‘There are many more Glenn Millers out there’

By Claire Moses, May 9, 2014
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A member of the Ku Klux Klan (Photo: AP)

A member of the Ku Klux Klan (Photo: AP)

EXCLUSIVE

The ongoing case against alleged Kansas killer Frazier Glenn Miller is being built with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), a group of civil rights lawyers whose list of legal battles down the years features some of America’s most extreme racist groups.

Miller, a known neo-Nazi, is accused of shooting dead three people in front of two different Jewish community buildings in Overland Park, Kansas, last month.

“I think it was terrifying to American Jews,” said Mark Potok, a Jewish senior fellow of the SPLC. “The remarkable thing though, is that it was not a unique incident.

“I grew up — from smallest infancy — hyper aware of where racism and antisemitism and fascism lead,” said Mr Potok, whose father is a Holocaust survivor. “That is — directly to the gas chambers.”

Mr Potok’s father fled Warsaw after it was bombed and arrived in the United States in early 1940 with his parents and a cousin.

“The vast majority of my father’s side of the family was murdered,” he said.

Executive director Richard Cohen also has a Jewish background and has worked for SPLC since 1986.

“I’m not a particularly religious person,” Mr Cohen said, “but I do believe in tikkun olam, in the importance of repairing the world.”

But, he added, “I don’t think that’s something exclusive to Judaism.”

On Miller, he warned: “There are many more Glenn Millers out there. Our government isn’t doing enough to counter this directly.”

Miller was no stranger to the SPLC. The organisation brought a case against him in the 1980s over his activities with the Ku Klux Klan. Miller was found in contempt of court and jailed for three years.

In response to the case, Miller offered a bounty on the head of one of the founders of SPLC, intending to assassinate him.

Miller was arrested on April 13 over the Kansas murders. He could face the death penalty if found guilty.

The SPLC is based in Montgomery, Alabama, but has offices across the south and is known throughout the US for its efforts in fighting racism and bigotry.

In the late 1980s, the SPLC effectively destroyed the “White Aryan Resistance” when it sued the hate group over the brutal murder of an Ethiopian student in Portland, Oregon.

About a decade later, the SPLC won a $6.3 million verdict against Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler after a woman and her child were shot and killed by one of the organisation’s security guards. More recently, the SPLC filed a case against two North Carolina school districts that allegedly blocked or delayed the registration of immigrant students.

Mr Potok said that since the election of President Barack Obama and as a result of the changing demographics, “we have seen a whole series of neo-Nazi attacks”.

Mr Potok added that he has seen “rising anger on the political right”.

    Last updated: 1:45pm, May 9 2014