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Michigan Hate Crimes Conference 2011: Hate Groups in Michigan

September 9, 2011

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission and the Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crimes hosted a conference on hate crimes today in East Lansing, with several keynote speakers and breakout sessions dealing with various aspects of hate crimes.

According to the Director of the Michigan Civil Rights Department, Michigan leads the country in the amount hate groups that either are based in the state and/or groups that come to Michigan to harass and intimidate.

Before the first speaker addressed the audience, those in attendance were subjected to a message from Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. The message was mostly a welcome to those in attendance and a thank you to those who do the work in communities across the state. Snyder did say that his office was committed to passing anti-bullying legislation, since Michigan is one of the few states in the country that does not have such legislation. However, the kind of legislation that Snyder wants to pass would not have any teeth and would be a watered down version of what most of the country has adopted.

The opening plenary speaker was Rick Eaton with the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Eaton spent some time providing the audience some historical background on hate groups, such as the KKK in Michigan. The current manifestation of the Klan is the United White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which operates mostly on the east side of the state.

He then spoke about the American Nazi Party, which has chapters in several Michigan communities. Another White Supremacist group is White Honor, which is affiliated with the American Nazi Party. On their website, White Honor has numerous manuals that provide information on weapons manufacturing and other violence-based documents on how to promote their philosophy of hate.

Eaton also mentions that National Socialist Movement, which is based in Detroit. Eaton spoke about the rally they held in Toledo, which was confronted by anti-racist activists. However, the police targeted the anti-racist activists, with several being convicted and sentenced to jail time.

The speaker also addressed the number of Skinhead groups that are based in Michigan, such as the Hammerskins and Volksfront. Many of the skinhead groups promote their messages through music and concerts that appeals to younger audiences.

Then there are Christian Identity groups in Michigan, many of which had a strong relationship with various militia groups. Eaton cited numerous books that the Christian Identity groups use as inspiration.

Eaton ends by identifying emerging groups that are based in Michigan, such as anti-government, anti-tax, militia and Sovereign Citizens. These groups were “dormant” during the Bush years for a variety of reasons, but with the election of a Barack Obama they have increased their activity.

Some of their activity has been purely in the form of paper activism, where they publish handouts and flyers or legal documents to target law enforcement and judges who they have identified as enemies to their cause. Some of these groups are associated with the Patriot Broadcasting Network, Moorish Public Trust and the Hutaree Militia. Eaton was utilizing much of the data on hate groups identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Eaton also argued that it was important for people to know that these groups exist and that awareness was half the battle. He also mentioned that every participant received a CD in their packets that have more details and data on these kinds of hate crimes entitled, Digital Terrorism & Hate 2011.

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