ADL working to keep Winter Olympics safe

The S.F.-based Anti-Defamation League has been working with local and federal law enforcement in Salt Lake City to monitor extremist activity at the Winter Olympics.

The agencies have been trading information about several hate-groups expected to surface during the ongoing games since late last year. They've been hoping to thwart possible criminal activity by the groups' members and stifle recruitment efforts.

Since the games' kick-off Feb. 10, only one neo-Nazi group, the National Alliance, has made an overt effort to proselytize. But several other hate groups, including World Church of the Creator and Hitler Youth Standarte, announced on their Web sites an intention to be there.

According to Jonathan Bernstein, executive director of the ADL's Central Pacific Region, extremist groups see the Olympics, which "brings together a mass group of people," as a perfect opportunity to "tap into" future members and propagate their messages.

"Most indicated they would put on public demonstrations and recruit," said Bernstein, whose region ranges from San Francisco to Salt Lake City.

Hitler Youth Standarte urged its Web site readers to "call the ranks of youth who will become the Stormtroopers of the future," while white supremacist Jack Gray of World Church of the Creator announced plans for a "white pride rally and march."

In addition to those nonviolent activities, Bernstein said, there are "always people who see themselves as members of these groups who end up committing crimes." For that reason, he indicated, it is extra important for law enforcement to be prepared.

"There is a good chance that nothing is going to happen [at the games]. But while law enforcement is being so careful, primarily because of international terrorism, it is important to keep in mind the potential threat from domestic terrorists."

Referring to the bombing at Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Ga., he added, "we want to keep something like that from happening now."

So far, so good, said Sgt. Fred Louis, a public information officer for the Salt Lake City Police Department. The 450-officer department, along with other local and federal law enforcement agencies, has been "on heightened alert" for the games due to Sept. 11.

Although there have been a couple of incidents in which bricks were thrown through the windows of Salt Lake City residents who are gay, those took place far away from the Olympic venue and do not seem to be tied to any extremist groups, he said.

"Things have been going surprisingly well. We have not had any major incidents," said Louis.

As for the National Alliance, which has a Salt Lake City chapter, "they have been around area neighborhoods dropping off leaflets" in and around residents' yards. Since the leafleting happens "late at night," the department is unsure how many people are involved in the effort.

"At this point, except maybe for littering, they haven't broken any laws," Louis said. "And all their confrontations with police and pedestrians (near the games) have been nonviolent."

Nonetheless, he said, "We still have to be vigilant and aware of what could happen, and warn our citizens and visitors not to let their guard down."

Leafleting, said Bernstein, is "a common strategy of the National Alliance," which is the fastest-growing and best-organized neo-Nazi group in the United States. "The group's writings [including the magazine National Vanguard and its internal newsletter, the National Alliance Bulletin] are connected to many hate crimes."

In 1978, National Alliance founder William Pierce published a novel called "The Turner Diaries" under the pseudonym Andrew Macdonald. An extended fantasy of violent terrorism against Jews, African Americans and the federal government, it is now believed to be the inspiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

"William Pierce is convinced that Jews are devils and that all the evil in the world is connected to the mixing of races," said Bernstein. "He has been somewhat successful in getting this message to a young crowd, enticing them by making them feel like the future leaders of the group."