American extremist groups are preparing to celebrate a series of notorious anniversaries next week, prompting concerns about increased efforts to recruit a new generation into the numerous white supremacist and anti-government organizations operating across the country.
The planned celebrations center on two dates: April 19, the day in 1993 that federal agents stormed the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, killing cult leader David Koresh and more than 70 followers — including 20 children — and April 20, the birthday of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
April 20 also marks the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre carried out by two students. The killing spree was believed to be linked to Hitler’s birthday.
In addition, two more significant milestones are being marked this month by extremists: the 60th anniversary of Hitler’s death and the 10th anniversary of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people and was carried out by Timothy McVeigh on April 19, 1995.
“For these groups, [April 19 and April 20] are of incredible importance,” said Marilyn Mayo, the Anti-Defamation League’s associate director of fact finding. The ADL sent out a message this week warning of stepped up extremist events across the country, including concerts and conferences.
“The anti-government extremists and white supremacists in the past have used Hitler’s birthday to make threats, and to sometimes act out violently,” said ADL national director Abraham Foxman in the statement.
Adding to the concerns this year, Mayo said, is an increase in the number of Hitler celebrations being posted on the Internet.
According to Mayo, there has been an increase of late in cooperation between white supremacist groups and anti-government groups that fear the federal government has become too powerful. McVeigh, she said, has become a hero to both groups.
Adding to concerns this year is a growing leadership vacuum among the extremist groups following the deaths of several long time leaders and the April 6 sentencing of Matthew Hale, supreme leader, of a racist neo-Nazi group formerly known as World Church of the Creator. Hale was sentenced to 40 years in prison after being convicted last year of plotting to assassinate U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow. The judge’s husband and mother were murdered February 28 in her home, but authorities said the killings are not connected to Hale.
Mayo said there is a heightened concern that an extremist may do something outrageous to convince his group that he should be named its new leader.
“What’s happening is, you have different groups vying for attention and some groups with no leadership,” Mayo said.
According to the ADL, among the white supremacists groups planning events in the coming weeks are the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the National Alliance, a virulently antisemitic and racist group based in West Virginia.
A variety of Oklahoma City bombing conspiracy theorists will be holding a two-day event starting April 19. The gathering, set to take place in Oklahoma City, is titled OKC Bombing: A Day of Truth 10 Years Later.