech.

Tactically, the appearances were similar: the rightwing student group brought a controversial speaker to campus to provoke “violence” from leftist student groups, put members of their group in the crowd with video cameras to capture images of the “violence,” and then went on the news to denounce the left.

Those who have been following this blog for the past few years will remember that Young Americans for Freedom at MSU brought in a string of racist speakers–Chris Simcox, Nick Griffin, and Jared Taylor. The organization was later dubbed “a hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. However, every time we saw the same thing–invite a speaker with the hopes of provoking a confrontation and then use that in an attempt to gain more support for their cause.

Controversial Radio Host Michael Savage Still on the Air in Grand Rapids

Michael Savage is Still on the Radio in Grand Rapids Despite History of Offensive Remarks

A little over a year ago, MediaMouse.org reported on an effort aimed at pressuring advertisers to pull their financial support for conservative talk radio show host Michael Savage. The campaign specifically targeted Savage’s racist comments against Muslims.

That campaign–initiated by Brave New Films’ NoSavage.org and the Council on American-Islamic Relations–resulted in several advertisers pulling ads from Michael Savage’s show. These included ITT Technical Institute, Chattem, Inc. (owners of Gold Bond, Icy Hot, and Selsun Blue), Union Bank of California, Intuit (parent company of TurboTax and QuickBooks), and GEICO Insurance, along with US Cellular, Sprint Nextel, Sears, Universal Orlando Resorts, AutoZone, Citrix, TrustedID, JCPenney, OfficeMax, Wal-Mart, and AT&T.

Michael Savage on the Air in Grand Rapids

At the time, we also looked at Michael Savage’s show in West Michigan, which aired–and continues to air–on WOOD Radio. MediaMouse.org prepared an online letter writing campaign that called on the station to stop airing Savage’s show. Unfortunately, it still is being aired at 9:00pm on WOOD 1300 AM (and elsewhere in Michigan).

WOOD Radio writes that Savage is:

“An independent-minded individualist, Michael Savage fits no stereotype. He attacks big government and liberal media bias, but champions the environment and animal rights.”

Aside from Savage’s supposedly unique insights, WOOD writes that the show is lucrative for advertisers:

“Give your audience a chance to hear why for the past two years Talkers Magazine named Savage as one of America’s top talk radio hosts. He knows how to explore issues, entertain, stimulate, and promote in ways that boost the ratings and profits of every station lucky enough to carry him.”

Big Dollars and Big Ratings

Money might be the real reason Michael Savage stays on air. According to WOOD Radio’s website, Savage’s show can boost ratings and profits.

Michael Savage’s show is syndicated by Talk Radio Network, with whom he has had a nine-year relationship. His contract was given a multi-year extension in November of 2008 and his show airs on over 300 stations nationwide in 42 of the top 50 radio markets.

Ratings Come with a Price: Offensive and Hateful Comments

Last year when we looked at Savage’s show, the focus was on racist comments Savage had made about Muslim people. Over the years, critics have documented examples of Michael Savage’s racism, misogyny, and homophobia.

One of the biggest controversies since we last looked at Michael Savage were his comments on autism over the summer of 2008. Savage said that autism is a “fraud, a racket” and that many suffering disease are “brats” who doesn’t have a father around to tell them to “cut the act out.” Savage’s comments were criticized by Autism United for being both ignorant and belligerent.

In response to the comments, AFLAC, Budweiser, Cisco, Direct Buy, Home Depot, Sears, Radio Shack announced they would stop advertising on Savage’s show.

Since the controversy over autism, Savage has continued to make incredibly offensive statements. These have included statements that undocumented immigrants are taking over the United States, that Muslim immigrants are terrorists, that immigrants don’t know proper hygiene techniques, that all terrorists are Muslims, and that welfare recipients should not be allowed to vote.

The media watchdog group Media Matters has a continually updated list of offensive comments by Michael Savage.

What Can Be Done

Comments can be sent to WOOD Radio expressing frustration that the station continues to air Michael Savage’s show. Comments can be addressed to:

  • Tim Feagan, General Manager – timfeagan@clearchannel.com
  • Angela Vuyst, Program Director – avuyst@woodradio.com
  • Michael Breimayer, Assistant Program Director – mbreimayer@woodradio.com
  • WOOD Radio’s phone number is 616-459-1919

It is worth noting that comments delivered via email or in writing will be logged in the station’s “public file” which is used by the FCC when deciding whether or not to renew the station’s license.

Michael Savage’s show can be contacted at:

  • Email: michaelsavage@savage-productions.com
  • Phone: 1-800-449-TALK (8255)

Another possible avenue could be targeting Michael Savage’s advertisers, but finding an updated list of advertisers is difficult. Moreover, given his ratings, he seems to be able to find new advertisers with relative ease.

It’s also important to remember that Savage’s show is one example–albeit a particularly egregious one–of the kind of hate that is regularly found on rightwing talk radio. For those wishing to learn more, we strongly encourage you to check out Rory O’Connor’s Shock Jocks: Hate Speech & Talk Radio.

YAF Blog Reportedly Shutting Down

A blog operated by the Michigan State University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom is reportedly shutting down in the next few days, according to a post made over the weekend. The blog has acted as a conduit for the hate group’s views.

The blog of Michigan State University’s (MSU) chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF)–a group known for bringing racist speakers to MSU–is shutting down according to a recent post.

The blog post says that the blog will be taken offline in the next few days:

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The sites that readers are referred to are indicative of why YAF has been dubbed a “hate group.” This includes the Council of Conservative Citizens, a racist group that is active in Michigan, the British National Party (BNP), a British fascist group, the American Renaissance (a racist publication), and the John Birch Society, a longstanding far right group in the US. He also suggests people visit lesser known rightwing publications such as Chronicles Magazine, Taki’s Magazine, and Tradition, Family, and Property. Bristow also links to Pat Buchanan, a prominent rightwing politician who has turned towards white nationalism in recent years, as well as a blogger who goes by Paul J. Borowicz and claims to be from Michigan. Borowicz has described a Michigan Ku Klux Klan member’s protesting Obama’s election as “courageous.”

The YAF blog also recently began using a symbol–an odal rune–in its masthead that is often used by the racist right:

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The Anti-Defamation League’s database of racist symbols includes a symbol very similar to the YAF blog header:

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“Nazi Germany glorified an idealized “Aryan/Norse” heritage, consequently extremists have appropriated many symbols from pre-Christian Europe for their own uses. They give such symbols a racist significance, even though the symbols did not originally have such meaning and are often used by nonracists today, especially practitioners of modern pagan religions”

In response to an article about this by YAF Watch, YAF member Kyle Bristow claimed that the ribbon was in reality a “Support the Troops” ribbon. YAF Watch has noted that “Support the Troops” ribbons are typical rounded on the top. Moreover, the Youth branch of the British National Party used the symbol for a while. Bristow is presumably sympathetic to the BNP’s views, as he links to them and brought BNP leader Nick Griffin to MSU to speak.

Ku Klux Klan Member Elected as Republican Precinct Delegate in Midland

Randy Gray–a Ku Klux Klan member who has spoken at a variety of racist events and who has worked on the Ron Paul campaign–has been elected as a Republican Precinct Delegate in Midland, Michigan.

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Randy Gray, a racist activist from Michigan and a member of the Knight’s Party of the Ku Klux Klan, has been elected as a Republican Precinct Delegate in the city of Midland, Michigan. According election results from the August 5 primary election in Midland, Gray was one of three candidates elected in a race in which three positions had to be filled.

According to Randy Gray, all he had to do was put his name on the ballot; there was no need for campaigning. Indeed, according to a document distributed by the Michigan Republican Party about Precinct Delegates, the process is pretty simple. Candidates declare their candidacy with their County, City, or Township Clerk and following a review of their “Affidavit of Identity,” their name appears on the ballot. Once they are elected, the parties are notified. The only qualifications are that the person is at least 18 years old and lives in the precinct.

The Michigan Republican Party defines the position as:

“A Precinct Delegate is an elected representative to the local political party from the precinct. Every precinct has at least one Republican Delegate, and some have more. The local party determines the number of delegates based on the number of Republican votes in that precinct in the previous election.”

The same document says that precinct delegates have the primary responsibility of attending all County Conventions during their two-year term. Additionally, there are often other duties such as distributing yard signs, literature drops, get-out-the-vote phone calling, and absentee voter programs.

While it is unlikely that anyone in the Republican Party knows of Gray’s affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, a simple Internet search shows a post on the white supremacist website Stormfront.org in which Gray announces his victory. Additional searches quickly turn up a local newspaper article in which he admits to being a member of the Klan.

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Aside from his work with the Knight’s Party of the Ku Klux Klan, Gray has been active in other white supremacist causes. He has spoken at a national Ku Klux Klan gathering and at a racist rally held in the summer of 2007 in Kalamazoo with other white supremacists. Gray has actively used public access television to promote white supremacist messages. In Midland, he has aired the show “This is the Klan” on public access, as well as the program “Yahweh’s Truth” which is hosted by the Michigan-based Christian Identity pastor James Wickstrom. Christian Identity is a religion that is practiced by a significant portion of the racist right. Gray also runs a white supremacist website called WNN News.

Previously, Randy Gray worked on the campaign of third party presidential candidate Ron Paul. Gray was removed as a coordinator after it became public knowledge that Gray was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Gray is purported to be shown below in his Klan robes in a grainy photo from a racist website that is critical of the Knight’s Party of the Ku Klux Klan:

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While it would be wrong to conclude that simply because Gray was able to get elected as a Republican Precinct Delegate that the Republicans are sympathetic to his racist views, Gray’s election is important because he is a racist. It is important to be aware of such individuals–however much they may seem to be on the fringe–as they often make inroads when people are not paying attention, as seen in Gray’s election and in his earlier role as a coordinator for the Ron Paul campaign.

Racist Band’s Lansing Concert Canceled Due to Public Pressure

The anti-racist group Michigan Against White Supremacy has achieved another victory, this time successfully shutting down a concert by the racist band M.O.D. that was scheduled for August 18 in Lansing.

Michigan Against White Supremacy–a group of activists around Michigan that formed last year to combat the spread of organized racism in Michigan–announced another victory yesterday. The group reports that it successfully pressured Mac’s Bar in Lansing to cancel a concert by the band M.O.D. M.O.D is a racist, homophobic, and anti-immigrant band that was originally scheduled to play on August 18th at Mac’s Bar.

Michigan Against White Supremacy issued the following statement:

“The M.O.D. Show that was to take place at Mac’s bar has been canceled. The owner chuck has decided to cancel the show after public pressure. Chuck has personally stated to folks working on this issue and to members of F.O.S., who host the monthly hip hop night, Respiration at Mac’s, that the M.O.D. show will not happen. This should be seen as a victory both in preventing racist bands from playing but also as an example of how we have the power to shape what our music scenes and communities look like. We have alot more say in how things happen than we think. By taking action and speaking up, even parts of Lansing culture that have their contradictions, over time, can be what we hope them to be.

This victory should not be seen as the end of this story, but the beginning. It can help start conversations that need to be had. There are contradictions both in our music and our actions that, while not as explicitly fucked up as M.O.D., still need to be dealt with. Finding a way to confront these contradictions without simply saying fuck you, but acting in a way that helps us address them and move forward, is the real challenge of this situation.

Thanks to everyone who got involved.”

In the past, Michigan Against White Supremacy has successfully organized against a white supremacist rally in Kalamazoo and various events in Lansing, most recently shutting down a planned talk by Canadian fascist Paul Fromm.

Expose of Skinhead that Worked with MSU-YAF

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s most recent issue of their Intelligence Project magazine contains a lengthy expose of Preston Wiginton, a skinhead who worked with Michigan State University’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom to organize a talk by British fascist Nick Griffin in the fall of 2007. The magazine reports that Wiginton has been active in organizing “international connections between anti-immigration extremists and white supremacists.” According to the article, Wiginton “has become the most dynamic American far-right extremist making waves abroad other than David Duke, who Wiginton calls a good friend and claims to speak with twice a week.” Nick Griffin’s speech at MSU–which was attended by racist organizers–is just one example of Wiginton’s work on behalf of the racist right.