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Context of 'Late 1987 - April 8, 1998: White Separatists Tried, Acquitted of Sedition'

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Early 1970s: Idaho Racist Founds Aryan Nations

The Aryan Nations logo.The Aryan Nations logo. [Source: Southern Poverty Law Center]Aerospace engineer and white racist Richard Butler, who departed California in the early 1970s and moved into a rural farmhouse in Hayden Lake, Idaho, founds and develops one of the nation’s most notorious and violent white separatist groups, the Aryan Nations. Butler’s 20-acre farmhouse becomes the compound for the group and its affiliated church, the Church of Jesus Christ Christian; Butler and his nascent organization envision a “whites-only” “homeland” in the Pacific Northwest. At age 11, Butler read a serialized novel in Liberty Magazine, depicting the takeover of the US by “race-mixing Bolsheviks” that deeply impressed him. As a young man, he worked as an aeronautical engineer in India, where he was fascinated by the Indian caste structure and the concept of racial purity. In 1941 he left a Los Angeles church after concluding that the preacher was spreading Communist doctrine. During World War II, as an Army engineer, he became fascinated by the German military, and later recalls that he “was thrilled to see the movies of the marching Germans.… In those days, all we knew was that Hitler hated communists, and so did my folks—as we did as teenagers.” In the 1950s, Butler was enthralled by radio broadcasts of then-Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) and his “Red scare” accusations, and sent money to support McCarthy’s political campaigns. During that time, Butler met William Potter Gale, another white supremacist who went on to found the Posse Comitatus (see 1969). Butler held a high position in the Christian Defense League, an organization founded by the Reverend Wesley Swift and described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as “virulently anti-Semitic,” until 1965, and shortly thereafter became a mail-order “ordained minister” of Christian Identity, a white supremacist offshoot of the Christian church (see 1960s and After). Butler buys the farmhouse in Hayden Lake and founds his own “Christian Posse Comitatus,” and thereafter founds the Church of Jesus Christ Christian. The two groups merge into what later becomes known as Aryan Nations. [Washington Post, 6/2/2003; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010]

Entity Tags: William Potter Gale, Wesley Swift, Joseph McCarthy, Richard Girnt Butler, Church of Jesus Christ Christian, Posse Comitatus, Christian Defense League, Aryan Nations, Southern Poverty Law Center

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Richard Butler, the head of the white separatist and neo-Nazi organization Aryan Nations (see Early 1970s), hosts the first Aryan World Congress at the Nations compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho. The event attracts many of the area’s racist leaders. Butler begins holding more gatherings in subsequent years and begins appointing state leaders of Aryan Nations chapters. One of the brightest young leaders in Butler’s coterie is Robert Jay Mathews, who will go on to found the violent white supremacist group The Order (see Late September 1983). Other prominent Nations members at the conferences include: Tom Metzger, leader of the White Aryan Resistance; Louis Beam, a former Klansman who will promote the concept of “leaderless resistance” (see February 1992); Don Black, a former Klansman who will create Stormfront, the largest white separatist forum on the Internet; and Kirk Lyons, a well-known lawyer who will represent a number of extremists facing criminal charges. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010]

Entity Tags: White Aryan Resistance, Louis R. Beam, Jr, The Order, Kirk Lyons, Don Black, Aryan Nations, Tom Metzger, Richard Girnt Butler, Stormfront (.org), Robert Jay Mathews

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

CSA members outside their Arkansas compound. Some CSA members also belong to the Elohim City community.CSA members outside their Arkansas compound. Some CSA members also belong to the Elohim City community. [Source: GifS (.com)]Three white supremacists living in the Elohim City, Oklahoma, compound (see 1973 and After) visit Oklahoma City and make plans to blow up the Murrah Federal Building there. The three are: James Ellison, the leader of the Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord (CSA) who will be arrested in 1985 after a four-day standoff with federal authorities; Kerry Noble; and Richard Wayne Snell, who will be executed for murdering a black police officer and a businessman he erroneously believed to be Jewish (see 9:00 p.m. April 19, 1995). All three men have close ties to the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations (see Early 1970s). The evidence of their plan is released during the investigation of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), and is collated by former US prosecutor Steven N. Snyder, who once worked out of the Fort Smith, Arkansas District Attorney’s office. The plan involves parking a van or trailer in front of the building and exploding it with rockets detonated by a timer. Snyder will come across the information on the bombing plot while preparing for the trial of a sedition case against a 14-man group of white supremacists, 10 of whom are charged with planning to overthrow the government. (All 14 will be acquitted in a 1988 trial—see Late 1987 - April 8, 1998.) Snyder will get the information from Ellison, who provides information to him as part of his role as chief witness for the prosecution. The other defendants in the trial, many of whom are believed to have had some connection to the bombing plot, will be Richard Butler, the head of Aryan Nations; Robert E. Miles, a former Klansman who heads the Mountain Church of Jesus Christ the Saviour in Cohoctah, Michigan; and Louis R. Beam Jr., a former grand dragon of the Texas Ku Klux Klan and “ambassador at large” of the Aryan Nations. Ellison will tell Snyder that in July 1983, he attends a meeting of extremist groups in Hayden Lake, Idaho, the location of the Aryan Nations headquarters, where he informs them of the death of fellow white supremacist Gordon Kahl in a gun battle with law enforcement agents in Arkansas (see March 13 - June 3, 1983). Snyder’s notes of Ellison’s statement read, “Kahl was the catalyst that made everyone come forth and change the organizations from thinkers to doers.” According to Ellison, the leaders of the various supremacist groups discuss how to overthrow the federal government, using as a sourcebook the novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978), which tells of a successful move by white supremacists to overthrow the government and then commit genocide against Jews and blacks. Ellison will tell Snyder that he volunteers to assassinate federal officials in Arkansas as part of the plot. The leaders discuss blowing up the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, other federal buildings, and the Dallas office of a Jewish organization. According to Ellison’s trial testimony, in October 1983 Snell and another participant, Steve Scott, “asked me to design a rocket launcher that could be used to destroy these buildings from a distance.” Of Snell, Ellison will testify: “On one of the trips when I was with Wayne, he took me to some of the buildings and asked me to go in the building and check the building out. This kind of thing.” Ellison will tell Snyder that at Snell’s request, he surveills the Murrah Building to assess what it would take to damage and destroy it. He makes preliminary sketches and drawings. According to the preliminary plans, rocket launchers are to be “placed in a trailer or a van so that it could be driven up to a given spot, parked there, and a timed detonating device could be triggered so that the driver could walk away and leave the vehicle set in position, and he would have time to clear the area before any of the rockets launched.… And I was asked to make it so it would fit in either a trailer or a van or a panel truck.” Synder will later say that Snell is embittered towards the government because of the IRS, which took him to court and seized property from him for failure to pay taxes. But, Snyder will add, “you can’t be sure about any of this, because a federal raid, to a lot of these people, is any time the postman brings the mail.” Ellison will be taken into custody after a four-day standoff with state and federal authorities in 1985, only convinced to surrender after white supremacist Robert Millar talks him into giving up (see 1973 and After). Ellison will be convicted of racketeering charges and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He will enter the federal witness protection program until completing his parole and leaving the program on April 21, 1995, two days after the Oklahoma City bombing. [New York Times, 5/20/1995; Anti-Defamation League, 8/9/2002; Nicole Nichols, 2003]

Entity Tags: Louis R. Beam, Jr, James Ellison, Gordon Kahl, Elohim City, Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord, Aryan Nations, Kerry Noble, Murrah Federal Building, Richard Girnt Butler, Robert Millar, Steve Scott, Steven N. Snyder, Richard Wayne Snell, Robert E. Miles

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Richard Butler, the head of the white separatist and neo-Nazi organization Aryan Nations (see Early 1970s), is indicted, along with 12 of his followers and fellow racists, by a federal grand jury for seditious conspiracy to overthrow the government by violence, conspiring to kill federal officials, and transporting stolen money across state lines. The sedition was allegedly developed at a 1983 Aryan Nations Congress meeting (see 1981 and After). The case is tried in Fort Smith, Arkansas, before an all-white jury. The goverment is unable to prove the case, and Butler and his fellow defendants are all acquitted. The judge refuses to accept the jury’s statement that it is deadlocked on two counts, a ruling that leads to the blanket acquittals. Other white supremacists acquitted in the trial are Louis Beam (see February 1992), Richard Wayne Snell (see 9:00 p.m. April 19, 1995), and Robert Miles. US Attorney J. Michael Fitzhugh says he believes the prosecution proved its case, but “we accept the verdict of the jury.” Six of the defendants are serving prison terms for other crimes. The prosecution says Butler, Beam, Miles, and the other 10 defendants had robbed banks and armored trucks of $4.1 million, including about $1 million that still is missing. The defense countered that the prosecution’s case was based on conspiracy theories given by the prosecution’s chief witness, James Ellison, an Arkansas white supremacist serving 20 years for racketeering. During the proceedings, Butler undergoes quadruple bypass surgery and a second surgery to unblock his carotid artery, all at government expense. [Associated Press, 4/8/1998; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010] Some time after the trial, one of the jurors marries one of the defendants, David McGuire. [Kaplan, 2000, pp. 19]

Entity Tags: Richard Wayne Snell, Robert Miles, Richard Girnt Butler, James Ellison, Louis R. Beam, Jr, J. Michael Fitzhugh, Aryan Nations, David McGuire

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A young Louis Beam, dressed in his Ku Klux Klan regalia.A young Louis Beam, dressed in his Ku Klux Klan regalia. [Source: Edit International (.com)]In a number of venues, including “The Seditionist” magazine and an Illinois publication called “The War Eagle: A Voice and Forum for Revolutionary Pan-Aryanism,” white supremacist Louis Beam calls for “leaderless resistance,” or cells of fighters who report to no one. Beam writes that the idea originated in the early 1960s as part of preparations for a Communist takeover of the United States; he has adapted it to the idea of resisting what he calls the threat of “federal tyranny” and the federal government’s “ever increasing persecution and oppression.” Beam writes that the usual “pyramidal” scheme of organization, “with the mass at the bottom and the leader at the top,” is “not only useless, but extremely dangerous for the participants when it is utilized in a resistance movement against state tyranny.… In the pyramid type of organization, an infiltrator can destroy anything which is beneath his level of infiltration and often those above him as well. If the traitor has infiltrated at the top, then the entire organization from the top down is compromised and may be traduced at will.” Beam recommends the independent “cell system” of organization, and cites two examples: the Revolutionary War-era “Sons of Liberty” and the more recent use of “cells” by Communist infiltrators in the US. Beam writes that if the cell system is adopted without the top layer of leadership—leaderless “phantom cells”—this can thwart government efforts to infiltrate and monitor the groups. Every cell must have the same fundamental ideology and agenda, Beam writes, and then can be trusted to operate independently, taking actions that further the cause of the larger group without top-down direction. He concludes: “America is quickly moving into a long dark night of police state tyranny, where the rights now accepted by most as being inalienable will disappear. Let the coming night be filled with a thousand points of resistance. Like the fog which forms when conditions are right and disappears when they are not, so must the resistance to tyranny be.” Beam’s idea will be used by many in the so-called “Patriot Movement.” The “Patriot Movement” is later defined by founder John Wallace and by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a loose confederation of anti-government organizations, groups, and individuals who believe that the US government is illegally infringing on citizens’ liberties. The “Patriot Movement” is largely comprised of right-wing, separatist, and white supremacist organizations, groups, and individuals. [The Seditionist, 2/1992; New York Times, 7/5/1995; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; John Wallace, 2007]

Entity Tags: Louis R. Beam, Jr, John Wallace, Southern Poverty Law Center, Patriot Movement

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Richard Wayne Snell, a right-wing extremist who helped concoct plans to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1983 (see 1983), is executed in prison some 12 hours after Timothy McVeigh detonates a fertilizer bomb outside that same building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Snell is affiliated with the far-right groups Aryan Nations (see Late 1987 - April 8, 1998) and the Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord, and has connections to the now-defunct violently extremist group The Order. Snell was convicted of two murders: the 1983 robbery and murder of Texarkana pawnbroker William Stumpp (whom Snell wrongly believed was Jewish), and the shooting death of a black state trooper, Louis Bryant, who in 1984 pulled Snell over for a traffic violation near De Queen, Arkansas; Snell shot Bryant as he approached his vehicle, then shot him to death as he lay on the ground. (In his trial, Snell argued that he killed Bryant in self-defense.) He fled the scene of Bryant’s murder and was chased to Broken Bow, Oklahoma, where he was wounded and subdued by officers. In his car, those officers found the gun Snell used to murder Stumpp. Snell now terms himself a “prisoner of war.” Right-wing paramilitary groups have protested his execution, calling him a “patriot,” and term the federal government “the Beast.” Snell, who has published a periodic white supremacist newsletter, “The Seekers,” was the focus of a March 1995 issue of another organization’s newsletter, the Montana Militia, which reminded its readers that Snell’s execution was set for April 19, stating: “If this date does not ring a bell for you then maybe this will jog your memory. 1. April 19, 1775: Lexington burned; 2. April 19, 1943: Warsaw burned; 3. April 19, 1992: The fed’s attempted to raid Randy Weaver, but had their plans thwarted when concerned citizens arrived on the scene with supplies for the Weaver family totally unaware of what was to take place (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992); 4. April 19, 1993: The Branch Davidians burned (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After); 5. April 19, 1995: Richard Snell will be executed—unless we act now!!!” The Montana Militia’s plan of action was to flood the Arkansas governor’s office with letters protesting Snell’s execution. Snell’s jailers later say that for the last four days, Snell has predicted something “big” would happen on the day of his execution (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995). On his last day, Snell is allowed a visit by Elohim City founder Robert Millar (see 1973 and After), his “spiritual advisor,” where they watch the events of the Oklahoma City bombing unfold on television. Snell reportedly chuckles over the bombing, though Millar will say Snell is “appalled” by the reports. Snell’s last words are a threat directed to Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker (D-AR), as he is being strapped to a gurney for execution by lethal injection. “Governor Tucker, look over your shoulder,” Snell says. “Justice is coming. I wouldn’t trade places with you or any of your cronies. Hail the victory. I am at peace.” McVeigh will not mention Snell, and there is no evidence linking Snell or his colleagues to the Oklahoma City bombing. [New York Times, 5/20/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 161-162; Time, 2/24/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Anti-Defamation League, 8/9/2002] Snell’s widow will later say she has no reason to believe her husband had anything to do with the bombing. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 271] Millar brings Snell’s body back to Elohim City for internment. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 270]

Entity Tags: Montana Militia, Jim Guy Tucker, Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord, Aryan Nations, Louis Bryant, Richard Wayne Snell, Robert Millar, William Stumpp, Timothy James McVeigh, The Order

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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