RICK ROWLEY: White nationalists see the anti-immigrant movement as a bridge into mainstream politics. And ground zero for that movement is here in the deserts and mountains of Arizona. Six years ago, right-wing militias began organizing here along the Mexican border. They quickly grew from a few vigilantes hunting for immigrants into a national phenomenon.
With the recession, illegal immigration from Mexico has dropped off 60 percent in the last year to its the lowest level in a decade, but it remains a hot-button issue. In November, one of the largest white supremacist groups in America, the National Socialist Movement, planned an anti-immigration march to the Arizona State Capitol. The NSM claims to have eighty chapters across America. We met Jeff Schoep, the movement’s new leader, at his hotel.
JEFF SCHOEP: Arizona is the front lines. We have a massive illegal immigration problem here in the state, so we’re here to take it to the front lines.
RICK ROWLEY: As we talked, Schoep’s men began to organize the caravan that would bring them to their march. Each car was marked with a number 88. In their simple code, eight stands for the eighth letter in the alphabet. Eighty-eight, or HH, means “Heil Hitler.”
JEFF SCHOEP: America was founded by white men, settled by white men, and it was founded as a white nation. So we’ve got our nation to lose. They call us the fringe. They say it’s a fringe movement, but I think what we’re saying is very mainstream. We’re standing up for the American people, and there’s nothing fringe about that. The membership has really spiked, especially in the past few years. It’s more mainstream now than ever before in our history.
CLIFFORD HARRINGTON: And this is our blood banner. This flag is flown everywhere in the United States.
RICK ROWLEY: Clifford Herrington was the chairman of the National Socialist Movement before they tried to go mainstream, when they still wore Nazi uniforms.
CLIFFORD HERRINGTON: You want to get a shot of my ribbons?
RICK ROWLEY: Tell me about them.
CLIFFORD HERRINGTON: Vietnam, ’68, ’69. US Army, ’66 to ’76. Vietnam, Germany, Japan and Korea. NSM since 1974.
RICK ROWLEY: As we approached the State Capitol, he started to lead a chant.
CLIFFORD HERRINGTON: No niggers! No Jews! The Mexicans must go, too!
RICK ROWLEY: Younger members of the leadership quickly silenced him and chose a theme better suited to a mainstream audience.
NSM MARCHERS: USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!
JEFF SCHOEP: We are looking at a country now that can very well face another American revolution! Our forefathers fought and resisted tyranny in this country, just as we stand here today in defiance of illegals, in defiance of a corrupt system that would just as soon put a bullet in the back of the white man’s head! We stand here in defiance of tyranny like George Washington did, like Ben Franklin did, our forefathers! This is America, our country!
NSM MARCHERS: Sig heil! Sig heil! Sig heil!
RICK ROWLEY: In spite of their swastikas and Nazi salutes, it is clear that the National Socialist language has changed. Take away the “Sig heils,” and they sound like many other conservative anti-immigration activists in America.
JT READY: We are doing it right. We’re putting Americans first. We’re taking back our nation, one day at a time, block by block, street by street, city by city. This is our nation, which we built. We are armed. We are free. And if you want our nation, you must take it from us. We are prepared. Thank you. Sig heil!
NSM MARCHERS: Sig heil! Sig heil! Sig heil!
RICK ROWLEY: More than anyone else at the rally, JT Ready embodies the link between white supremacist ideology and mainstream conservative politics. JT was a Republican precinct committeeman in Phoenix and a candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives. His writing appeared on mainstream conservative websites, and he regularly spoke at rallies with powerful Arizona political figures. JT is a former Marine and was also an early collaborator with the vigilante groups that patrol the Mexican border. They call themselves Minutemen, after the citizens’ militias of the American Revolution. Here Ready is in 2004 with Chris Simcox, the founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.
CHRIS SIMCOX: Chris Simcox, founder of Civil Homeland Defense.
JT READY: JT Ready, candidate for Arizona House.
RICK ROWLEY: JT was a rising star in the Republican Party. But after Obama’s election, he came out publicly as a member of the National Socialist Movement, which he now proclaims proudly on his license plate. JT agreed to meet with us, but he wanted to do the interview out in the middle of the desert on Highway 88.
JT READY: What I’m fighting for, primarily, at this point is the survival of the white race.
RICK ROWLEY: JT says that white Americans have been dispossessed and sees America teetering on the edge of a crisis in which their very survival is at stake.
JT READY: Any event which sparks this off—it could be during an election time, it could be the assassination of a prominent leader on either side—things could erupt. Now, within the white movement, we call it “RaHoWa,” racial holy war. And I do believe in a racial holy war, and I believe that we are already fighting that, except that our side hasn’t even begun to fight back yet. So we’re trying to waken our people for survival.