It's nothing new; reports of membership increases in White supremacist groups have been trickling in for several years now.
Early in 2007, the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group that monitors hate groups, reported an explosion in the activity and membership of Ku Klux Klan groups across the nation. A year ago in the New York Times, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that large numbers of White supremacists and neo-Nazis had infiltrated the military, despite a 10-year ban on racist group membership.
White supremacists are once again on the move in Portland. From Oct. 5 to the 7, somewhere in the Portland Metro region, the neo-Nazi group the Hammerskins, will be celebrating their 20th anniversary. Also involved in organizing the event is Volksfront, a Portland-based White supremacist group.
To counteract Hammerfest 2007's message of hate, a group of anti-racists are holding their own rally Saturday, Oct.6 at 1 p.m. in Lents Park, Southeast 92nd and Steele Street.
Portland's history of hate group activity includes the 1988 murder of Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethopian student who was beaten to death in Southeast Portland by three members of a racist skinhead group.
The Hammerskins are a neo-Nazi group who got their start as a violent gang in 1987 in Dallas, Texas. Its members have been convicted for harassing and beating people of color, Jews, sexual minorities and anti-racist activists.
The anti-racist rally will feature a number of speakers, spoken word artists, poets and hip-hop performers.
Walidah Imarisha, of Good Sista/Bad Sista who has been an anti-racist advocate since the age of 15, said she will be performing poetry and will talk about anti-racist action. Imarisha says she's not surprised that the Hammerskins are trying to reestablish themselves in Portland, a town that used to be a hotbed of neo-Nazi organizing.
"It shows the political climate we live in," she said. "This is an opportunity for people in Portland to step up and say this is completely unacceptable."
Although the Ad-Hoc Committee took form mainly as a reaction to Hammerfest 2007, Imarisha and others see the need for a long-term approach to addressing the problem. Whether its letter writing campaigns, organized protests or education about the recruitment techniques of White supremacists, she hopes the days of face-to-face confrontation won't have to come back. After all, once most people recognize White supremacist propaganda, it doesn't work.
"Most sane people don't like Nazis," she said.
Although little information is known about the Hammerskins' festival – Imarisha says hate groups have learned to keep their gatherings secret – a main feature of the weekend's activities will be "hatecore" music, a key ingredient many White supremacists use to lure disaffected White youth to their cause.
Mic Crenshaw, a rapper and activist with a long history of anti-racist organizing, says the purpose of Saturday's anti-racist rally will be to raise awareness about neo-Nazi activity.
"This isn't just about stopping recruitment," he said. "This is about stopping communities who quietly consent (to White supremacist activity)."
Crenshaw will be speaking at the rally. He is a co-founder of Global Family Network and is also a member of several hip-hop groups, including the Hungry Mob, Cleveland Steamers and Sucka Punch.