Let’s Not Ignore the Overt Calls for Violence from the League of the South

Since FebruaryPRA has been covering the emergence of theocratic, white nationalist candidates from both major parties running for public office in Maryland. Now, two of them, Joe Delimater and Michael Peroutka, are, respectively, the Republican candidates for sheriff and county council. Peroutka, a wealthy attorney and 2004 Constitution Party presidential candidate, has a good chance at winning in his historically Republican council district. The controversy over his candidacy has become hot in the media and in state politics—but there is still an elephant in the room.

Leading Democrats, Republicans, and editorial writers in Maryland have called on Peroutka to disavow the neo-Confederate agenda of, and his personal involvement in, the white nationalist, secessionist League of the South. (Peroutka was a member of the board of directors of the League in 2013, and remains a defiantly proud member.). A conservative columnist recently worried that Peroutka will be a drag on the national Republican Party in 2014.  Others have called on the GOP to decide if it will stand by and allow Peroutka to win his race for county council in his historically Republican district.

Michael Peroutka. Photo via The American View.

That is a useful discussion.  But there is an eerie silence about other obvious aspects of the vision of the League, Peroutka, and his closest religious and political associates.  The fact is that they are involved not in an eccentric nostalgia for retrograde racial politics and wishful thinking about secession of the Southern states so much as a revolutionary vision of theocratic, white nationalist violence.

Peroutka certainly holds views that are far beyond anything that could be described as “conservative.” But let’s consider the views of his close friends and allies in the League of the South, the organization he used to lead and which he refuses to distance himself.  For example, his friend and ally Michael Hill, the president of the Alabama-based League of the South has, among other things, called for the formation of death squads to take out American government officials and journalists and for white men of all ages to become “citizen soldiers” in a great modern defense of archaic notions of Christendom. 

On July 15, just a week after Peroutka’s upset win in the primary for the GOP nomination for Anne Arundel County Council, League president Michael Hill published an essay on the organization’s web site.  Hill’s essay advocated for the deployment of death squads in the context of guerrilla civil war, in which “the lines between the military and the political, economic, cultural, and social are blurred past the point of recognition.”  This essay, titled “A Bazooka in Every Pot,” describes this effort as featuring “three-to-five-man” units with a hair-raising mission: “The primary targets will not be enemy soldiers,” Hill wrote.  “Instead, they will be political leaders, members of the hostile media, cultural icons, bureaucrats, and other of the managerial elite without whom the engines of tyranny don’t run.”

On July 25, Hill followed up with an essay in which he calls on the young men of “Christendom” to become “citizen-soldiers” in the battles against the tyranny of our time.  He sees himself and his comrades as part of a long line of such men, invoking historic battles with Islamic armies going back to the Battle of Tours in the 8th century.  His role models for warriors for Christendom, however, are the White Westerners who fought against Black liberation movements in Southern Africa in the 1970s.  “So if Western men in past times were willing to fight for their civilization in remote areas of the world,” he asked, “shouldn’t we expect them to be just as willing to fight for that civilization here at its very heart—the South?”

“The traditions and truths of Western Christendom are anathema to the [Obama] regime,” he concluded.  “The tyrants’ regime and Western Christendom cannot co-exist—that is not possible.  One must win and the other must disappear.  It is indeed the ultimate Zero Sum game.”

In his 2102 keynote address at the League national conference, Peroutka declared:  “I don’t disagree with Dr. Hill at all that this regime [apparently referring to the Obama administration] is beyond reform, and I think that’s an obvious fact, and I agree with him.”  Then he added a glimpse of his own theocratic vision for what might come next:

“However, I agree that when you secede, or however the destruction of the rubble of this regime takes place and how it plays out, you’re going to need to take a biblical world view, and apply it to civil law and government. That’s what you’re still going to need to do.  We’re going to have to have this foundational information in the hearts and minds of the people or else liberty won’t survive the secession either.”

The Past is Prologue

Michael Hill epitomizes the escalation of the open expression of violent ideologies, as I discussed in an essay in The Public Eye in June titled “Rumblings of Theocratic Violence.” One of the featured characters was David Whitney, who leads a small church in Pasadena, Maryland, and is Peroutka’s pastor and business partner in the Institute on the Constitution.  Whitney has justified the assassination of abortion providers—calling it “biblically justifiable homicide.”  He has also called for establishing theocratic governance under Biblical law; restricting citizenship to Christians of the right sort; forming citizen militias to resist governmental tyranny; and leading imprecatory prayer against the White House staff—including, presumably, against President Obama.  Whitney is the chaplain of the Maryland chapter of the League of the South.

On July 8, Peroutka e-mailed Hill asking him to help get League members to support his campaign.  (Hill posted the e-mail under the headline: “A political victory for us in Maryland!”)  Peroutka wrote, “I ask you to ask the membership for prayers and for whatever financial support they can muster. I am grateful for our friendship and for the work of LS. [League of the South].”  (Apparently the members came through, because the League has already sponsored telephone polls in his district.)

Peroutka and his running mate, GOP candidate for county sheriff Joe Delimater, provide the League a measure of democratic legitimacy for its anti-democratic, revolutionary aims.  But Hill’s vision of armed resistance to the alleged tyranny of the state and federal government and his open call for covert teams of assassins make Michael Peroutka’s claim to oppose racism seem like a small bit of political spin in a gathering political storm of far greater consequence.

From the Florida League of the South’s Facebook page, posted on May 25.

Unsurprisingly, the League is a political home for other would-be violent revolutionaries.  Former Green Beret Michael Tubbs, for example, was a League leader in Florida when Intelligence Report, the magazine of the Southern Poverty Law Center, revealed in 2004 that Tubbs was actually a convicted “Aryan” terrorist.  Tubbs had been arrested with arms, explosives, and a hit list that included newspapers, television stations, and businesses owned by Jews and Blacks.  As the SPLC’s profile on the League reports, “When these embarrassing facts were revealed, Hill and other league leaders allowed Tubbs to stay on, saying he’d paid his debt to society.”

So far, the political community has been eerily silent about the explicitly violent intentions of the emerging Peroutka faction of American public life.  Hill’s recent call for the formation of death squads has been reported only by Jonathan Hutson at the Huffington Post and Van Smith at the Baltimore City Paper.  This explicit and specific call for violence is part of several related trends involving ideologies and actions related to the ideas of nullification and secession, as well as related ideologies of theocratic violence among elements of the Christian Right.  We are seeing one manifestation of these trends on vivid display in Anne Arundel County. Some of us, that is.

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Issue Brief: This Month in Racial and Immigrant Justice

Racial Justice

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in Racial and Immigrant Justice.

Not1More Protests Continue
#Not1More non-violent protests have been happening all around the country for the past year, pushing President Obama and Congress to end all deportation of undocumented workers and to eliminate holds by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The latest protest happened in Philadelphia this week, as protesters surrounded an ICE building, blocking deportation vehicles from exiting the building.

Conservative Student Group Faces Backlash over “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” Game
The University of Texas at Austin’s chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) gained national headlines after announcing plans to host a “catch an illegal immigrant” event on campus. Scheduled to take place on November 20th, the goal of the event was to “spark a campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration, and how it affects our everyday lives,” by having students chase people on campus wearing  “Illegal Immigrant” pins for $25 dollar gift cards. The group was quickly denounced by both the student body and University officials, and the YCT was forced to cancel the event under increased pressure. The event was created by Lorenzo Garcia, chairman of the UT Austin chapter of the YCT and former paid employee for the Gubernatorial campaign of state Attorney General Greg Abbott. In an official response, Abbott denounced the event, but not before throwing in a few jabs at the left, arguing that “conservatives should not stoop to the level of liberals, and the “failed policies of the Obama administration are not a joking matter.” This was not the first time that first time that Garcia and the YCT have caused controversy. Earlier this semester, the group held an anti-affirmative action bake sale that had different prices set according to race and ethnicity.

New Student Group at Tufts Rallies in Support of Immigrant Justice
While the Young Conservatives of Texas grabbed national headlines, a newly formed student group at Tufts University rallied in support of Immigrant Justice. On November 20th, the proposed date of the “catch an illegal immigrant” game, United for Immigrant Justice (UIJ) held a rally at the University’s Mayer Campus Center near Boston. The group was founded last year by two students after attending a national conference organized by the Massachusetts Student Immigration Movement. One of the co-founders, sophomore Elizabeth Palma, traveled to  D.C from November 19th to the 21st with over 200 college activists across the country to rally for immigration reform, and increase pressure on the House of Representatives to pass a comprehensive reform bill. The group protested in front of the offices of numerous Conservative members of congress, and sang in front of House Minority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) office until his staff threatened to have them arrested for civil disobedience.

New Proposal Aims to Prevent Future Racial Profiling at Retail Outlets
On December 9th, a group of civil rights leaders and representatives from numerous high-end retail outlets formed a coalition to create a list of rules to prevent customers to being subject to “stop and frisk” laws at department stores in New York City. The coalition, which included Rev. Al Sharpton and executives from Barney’s, Macy’s, and other department stores, established a “customer bill of rights” for department stores after numerous cases over the past few months where Black shoppers were unfairly accused of theft and credit card fraud by undercover NYPD officers. In a statement following the announcement of the coalition’s proposal, Sharpton hailed what he called the “best practices” agreement as a step in the right direction, but noted that in order to have real progress, the coalition needs active participation from the NYPD.

The World Celebrates the Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela
On December 5th, the world lost one its most celebrated advocates of racial justice and human equality. Former South African President Nelson Mandela passed away at the age 95 after years of ill health. Mandela, the face of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, spent over 27 years in prison for his involvement in protesting against the oppressive regime. Mandela never let his incarceration deter him from being one of the most fierce and compassionate activists for equal rights, and even rejected three conditional offers to be released. Mandela was finally released from prison in 1990, and four years later became the first democratically elected President of South Africa, as well as the first Black president. Mandela is considered by many to be one of the greatest champions of social justice and equality, and is an inspiration to many of us at PRA. In his article “Celebrating the Movement Mandela,” PRA executive director Tarso Luís Ramos noted how Mandela’s passing is an important moment for us to not only reflect on the impact of Mandela and the African freedom movement, but to reflect on “our own lives and social justice commitments.” He notes that while Mandela’s legacy is one of remarkable accomplishments, the dreams of equality remain unfulfilled. As the the world reflects on life and legacy Mandela left behind, we are reminded that the battles for equality are far from over. It is crucial that we learn from Mandela’s legacy as we continue to rally against the the continued assaults on racial justice in our own country.

Right Wing Responses to Mandela’s Passing Distort His Legacy
While political leaders, human rights activists, and advocates for equality across the world gave their final praises to Nelson Mandela, many on the Right responded with many hateful, distorted, and altogether inaccurate claims about Mandela and the movement to end Apartheid rule. Anti-choice activist Jill Stanek said that because of Mandela’s pro-choice views, she “cannot view Mandela as any other than a leader who engaged in mass genocide of his own innocent people.” American Family Radio Host Sandy Rios argued that Mandela deserved his 27 year jail sentence because he was a “criminal” and “criminals are placed in solitary confinement.” Others such as Rick Santorum attempted to the link the plight of Mandela and the anti-Apartheid movement to domestic policy fights, with Santorum going as far as to equate apartheid with Obamacare. Tea Party Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Mike Lee (UT) posted positive Mandela tributes on their Facebook pages, only to immediately be attacked by their Tea Party constituents for supporting a “known terrorist.” Lacking from the dialogue coming from the Right is any mention that many prominent American Conservatives lobbied against Mandela and the anti-Apartheid movement, including President Reagan, who had Mandela’s African National Congress organization added to the Terrorist Watch List. In defense of Reagan, Newt Gingrich claimed that he “was no friend of the Apartheid,” (despite voting against ending Apartheid) and Mandela’s death is “just another excuse for the left to smear Reagan.”

Speaker Boehner Continues to Balk On Immigration Reform
On November 13th, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced that he would not allow any House-approved immigration legislation to be blended with the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, stating “we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill,” and that there is not enough time left in 2013 to debate and pass immigration reform. In response, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that passing the Senate bill would be “easy,” noting that there are enough votes currently in place to pass the comprehensive immigration reform if Boehner would simply allow a vote on it. As more Americans begin to support immigration reforms, many moderate Republicans are worried of the political consequences if they are unable to pass a reform bill. Despite his vocal opposition for compromise, many prominent Democrats believe that Boehner will soon relent, including Vice President Joe Biden, who publicly called out the Speaker saying “It’s really pretty basic – pass the bill, John Boehner. Bring the bill up and let us pass it.”

Three San Jose Students Charged With Hate Crimes Against Black Suitemate
In mid-November, a student at San Jose State reported repeated instances of racial abuse by three of his eight campus suitemates. On November 22nd, the three students were suspended by the school after being charged with hate crimes and battery. If convicted, each student faces a maximum sentence of a year in prison. The Police investigation found that over the course of three months, the victim was continuously subjected to verbal and physical abuse, including being referred to as “three-fifths,” hanging a confederate flag near his door, and locking a “U” shaped bike lock on his neck and refusing to unlock it. In response to the charges, the Black Student Union at San Jose State held a campus rally demanding answers about the case, and calling for stiffer punishment against the accused perpetrators. As noted by Lecia Brooks at the Southern Poverty Law Center, the instance at San Jose State is only one of numerous recent cases of racist behavior on campus, including sorority girls dressing in “blackface” makeup, students dressing as Trayvon Martin for halloween, and a student at Towson University in Maryland that established a “White Student Union” on campus.

Report Shows Inequality in “Stand your ground” Laws When Affecting Black Males
While there are many examples of racial injustice in our criminal justice system, John Roman of the Urban Institute notes there is a striking gap disparity that has not been adequately researched until recently. In a November 27th report, Roman notes that the in the wake of the George Zimmerman trial, new studies have uncovered that African Americans are far less likely to be found justified in a gun-related homicide than white Americans. The report, which uses data from Supplemental Homicide Reports submitted to the FBI between 2005-2010, shows that when a perpetrator is black and the victim is white, there is a less than 1 percent chance of the case being ruled justified, while if the perpetrator is white and the victim is black, over nine percent are ruled justified. In states that have Stand Your Ground laws, justification for White on Black killings goes up to over 17 percent, though the rate for Black perpetrators stays the same.

Following Re-election, Chris Christie Reverses Stance on Immigration Reform
During his most recent campaign for reelection, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie claimed he would vote in favor of passing the Tuition Equality Act, New Jersey’s version of the Dream Act that recently passed through the State Senate. Under the new reforms, undocumented students that have attended a public high school for at least three years would qualify for in-state tuition rates at any New Jersey public college. Despite his earlier pledge of support, Christie announced on November 25th that while he is still in favor of extending in-state tuition rates for the children of immigrants, he would not sign the Senate’s version of the bill, claiming that the bill approved by the Senate was “overreaching” by asking for more funds than the federal version of the bill. In response to his announcement, New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney accused Christie of “once again turning his back on those who need us most… When he was running for governor he supported it, now that he is running for President he does not.” MSNBC columnist Steve Benen noted how Christie appears to be cross-pressured in trying to appeal to Latino and moderate voters within his state, while still keeping favor with the national Conservative base, which have become increasingly polarized on immigration issues.

Right Wing Fringe Groups Claim Illegal Immigration Will Cause Millions of “Anti-American Muslims” to Enter America
On November 11th, Right-Wing conspiracy theorist Gabor Zolna posted a video on YouTube claiming that Obama is using immigration reform to bring in 150 million Muslims to the U.S as part of a plot to impose Sharia law on Americans. Despite no evidence for his claim, the article was quickly picked up by other Right-Wing commentators. Brandon Walker of The Free Patriot claimed in a November 13th article that if the U.S passes an immigration reform bill, it will be “a back door calling for 150 million Muslims to be brought to the U.S. by 2018.” When Sandy Rios was asked what she thought of the claim, she said that it not only made sense, but questioned whether the entire immigration reform campaign is a just a “Muslim plot.” She then pointed to a Muslim organizer of DREAM Act activists as “proof,” saying “there’s no question that bad character Muslims, the Muslim Brotherhood and others, are going to use the whole amnesty problem that we have to bring in tons of illegal immigrant Muslims who don’t wish us any kind of good.”