Sunday, June 28, 2009

Daryle Jenkins: The One People’s Project Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Intrepid Klanbuster Discusses State of Hate Groups in the Age of Obama

When Barack Obama was running for President, an unspoken fear in the mind of the black community was the possibility of an assassination attempt by a deranged bigot. And even since he won, there have wider concerns about some sort of backlash, given the rumors of a rise in the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi and other white supremacists terror groups. Given the recent attack at the Holocaust Museum by an avowed racist, I figured it was time to track down the brother known as “The Klanbuster” for another interview. Writer/videographer Daryle Lamont Jenkins, a former columnist for the Bridgewater Courier-News in New Jersey, is the co-founder and spokesperson for One People's Project (OPP), a Philadelphia-based watchdog organization which monitors and reports on the activities of right-wing hate groups located all around the country. Established in 2000 in the aftermath of a racist rally in Morristown, NJ, OPP maintains records and databases of information not only on the groups themselves but on their individual members as well.
Mr. Jenkins has been the subject of feature stories in a number of newspapers, and has appeared on TV as a guest on Montel Williams, A Current Affair and the Fox News Channel.

KW: Hi Daryle, thanks for another interview.
DLJ: You’re very welcome. It is good to talk to you again.
KW: What made me want to speak to you again was the recent shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. by white supremacist James von Brunn. Were you already familiar with him?
DLJ: Not so much him, but rather his crowd. I was in D.C. for two days prior, and I had left the day before the shooting. The D.C. unit of OPP and I went to Williamsburg, Virginia on that Monday, June 8th, to do some research, and we are a little angry with ourselves because some of us should have stayed in town. June 8 was the 42nd anniversary of the attack on the USS Liberty during the Six-Day War between Israel, and the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. An anti-Israel group called the Council for the National Interest (CNI), whose members have a history of associating with Holocaust deniers, was hosting events all over D.C. to observe the anniversary. The short story is this: Israel says they attacked the Liberty thinking it was an enemy vessel. Unfortunately, it was a U.S. ship and they ended up killing 34 crewmembers, injuring 171, and almost sinking the ship. While this has more or less been officially accepted as a friendly-fire incident, there are activists that feel otherwise. Being that Israel is involved, anti-Semites have been using the incident as a rallying cry. James Von Brunn was one of those anti-Semites. When the FBI searched his car, they found business cards advertising his website and another one claiming the Liberty was "brutally attacked" by Israeli forces. Also, the Holocaust Museum shooting happened on the anniversary of the last day of the Six-Day War. Being that he was from Maryland, we are all wondering if he participated in any of those events that CNI put on. This is just pure speculation, since there is nothing that has come out that puts von Brunn in any of those events. I am sure there is going to be a number of folks from the USS Liberty activist crowd that will make a lot of hay out of me suggesting such a thing, but let’s face it. They associate with the Von Brunn types too often for anyone not to wonder. The last time OPP went to a USS Liberty rally sponsored by the CNI, Ingrid Zundel, the wife of imprisoned Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel was a participant. If they are so worried about their image, it’s not us that’s making it look bad.
KW: Have you noticed an up-tick in the activities of the Klan and neo-Nazis since President Obama took office?
DLJ: This is going to be a rather long answer. See, I try not to lend credence to the regular posturing of that crowd because you knew they were going to try and get some mileage from the first black president being elected. We always hear some story about how the number of hate groups rose – when in truth, many of them are just some chump who started a blog calling himself a group – or that such-and-such recent event is going to “wake up white people”. Today’s white racist activists are nowhere near as strong or even as dedicated as the ones you might have seen maybe twenty years ago. They are always rather young, and where the hate mongers of generations past still had a connection to those older ones who were active and successful, the young activists of today don’t have that solid foundation their predecessors had. The older ones are now dying or just giving it up, so without that “guidance,” if you will, the young ones show themselves to be more of a psychological train wreck looking for an outlet, than some dedicated White Aryan soldier trying to create a whites-only homeland. And it doesn’t help matters much that those older activists that are doing things today have in the past few years tempered their activities to be a little more mainstream-friendly. The groups trying to gain respectability now will stay away from Nazi and Klan symbols, they prefer to hold meetings and conferences as opposed to public rallies, and the rhetoric has been tempered. In fact, to make reference to the Klan is rather antiquated because anyone who says they are in the Klan in this day and age is seen as a buffoon even among white supremacists. Some white supremacist groups have even had people of color within their ranks! Needless to say, that is part of a rather fierce debate amongst them, but it gives you an idea of the climate out there. Having said that, these groups still have managed to create a greater threat in regard to that aforementioned “psychological train wreck,” lashing out and killing people. That is where you have seen the up-tick. It was a rather interesting thing during the last administration to hear conservatives beat their chest about how there hadn’t been a terrorist attack on our shores since 9-11, which was meant to be some sort of endorsement of President Bush. Well, what’s curious about that is the fact that with the exception of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, most if not all of the terrorist attacks have been by right-wing extremists. The abortion clinic bombings of the 80s, the abortion shootings of the 90s, the Oklahoma City bombing, Eric Rudolph’s bombings, the shooting sprees of white supremacists Buford Furrow and Benjamin Smith in 1999 – all of those solidly right-wing. They quieted down while Bush was president, but as soon as Obama is elected we hear reports of all these loons across the country shooting people. The DC shooting was the second in as many weeks, and maybe the fourth or fifth since Election Day. Also, we can only imagine what we might be talking about today were it not for an abused wife killing her husband in Maine back in December. He was a racist who was reportedly building a dirty bomb at the time.
KW: Explain to my readers what your organization is and exactly what you do.
DLJ: One People’s Project has been around since 2000, and our mission is to research and report on the goings-on of those on the right, mainstream and fringe. We identify the players and let people know who they are, what they are about, and what to do about them. We believe that in order to solve a lot of our problems, those that are creating the worst of them need to have their ability to function diminished – effectively.
KW: About how many hate groups are you currently monitoring?
DLJ: I don’t have an actual number, so I guess the best answer to that is: all of them!
KW: What sorts of activities are they involved in?
DLJ: It ranges from simple internet blogging and activism, to protests and campaigns, to terrorism. It runs the gamut. There is a curious thing that happened while Bush was president that is now revealing itself with Obama’s tenure. For the record, I will not say that Bush was a racist. He was an elitist, which by default often lends itself to racism, but I don’t believe Bush could be considered someone that hated a person because of his or her ethnicity. But Bush was an incompetent, and he allowed those conservatives around him that did have a racist agenda to further themselves through him. We have seen white supremacists basically run the anti-immigration campaigns over the past few years. I have been to a number of anti-immigration rallies and conferences in that time, and there has never been one that didn’t have someone I couldn’t identify as being a member of a white supremacist group. And if that didn’t inject them into mainstream politics enough, they most certainly found an outlet in Ron Paul’s presidential run. Paul even received $500 from Don Black, the owner of Stormfront, and he didn’t see fit to either send it back or at the very least donate it to some non-profit like the Red Cross or United Way. Add that to the fact that he published a newsletter that was well-known in militia circles and included a number of racist articles, one slamming Martin Luther King, Jr., add that to him in 2004 being the lone dissenter of a bill observing the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Bill on the grounds that “the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty,” and you will have reason to wonder about Representative Paul. So the past eight years gave the wrong people a lot of license, and now that Obama is president some well-known people are saying interesting things. Ann Coulter dedicates three pages of her new book to defending the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), saying “There is no evidence on its Web page that the modern incarnation of the CCC (she says “modern” because the precursor of the CCC was the White Citizens Councils that attacked civil rights activists in the Sixties) supports segregation,” when the group’s Statement of Principles clearly states that they “oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind”. We have the New York Post, which has been known to stoke racial fires in the past, with the cartoon of the ape being shot. And while Pat Buchanan and Tom Tancredo are calling Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor a racist (as Tancredo ignorantly put it, a member of a “Latino KKK”), both of them employ a guy named Marcus Epstein. It was One People’s Project who learned that Epstein will be in D.C. Superior Court on July 8 to be sentenced after pleading guilty to getting drunk, assaulting a random black woman in the street and calling her the n-word back in 2007. Epstein, who by the way is of Korean and Jewish decent, is one of those persons of color I mentioned that you can find within white supremacist circles. He has a number of racist writings online that have raised more than an eyebrow to those who have read them.
KW: What typically happens when you show up at a Klan rally?
DLJ: We actually have a particular article about how those things go titled “Anatomy of a Hate Rally”. It has become so formulaic that even when it breaks from routine you can predict what happens! At rallies, those representing OPP play the role of observers. We don’t get into the fray that often. Sometimes, I get called out by name because the boneheads know me, but that’s about as far as it goes. But as I said before, the rallies are few and far in between. What we have been doing in recent years is exposing the conferences, meetings and other events they might be holding, or putting them on blast at any mainstream rallies they inject themselves into. There is a video going around where I am dealing with a group of neo-Nazis at a Ron Paul campaign rally in Philadelphia. I think it is important to show people who they are amongst us more so than when they willingly put themselves on display at one of their rallies.
KW: Are you intimidated by the Klansmen and neo-Nazis you’re confronting and outing?
DLJ: Nope. Ultimately, they are more afraid of me and other antifa (short for anti-fascists) than we are of them. Our beliefs enhance our lives. Theirs will destroy them. Our presence speeds up that process.
KW: How do you measure your success?
DLJ: When those who promote and further hate politics are stymied in any size, shape or form, or when they decide that it isn’t the best approach to their concerns and give it up, that’s success to me.
KW: Do you have to live with death threats?
DLJ: Oh, I have been the recipient of a few, to say the least! Still, I remain under the radar enough to not be a primary target. Hal Turner even said as much on his radio show once, saying “If I killed Daryle Lamont Jenkins from One People’s Project, they’re gonna put me in jail for the same amount of time as if I kill Frank Lautenberg, US Senator, so why not get the most bang for the buck.” I met Lautenberg a few years back, and I don’t have any problems with him, but I have to admit, I felt a little dejected there.
KW: What steps do you have to take to ensure your own personal safety?
DLJ: Without getting into too much detail, let’s just say I am about as insane as those I go after.
KW: Are they still sabotaging your website, periodically?
DLJ: They are, but we have been able to get to them a lot easier. I seem to be destroying the site more than any of my detractors do with all my upgrades and modifications that keep turning off the thing.
KW: How do you feel about Barack Obama’s becoming President of the United States?
DLJ: It’s like you have a friend of yours running things. There is always going to be something that a politician does that gets your goat, and I don’t expect any less from Obama. Then again, I can say the same about my friends. Let me also say for better or worse, if you can’t get anything positive out of this administration, you are not a positive person to begin with. This is the first president born in the Sixties. He is of the generation that will establish the first half of the 21st Century. The political game is going to be restructured in a significant way, and truth be told, it was expected. The only thing I hope to see one day is a third party or independent candidate in the White House. We hold ourselves hostage with some rather limited notions about who should lead this country, but at least the race and also the gender factor is crumbling. After Obama was elected, someone noted that never again in a presidential campaign will you see just four white guys in the running. You will now see people of color, you will see women, and Lord knows what else we will come up with. Our political mindset until this year was stagnant, and did not evolve even though we as a nation did.
KW: Do you think neutralizing these racist terrorist groups will be on the top of the Obama administration’s agenda?
DLJ: That’s a bit of an understatement. When Eric Holder made the remark that we were a “nation of cowards” when dealing with racial matters, and the Department of Homeland Security put out the report on right-wing extremists, conservatives started a whole hue and cry about it, saying they were trying to stir up racial tensions. They didn’t pick up on the fact that they weren’t making these statements and putting out these reports for their health. It was their intent to do something about the situation. Just this week, Hal Turner, an internet radio host and a onetime friend of Sean Hannity who had made a name for himself with his penchant for threatening those he is against with death on his program, was picked up by the feds for leveling such threats against federal judges in Chicago. Just a few weeks ago he had turned himself in to Connecticut authorities for threatening state legislators there. He has been making these threats for years, but now the authorities see fit to deal with him about it. Meanwhile, Tom Metzger, a longtime racist activist had his home in Indiana raided. The next day, Dennis and Daniel Mahon, two members of his group, White Aryan Resistance, were arrested for the mail bombing of a diversity center in Scottsdale, Arizona where three people were injured. Meanwhile, another neo-Nazi, Bill White has been in federal prison since October awaiting trial which will begin Aug. 11 for obstruction of justice. Like Hal, he liked threatening people over the internet, including a juror in a trial of a fellow white supremacist convicted of conspiring to kill a federal judge.
KW: Are you lobbying the Justice Department to get involved?
DLJ: Attorney General Holder has called for the strengthening of hate crime laws, so it sounds like they are going to take this a lot more seriously than other administrations have, both Democratic and Republican. We have to do our part in fighting hate crimes as well – as well those who enable them. Last year, an immigrant named Luis Ramirez was beaten to death by five, white high school students in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Local anti-immigrant activists came out to support the killers, even holding rallies where they actually tried to blame Ramirez, saying, if he hadn’t been in the country, he would be alive today. A few months ago, two of the five were convicted only of simple assault, and the outrage is so bad, Gov. Ed Rendell himself is appealing to the Justice Department to pursue federal civil rights charges. I hope he is successful, but ultimately, something in the climate out there has gone awry if a jury thought they can pull an Emmett Till, and we need to do something about that. We just showed Jena, Louisiana that they can’t have two sets of justice. On Friday, five of the Jena Six pled no contest, but only have to serve seven days of probation and pay a $500 fine. That’s a lot better than the attempted murder charges they faced two years ago, which they would still be facing if 20,000 people hadn’t marched on the town two years ago. That kind of vigilance by the public is needed constantly.
KW: Do you think the Obama administration will devote some of the stimulus package to the fight against white supremacist hate groups?
DLJ: If it does, it should be as part of other concerns that need to be dealt with, such as in conjunction with an education program. These groups thrive in bad economic times, however, so the best way to fight them is to make the economy a priority
KW: How can people contact you, if they’re interested in donating to the anti-Fascist movement or joining you on the frontlines?
DLJ: You can contact One People’s Project by mail at PO Box 42817, Philadelphia, PA 19101, by email at dlj@oppforum, or by phone at (267)970-5889. Some of our members have set up accounts for One People’s Project on Twitter and Facebook, too.
KW: When did you know you know you wanted to grow up to be a Klanbuster?
DLJ: My thing has always been journalism. I always wanted to be someone that could effect social change, but that was because I was really into reading about the civil rights era and the abolitionist movement. But while being an activist is important, you have to be more than your activism. The thing that made those activists successful is the fact that before they were activists, they were the people you went to school with, worked and lived with. They were doctors, teachers, shop owners, what have you. If someone were to ask me what I am, I would say I am a writer. That’s what I am in the end. Being a person who chases neo-Nazis all over the place is secondary, no matter how prominent it may be in my life.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
DLJ: If you are never afraid, then when you find something you are afraid of, it will destroy you.
KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
DLJ: There are many obstacles. The biggest one is one I still have to overcome and that is the indifference I see from people when racial issues come up. Eric Holder was right when he said we were a nation of cowards on this issue, because it is the only one that can raise tensions simply by mentioning it. Getting past the cowards is a rather frustrating task. They try to pretend there is no issue, and when they can’t ignore it, they get mad at you for bringing it up and actually take the side of those we are going after only because they don’t want to deal with it. If we do indeed get past them and are successful in what we are trying to do, those same people thank us for “being around to deal with this problem!” Let me tell you, it would be less of a problem if folks stop with the games.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
DLJ: That’s not an easy question to answer. There are times when I am on top of the world, but more often than not there is much that gets to me. I honestly don’t know how to respond, but I can say I enjoy my life.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good belly laugh?
DLJ: I watch the Daily Show a lot, so I think sometime last week.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
DLJ: The last book I read was Guilty by Ann Coulter. Hate to sound provocative, but that’s the nature of the business. One read, and you come away wondering how the Right ever got into power with dingbats like her promoting them.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
DLJ: Not really. If I am ever in a situation like that, I usually offer the answer anyway.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to nowadays?
DLJ: I love it all, but it’s that music you don’t hear on the radio that blows my system up. Stuff by Ozomatli, Toshi Reagon or a seriously underrated band like Chicago’s Sonia Dada. I love hyping people up to the stuff they overlook, so if you never heard any of those acts, trust me, you might want to.
KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
DLJ: If it weren’t for my parents and their wisdom, me and my siblings could be just another part of that statistic that plagues the black community. What they did for their family as well as others in their lives is what drives me.
KW: What do you think about the passing of Michael Jackson?
DLJ: There was a line in the last Indiana Jones about how we were reaching that age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away. That’s what was going through my mind when Hot 97 made the announcement. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I can’t even bother with those who want to play up the tabloid nonsense of the past few years. He is getting in death what he didn’t get in life. The past few days just brought us back to what it is that made Michael the most influential artist in our time. Every black artist of the past 25 years - and a good sizable number of white artists for that matter – owe their careers to him. Hell, my group’s initials are OPP! What’s the sample being used in that Naughty by Nature song? When a beloved celebrity passes on, we recover eventually. It will be a while with this loss.
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
DLJ: Always remember that the path those you admire may go on might not be the one that fits you. Don’t follow in the footsteps. Walk beside them. Bypass the trips and falls I made the mistake of falling into. And remember that one day those footsteps will come to an end. That is not the end of the journey, only the beginning of yours.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
DLJ: Aside from the 120 lbs., I need to lose, a pretty fit cat, mentally and spiritually!
KW: How do you want to be remembered?
DLJ: I really don’t know. All I know is that I had to do my part in this world. I will leave it up to the ages.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Daryle, and keep up the great work fighting the good fight for all of us!
DLJ: You’re very welcome.

1 comment:

wanga said...

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