16 that reached out to them in prison. Robert Miles, an early associate of Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler, pioneered this approach among modern white supremacists and heavily emphasized religion and spiritual beliefs in his prison outreach. Odinists, Christian Identity activists, the Church of the Creator, and other similar groups have done and are doing the same thing today. Similarly, those in prison are quite conscious of their role as catalysts to motivate supporters on the outside to engage in violence. This was clearly one dynamic at work in the case of Rachelle “Shelley” Shannon, an anti-abortion activist who firebombed clinics and shot Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas, on August 19, 1993. As detailed by journalist Judy Thomas, Shannon corresponded regularly with jailed clinic bombers, giving them support and receiving encouragement to commit violence herself in return.48 Some of the key leaders in the anti-abortion movement also have made a point of visiting practically every supporter sentenced to prison, picketing their trials, and issuing statements backing them. Additionally, certain websites provide a rallying point. The “Prisoners of Christ” webpage maintained on the Army of God website provides a vehicle for individuals and movement activists to initiate or maintain contact with those convicted of various crimes.49 According to Blanchard and all the experts consulted on anti-abortion violence, the incarceration of activists during some of the major protest events turned out to be one of the most significant factors that led to the recruitment of new key violent activists. This occurred in Atlanta following the Operation Rescue arrests in 1988, when many activists became acquainted with their peers in the movement and later went on to engage in extreme violence. It is widely reported that the Army God Manual was drafted by those individuals who were jailed together in Atlanta and that their experiences—and frustrations—with civil disobedience led them to adopt more violent tactics. Sometimes the relationships established in jail can facilitate criminal activity many years later. James Charles Kopp, who was referred to in the AOG manual by the nickname “Atomic Dog,” and who was responsible for the October 1998 assassination of Amherst, NY, obstetrician and abortion provider Dr. Barnett A. Slepian, was later helped by a Brooklyn couple, Dennis James Malvasi (himself a convicted clinic bomber) and Loretta Claire Marra. Marra and Kopp had been arrested together during clinic protests and jailed several times dating back as early as 1990. Mara and Malvasi served 29 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to harbor a federal fugitive by funneling money to Kopp while he was evading
federal authorities in France and then trying to sneak him back into the United States.50 Having a core group of people celebrating violent acts, such as the Aryan Nations World Congress events of the 1980s, and the White Rose banquets of the 1990s, which honored and raised money for those imprisoned for anti-abortion violence—including murder—are obvious vehicles to attract those who are considering committing violence themselves. Large scale, symbolic events such as Waco, Oklahoma City, and September 11 often are used to bring people in. Both the real events of Waco, and the conspiracy theories surrounding the Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11 attacks create a setting where people can be recruited based on the argument that the government is not only illegitimate or corrupt, but also bloodthirsty and murderous. “This is the perfidy that your government will engage in,” people are told. And then, as is the case with both September 11 and the invasion of Iraq, propagandists assert that Jews were behind both events and in so doing recruit people with anti-Semitic tendencies.
EXTREMISTS IN SEARCH OF A GROUP While all experts acknowledge the phenomenon of lone activists who embrace radical ideology in isolation and then go on to commit violent acts, they disagree as to the frequency with which this occurs. It also appears that loners who commit extremist violence may be more common within the anti-abortion movement than among those who identify as white supremacists or neo-Nazis. According to Blanchard, approximately half of the individuals who have engaged in violent anti-abortion activities tended to be unrelated to any organization. They embraced their ideology in isolation and then identified with groups while in prison or after their release. Thomas agrees “most of those who committed extreme anti-abortion violence tended to be loners.” From 1982 to 2005, there were 180 arson attacks and 52 bombings (232 attacks in total) against clinics, as Moore pointed out, and the majority remain unsolved. “It certainly is true that a number of people who commit violence are definitely loners,” says Moore, “but there still has to be some motivation, some other means by which they get to the point where they decide to commit violence.” Additionally, Moore observes, “Just because only one person is indicted and convicted in connection with an act of violence doesn’t mean there isn’t a larger group involved.”
Risen and Thomas, Wrath of Angels. See: http://www.armyofgod.com/favicon.ico.
Blaine Harden, "Couple Accused in Plot to Sneak Fugitive to Brooklyn From France," The New York Times, March 30, 2001; Susan Saulny, "Two Who Helped Doctor's Killer Are Released After 29 Months," The New York Times, August 22, 2003.
Published on Jul 23, 2010