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the Body Politic
Vol. 05, No. 06 - June/July 1995, Page 19
Copyright © 1995, 1998 by the Body Politic Inc.
Interview by Anne Bower
See the contents of this issue for other militia-related articles, and especially Militia Diary for a history of the militia movement.
When an Ethiopian student was beaten to death by racist skinheads on the streets of Portland in 1988, community members came together to bring some good out of tragedy. Organizations from grassroots to professional joined together and formed the Coalition for Human Dignity.
Jonathan Mazzochi, Director, and one of the founders of the CHD, said in the late 80s there were a growing number of hate crimes in Oregon. During this time, the Oregon Citizen's Alliance, the region's premier religious right organization, was forming. The OCA has been instrumental in promoting many anti-gay and lesbian ballot initiatives. "We took an early and firm stand against the Alliance and the full range of positions they represent", said Mr. Mazzochi.
In the beginning, the Coalition concentrated on becoming a civil rights organization whose mission was to coordinate community response to hate crimes. Today, the same organizations are still represented on CHD's board, staff and in their membership, but the mission has expanded. Tracking religious right activity demands research and CHD has become a premier center for investigation of religious right and anti-abortion activity.
The Coalition's success has led to their expansion. Now there are four staff members and a second site in Seattle. The staff and about a dozen volunteers keep up the research and community activism. The Coalition also publishes The Dignity Report, a newsletter which reports on the religious right, racists, and anti-choice activists. (Their location in the Northwest gives CHD special knowledge about Advocates for Life Ministries). The Coalition has done such good work it caught the eye of the Center for Democratic Renewal in Atlanta and became a CDR affiliate in 1990.
In the following interview, Mr. Mazzochi talks about CHD programs and research and what CHD plans on contributing to the "fight the right" effort. The Coalition gladly accepts members who are encouraged to share information including newspaper clippings. Contact the Coalition at
PO Box 40344
Portland, OR 97240
(503) 281-5823 e-mail: email@example.com
Q: Jonathan, I know CHD covers a wide range of issues. What is your current focus?
A: We work in three program areas. Those program areas, in turn, reflect our main priorities which are helping communities and institutions develop constructive strategies for dealing with the religious right and the white supremacist movement.
Based on those priorities, one of our three main program areas is a Washington State Research and Education Network, which involves our group working with others, such labor, teacher's associations, and Planned Parenthood, to come up with new ways of fighting the right. We have one of those now in place in the state of Oregon.
The Student Leadership Training Project offers a nine-week training program from a group of students we hand-pick from two universities in the Northwest. Our goal is to train college-age activists in what we believe are some fairly innovative ways to deal with the right -- as a social movement.
I really like the program and think it's very effective.
Q: CHD has been very supportive of choice. You've done some wonderful research on anti-choice zealots, including Paul de Parrie from Life Advocates magazine. Tell us a little bit about Mr. de Parrie.
A: Our interest in Paul goes back quite a few years, probably 1989 when he was an early and important activist with the Oregon Citizens' Alliance. He always sort of denied it, but he was there at the OCA's most important functions and was often listed as a petition gatherer or one of the main signatories to different OCA initiatives. Mr. de Parrie also had a relationship with elements of what we call the Christian Patriot movement, anti-Semitic tax protestors. Many of these people are from more rural areas and are sort of brought into the White Supremacist movement by issues like opposition to taxation and land use planning laws, plus a host of other issues.
Mr. de Parrie has contributed to some of their publications. His books are often advertised in conspiracy newsletters.
We were curious about why someone who was an important activist in the radical anti-choice movement would be working with those folks. The Coalition is a pro-choice organization and our niche in the Northwest as a research organization positioned us to take a look at him. It was an area not many had looked at and we are still trying to do more on it.
Q: I was stunned in your report on Mr. de Parrie to see that he has a relationship to Mary Pride, author of many home schooling text books.
A: Well, I don't know much about Mary Pride, but Paul has a very eclectic philosophy. He has worked hard to reach out to the Left on issues of police abuse of anti-choice protestors, while trying for alliances with the White Supremacist movement. He's very ecumenical or non-sectarian, if you will, in his agenda. Even though his anti-choice philosophy is extreme, he is very indicative of a number of forty-something folks we've seen who have moved to the radical right who used to be counterculture types.
Lon Mabon, for example, is out of the Viet Nam War, into the counter culture and became a "Jesus freak". Paul tries to maintain his status by things like the way he dresses. His whole involvement as a rescue activist resonates with the counter culture/civil disobedience stuff. They bring the sixties sensibilities to their struggle. This doesn't give them any more legitimacy, but I think it's interesting as to how they view themselves.
Q: Besides tracking anti-abortion activists, you also investigate militias. You've even become a "talking head" lately. Where are your investigations taking you and what connections have you found with anti-abortion activism?
...it's only reasonable to say that the right has the momentum. They have in large part defined both the character and contours and terrain of the debate.
A: Our tracking and analyzing on so-called Citizen Militias goes back two years. From our perspective, the immediate origins of this idea to form militias to defend your community from an out-of-control government, go back to the post-Randy Weaver siege. The first of those groups were formed in Idaho State in the winter of 1992. Those groups were formed by White Supremacist whose idea of militias was to be a vehicle for confronting the government and its many instrumentalities--everyone from County Commissioner, to cops, to civil rights activists, all who could be seen as part of the New World Order.
Following the first formation of these groups in Idaho, there was a large leadership meeting held in Estes Park, Colorado by a very racist minister, Pete Peters. There were upwards of 200 leaders from the racist right, neo-Nazis groups and some other who bridged the gap to more "respectable" organizations, such as Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America. Even a Rutherford Institute lawyer was there.
During the three-day meeting, this diverse group talked about the Weaver situation and how it can be avoided in the future. What came out of it was the idea of forming militias. Larry Pratt was supportive of this. His involvement with citizen militias goes back to his previous work promoting death-squad type organizations in the Philippines and Guatemala. He considers those death squads in the third world to be "people's militias".
Q: How fascinating. You may remember in 1990 that Larry Pratt through the Committee to Protect the Family was raising money to pay off Operation Rescue National's bills.
A: Mr. Pratt is an important figure in the citizen militia. He's also associated with the U.S. Taxpayer's Party. That whole wing of the movement, Pratt, Terry, rescue, and some of the really radical anti-environmental groups form what we consider to be a political vanguard, pushing the mainstream right to take their positions more seriously. In the case of militias, what's happened in the past two years is that all of the different issue-based radical right organizations, like the Taxpayer's Party or the John Birch Society, have recognized the propaganda value of citizen militias, which is part of the reason they've become so popular. What we have now are many different citizen militias which have somewhat diverse political agendas. They're all on the political right, but some are really racist, like the one trying to create a White Aryan Republic here in the Pacific Northwest, contrasted with Randall Terry and the U.S. Taxpayer's Party which would not have that kind of agenda.
Q: I have one of the militia organizing manuals and it is clearly a fundamentalist Christian organization. Is that characteristic of militias?
A: It's one genre, but the most common among the citizen militias. There are different brands of fundamentalism, but within militias, the kind of fundamentalism most often associated with these groups is not really well-developed. All that's important is for you to be a Christian American who believes there is a conspiracy to take away rights of American citizens.
That said, we haven't seen many Christian fundamentalist denominations directly involved in supporting any of these militias.
Q: Like they have been involved in supporting rescue.
A: Right. I haven't seen that. What we have seen is Christian Identity Churches, which are not fundamentalist, but White Supremacist, directly involved in supporting militias. Part of the reason is, for the most part, militias have their origin outside of the political system and outside of traditional right-wing protest arenas.
For the last few years, these groups have been outside the electoral system because they don't believe voting can get you anywhere--it is skewed and flawed. They have lost hope in mainline churches and the educational system. Consequently, they operate outside the system. The segment of the anti-choice movement that holds similar positions, Randall Terry's a good example, and Paul de Parrie at Life Advocate, are more often interested in these disaffected groups.
Q: Recently, there have been many interviews with militia members, but it seems the mainstream press still doesn't quite get what is going on. Can we really hope to get them educated on this issue?
A: I think some of them have really gotten an education. The Oklahoma City bombing was a pretty dramatic education, if you will. Not only to what is going on now, but what has been happening for years. Activists who have dealt with the rescue movement and the violence focused on reproductive rights and abortion providers, know what these people have been doing and planning. The terrorist element has been there for years. As far as we're concerned, the Oklahoma City bombing differs only in scale from the kind of terrorist activist the right has perpetrated for decades. Some of the media are beginning to get that, at least those we have dealt with, and they are reporting it.
How well they understand that citizen militias operate within the context of a right-wing social movement, that is not only belligerent and moving forward to threaten the very fabric of the democratic institutions of this country, is going to be tougher to explain. In our work, we've had better luck helping media representatives understand the meaning of the violence. We've had less luck explaining the meaning of the political agenda behind it. That's just going to require more work.
Q: Jonathan, what are you most worried about?
A: That the political spectrum in America will continue to move to the right. By that I mean the fulcrum of the pendulum moves to the right, the center continues to shift to the right. I don't worry about anything overly dramatic happening at once. It's happening slower -- a slow grind under which human rights and civil rights and basic civil liberties are being trampled. It's a slow trample, though.
Q: Sort of like a steam roller -- real slow, but very flat.
A: Right. I'm encouraged by all kinds of activism, but it's only reasonable to say that the right has the momentum. They have in large part defined both the character and contours and terrain of the debate. We haven't done that very well. Consider the Prague Spring of 1968, when the Left world-wide was in the middle of a social movement, with its intellectuals putting forth new ideas, radical on the street carrying out actions against the state, and African/Americans and farm workers were uprising.
Today the right has those same sorts of components to their social movement. They don't all work together that well -- some fight quite bitterly -- but all of them contribute to that shift. I'm just concerned if we will be able to stop it before it goes much further. If this is their Prague Spring, then we can look forward to potentially another 10 to 20 years, and I don't like that -- I don't like that thought at all.
I'm an anti-fascist, an anti-racist and very democratically inclined in my thinking, so there's a lot I take heart in, but when I look at Europe I think we have a lot of problems. We haven't dealt with the whole of the crumbling of the Eastern block. The international scene is really a mess.
Q: Jonathan, we can't even begin to get into that!
A: I know, I know. But the character of the uprising in the U.S. is very similar to what we see happening in Europe. What implications that has for the stability of political institutions have not played themselves out yet.
Q: What gives you hope?
A: Your magazine gives me hope. You take analysis and research and try to find ways to support other groups. You take that seriously and I think we have to grapple seriously with putting forward a set of ideas to compete with this stuff. You folks, and others like you, are an important part of this.
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