Las Vegas Sun

September 19, 2017

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Confronting hate at home: Local activist hopes young, diverse Las Vegas is immune to alt-right’s message

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Steve Marcus

James Dunbar flies the U.S. flag upside down during a vigil for the victims of the deadly car crash in Charlottesville at the Martin Luther King Jr. statue at MLK Boulevard and Carey Avenue Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017. Flying the flag upside down is a signal of distress, he said.

A manufacturing engineer by trade, Army veteran Adrian Krieg is a writer at heart, penning 25 books and counting — well into his late 70s.

He’s also a self-admitted racist, operating A2Z Publications, one of the three Las Vegas Valley hate groups identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery, Ala.-based nonprofit civil rights advocacy organization widely regarded as the nation’s most accurate tracker of such groups.

Although the demographics and political climate of Southern Nevada might not portend a future situation like this month’s violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., local hate speech purveyors are receiving renewed attention and scrutiny in its wake.

On Aug. 22, Metro Police investigated a swastika painted on the sidewalk in front of a Summerlin elementary school. That came just two days after the force reported a red van tagged with “KKK,” expletives and white supremacist messages in the northwest valley.

In March, swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti hit the valley during a targeting of Jewish groups across the country, prompting a peace march with nearly 200 participants at UNLV.

Asked about the Charlottesville events, Krieg said, “How could this at all be Trump’s fault? If you rounded up all the people doing this, like Black Lives Matter and the new Black Panthers, every one of them are anti-capitalist, anti-Western and anti-Christian.”

Krieg, 79, said he’s “opposed to” the LGBTQ community and calls immigration to the United States “planned events to destroy the white race.” Krieg also shuns the “progressive movement” in America and believes former President Barack Obama is a madrasa-educated Kenya native with a fake American birth certificate.

Hate speech crosses different communities as well. In a central valley strip mall, Las Vegas transplant Ben Gabar preaches to his Israel United in Christ church congregation of about 50 people that those who are not black, Hispanic or Native American one day will serve those racial groups as slaves in a “kingdom” after their lives on Earth.

Only members of the anointed 12 “Tribes of Israel,” which consists primarily of those of African or Latin decent, are welcomed at the small church in a converted studio. The congregation denies the Holocaust’s existence and believes the United States was designed to “destroy” them.

Gabar and other IUIC church leaders contacted at the hate organization’s New York City headquarters offered little comment, other than to confirm their beliefs and to say “the media” are among those not welcome at their church.

A representative from the third SPLC-identified hate group in Las Vegas, neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, could not be reached for comment. The site, which was founded four years ago in Ohio, has spread to more than two dozen major U.S. cities and does not have more than 10 active participants in the valley, a SPLC spokeswoman said. Since the events in Charlottesville, the website has been booted from as many as five domain hosts in the U.S. and Russia for allegedly spreading propaganda to further violence connected to neo-Nazi and white nationalist protests.

Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin, 32, faces more than a dozen lawsuits for defamation-related offenses generated by his website’s reporting, according to The New York Times.

Given the small local presence of these recognized hate-speech advocates, activists doubt their ability to sway the community. UNLV Boyd School of Law professor and activist Sylvia Lazos fights for equality among people of different backgrounds through various Latino outreach groups.

Lazos, 61, said younger people born and raised in the valley are used to diversity. About one-third of Las Vegas and unincorporated Clark County residents are Hispanic or Latino, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates in 2013, while about 45 percent of the population is Caucasian. Nearly 11 percent of such residents are black, and 3 percent of the population is multiracial. In Charlottesville, 70 percent of the populations is white, 19 is black and only 5 percent is Hispanic or Latino, according to the census bureau.

Southern Nevadan’s demographics make young people naturally more tolerant to diversity than youths of many other cities across the United States, Lazos said.

“A lot of times, we see good-intentioned people — who do not have enough exposure to a diverse climate or community like our kids do — making lots of mistakes and blunders with regards to diversity,” Lazos said.

Lazos called the chances of Las Vegas becoming the center of a similar such rally as Charlottesville “unlikely.” She suggested the key to wiping out hate would be determined in part by political rhetoric and dialogue.

“We can certainly distinguish those ideas within our youth groups, student groups and established institutions that populate such thought,” Lazos said. “There’s definitely hope.”