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Hate In The Sunshine State

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.

Violence is a recurring theme in the message boards. In one discussion posted in July, five Florida-based Stormfront members rabidly bemoan the racial makeup of Miami-Dade County until one suggests that "instead of sitting behind their computers and talking about it," they ought to get together to do something about it. A member from Homestead replies that he's "game." The internet has provided "a whole new avenue for neo-Nazis to attract new members and spread their racism" and increased their reach "exponentially," says Rosenkranz.

Internet aside, Rosenkranz points out other efforts to spread propaganda and attract followers. In 2005, at the Daytona 500 race, neo-Nazis handed out propaganda and flew banners from planes near the racetrack. The group that flew those banners, a National Alliance offshoot in Tampa known at the time as National Vanguard, distributes CDs containing "pro-white" music and racist messages.

In July, another hate group, the Nationalist Coalition, hosted its second annual "Summerfest" at a motel outside Tampa. The event featured musical performances of "white pride" music, and Black was recognized for his work with developing the pro-white country music genre.

Speaking at the event was Edgar Steele, an Idaho-based trial lawyer known for defending Richard Butler and Aryan Nations in a 2000 case brought against them by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of a woman and her son who were attacked by Aryan Nations guards. In one recording, Steele advises his audience not to "hate irrationally" but lauds the idea of "complete racial separation" based on a "proclivity" toward violence by black people. "I think there's room in America for black people. I think there's room in America for a black America. I just want it to be a separate country, and I want them to all be in it." His pronouncement is followed by laughter and clapping.

Meanwhile, Shady Hills resident John Ubele, operations manager for the Nationalist Coalition, a Tampa offshoot of National Vanguard, has been drawing attention by running for a seat on Pasco County's Mosquito Control Board. He encourages other white separatists to take to the hustings. "If you do win an office, you will get very valuable political experience. You will also be in a position to work for White interests," he writes on his group's website. Ubele refused to comment for this article. Contacted by e-mail for an interview, Ubele said he would agree in exchange for $500 to his campaign and a free advertisement in the magazine.

It's impossible to know how much hate-related criminal activity the organized groups are responsible for, but there's plenty of hate-related crime in the state. In one recent case in Volusia County, a cross with the letters "KKK" was burned in a lot adjacent to where a biracial couple lived in Osteen, northeast of Orlando, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In June, a large, red swastika and the words "White Power" were spray-painted on the garage door of a home in Deltona where an African-American couple recently lived. Within the past year, similar incidents of vandalism have been reported in Stuart, Bonita Springs, Parrish, St. Petersburg and New Smyrna Beach.

There have been no arrests in the Volusia County cases, and Sheriff's Department spokesman Gary Davidson says his office hasn't been able to determine whether the acts were done randomly by individuals or as the result of planning by a group.

Rosenkranz says the U.S. Constitution protects even the vilest forms of racist speech. But he warns that an undertone of violence accompanies even the less virulent activities of hate groups. "There's a danger in being a bigot. A lot of them are violent. A lot of them do have violent pasts. A lot of the leaders have been arrested. There is a portion of the personalities that you see in this world that naturally tends toward violence.

Symbols of Hate

Swastikas, thunderbolts and Celtic crosses figure prominently in the "language" of white supremacists, along with numbers and acronyms.
The so-called othala Rune symbol, also known as a Norse Rune, is used by neo-Nazis and white supremacists to express faith in the pagan religion of Odinism. Nazi Germany glorified an idealized "Aryan/Norse" heritage, and extremists have appropriated many symbols from pre-Christian Europe for their own uses.
The crosstar, or Hungarian Arrow- Cross, originated in Hungary in the 1930s as the symbol of the leading Hungarian fascist political party, the Arrow Cross Party. The symbol has come to be used by racist groups, including the Nationalist Movement.
The "Life Rune" is an ancient European symbol adopted by the Nazis. It was the symbol of the SS's Lebensborn project, in which SS troopers were encouraged to father children out of wedlock with "Aryan" mothers. To white supremacists, it signifies the future of the white race.
The Wolfsangel, or Dopplehaken, appeared as part of the divisional insignia of several Waffen-SS units and became a symbol of choice for neo-Nazis in Europe and the United States. The Aryan Nations logo is derived from the Wolfsangel.
HFFH stands for "Hammerskins forever, forever Hammerskins." Hammerskins maintain they represent the working class of the white racialist movement and often advocate using violence to achieve their goals.

Acronyms and Numbers

14 Words:
Refers to the 14-word battle cry of white supremacists: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children." The slogan was coined by right-wing extremist David Lane, who's currently serving a 190-year sentence for his involvement in bank robberies, the bombing of a synagogue and the murder of Denver radio talk-show host Alan Berg in the 1980s.

88: Refers to the eighth letter of the alphabet, h, the double 8 stands for the Nazi greeting "heil Hitler."

RAHOWA: An acronym for Racial Holy War, the expression signifies white supremacists' belief in a battle that will pit the white race against minorities and Jews and lead to ultimate Aryan rule. Source: Anti-Defamation League.

Hate Groups in Florida

National Alliance/ National Vanguard/ Nationalist Coalition

In 1997, Todd Vanbiber was trying to assemble a pipe bomb when it exploded in his face. A police investigation revealed that the Winter Park man was a member of a violent neo-Nazi group called National Alliance. Vanbiber and other gang members were planning to set off bombs along two major roads in Orlando to divert authorities from bank robberies they planned in the area, police say. Although once highly active in Florida, with chapters in Orlando, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Palm Beach and Gainesville, National Alliance has declined in recent years, the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center report. Infighting has led to splintered factions, with many members reorganizing under the name National Vanguard. A small spinoff of National Vanguard, the Tampa/St. Petersburg-based Nationalist Coalition, has garnered local media attention by handing out fliers urging "Support White Victims of Hurricane Katrina," holding anti-immigration rallies and distributing CDs of racist rock music. Vanbiber resurfaced in Winter Park in the fall of 2005 after serving a prison sentence. He was distributing hundreds of copies of a neo-Nazi publication.


From his home in West Palm Beach, self-described "white nationalist" and former Klansman Don Black runs the world's largest white supremacist web forum. Launched in 1995, the website claims to have more than 80,000 registered users and gets between 10,000 and 30,000 hits per day. Typical discussion threads between "net Nazis" may range from weaponry to dating but almost always exhibit a racist tone. The message board is a forum for sharing hate literature such as "Free Ethnic Cleansing Manual," a 145-page book describing "the military operations necessary to eradicate the predatory black race from the contiguous United States."

National Socialist Movement

Working in cooperation with the KKK, racist skinheads and other neo-Nazis, the National Socialist Movement proclaims itself the "largest Nazi party operating" in the U.S. today. Wearing brown shirts and swastika armbands, members spread their message of hate through rallies and by selling violent video games like "Zog's Nightmare," touted on the group's website as a "first-person n----- shooter video game!" According to the Anti-Defamation League, a Lakelandbased unit is led by Klansman Burt Colucci, and until recently Sarasota resident Michael Herbert Blevins had been an outspoken member of the group. Blevins abruptly resigned as "minister of radio and office of information" for the Nationalist Socialist Movement in July, citing differences with other members of the neo-Nazi group. For several years, the neo-Nazi shock jock has been hurling racial epithets over the internet using the name "Von Bluven."

The Creativity Movement
(formerly World Church of the Creator)

The group's former leader, Matt Hale of Illinois, is serving a 40-year prison sentence for soliciting the murder of a federal judge. The group has maintained a Florida presence since it was founded in the 1970s by former Florida state lawmaker Ben Klassen. Klassen, a real estate agent and sometime inventor who made the first electric can opener, committed suicide in 1993. Hale, former head of the National Socialist White Americans' Party, revived the group in 1996 as the World Church of the Creator. The group considers white people to be "nature's highest creation" and Jews and non-whites to be the "mud races." As recently as 2005, the group had a presence in Seminole, but the Southern Poverty Law Center describes it as a "mere remnant" of its former self.

Aryan Nations

August Kreiss, the national director of Aryan Nations, left Sebring for South Carolina in 2003, but the neo-Nazi group still has a Florida presence.


The group takes its name from the "Euro-American Racialist Newsletter" published by Lake Worth resident Alex Hassinger. For several years, it helped organize an annual "Folk Fest" gathering in Martin County that it billed as a celebration of "European heritage." The Southern Poverty Law Center, which sent a camera crew into the 2003 event, featured a photo of attendees on the cover of its "Intelligence Report." The group canceled a Folk Fest it planned this year.

Racist Skinheads

Racist skinheads like the Confederate Hammerskins, a regional branch of the Hammerskin Nation, are active in Florida. In March 2002, the group held its annual "white power" music festival called "Hammerfest" in Jacksonville. The group held another concert in Ocala in March 2005 and teamed up with National Vanguard to host a St. Patrick's Day show in Tampa this year. Other skinhead groups in Florida include The Hated and the South Florida Aryan Alliance.

Ku Klux Klan

The KKK is alive and well in Florida. From 1900 to 1930, Florida witnessed the highest per capita rate of lynchings in the nation. Today, race is still the No. 1 motive for hate crimes, and the Klan "remains the most common type of hate group in America" in terms of sheer number of groups, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project reports the Empire Knights of the KKK has replaced the now-defunct Southern White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan operating in Daytona, Gainesville, Homosassa Springs, Ocala and Tampa. Other KKK groups operating in Florida include the American White Knights of the KKK in Englewood, the Imperial Klans of America in Gainesville, the Aryan Nations Knights of the KKK in Milton and the National Knights of the KKK in Silver Springs. According to the ADL, other "traditional" racist groups with Klan-like ideologies include the Council of Conservative Citizens; the European-American Heritage Foundation; the European- American Unity and Rights Organization; and the National Association for the Advancement of White People.