February 29, 2024

Hate Groups

Hate In The Sunshine State

Florida trails only California in the number of organized hate groups.

Amy Keller | 9/1/2006

When Peter Gaughenbaugh stopped by for a routine visit with his probation officer, David Kinard, during the summer of 2004, Kinard noticed a tattoo of a German flag and swastika on the left side of the 23- year-old Alachua County man's head.

There were other symbols on Gaughenbaugh's body that Kinard couldn't see. A Viking rune, another symbol popular among neo-Nazis, was etched onto his left leg. Inscribed on his abdomen was the term "14 words," an apparent reference to an utterance by imprisoned right-wing extremist David Lane: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."

Upon further investigation, Kinard discovered that Gaughenbaugh, on probation after an arrest on drug charges three years earlier, was a member of the National Alliance, one of the largest white supremacist groups in the nation, and was under investigation by the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

A subsequent search of Gaughenbaugh's residence turned up 739 rounds of ammunition, knives and several loaded firearms. Gaughenbaugh's home also contained hate group materials and how-to books on assembling, locating and firing weapons, according to a Florida Department of Corrections employee newsletter.

Owning weapons and hate-related material isn't against the law. Gaughenbaugh ended up in jail for violating his probation on the earlier drug charges and for child abuse after authorities determined his live-in girlfriend was underage.Gaughenbaugh is serving a two-year sentence in a Jackson County prison.

He's likely to find at least some sympathetic to his politics inside the walls. The Florida Department of Corrections reports a "very large representation of inmates with white supremacy or neo-Nazi beliefs" in the state's penitentiaries. The Corrections Department lists 15 neo-Nazi groups operating in Florida's prison system.

Determining how many Gaughenbaughs there are in Florida is an inexact science, but Florida has the second- highest number of hate groups in the country, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabamabased non-profit that has been combating the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups for the past 35 years. In 2005, there were 50 hate groups in the state versus 52 in California, according to the law center's Mark Potok, who as director of the group's Intelligence Project tracks such activity. Potok says the center considers any group that has conducted a haterelated activity in the past year as an "operating" hate group.

Organized hate groups exist in all parts of the state and aren't confined to rural areas, according to the center, ranging from the Confederate Hammerskins in north Florida to the neo-Confederate League of the South in Key West. While the center includes in its figures black groups like Nation of Islam that espouse racial separation, most of the organized hate groups in the state are white supremacist organizations that focus their animosity on blacks, Jews, gays, Asians and anyone they see as "nonwhite."

Andrew Rosenkranz, Florida regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, which closely monitors racist incidents and groups, identifies the I-4 corridor from Tampa/St. Petersburg through Orlando as the most virulent part of the state and a "hotbed" for neo-Nazi, racist and skinhead groups.

The groups' activities appear to involve mostly spreading hate-related propaganda. White supremacist groups, for example, have organized "white power" concerts in Ocala and leafleted upscale Orlando neighborhoods with copies of the racist tabloid The Aryan Alternative.

Rosenkranz identifies the neo-Nazi web message board Stormfront as one of the more influential tools that neo-Nazis use to organize. Founded in 1995 by former Klansman Don Black and run out of his West Palm Beach home, the slufilled message board features discussions by white supremacists on everything from Holocaust denial and immigrant-bashing to upcoming events, dating and firearms.

Tags: Politics & Law, Around Florida, Government/Politics & Law

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