Friday, March 13, 2009
FBI Launches Hate Crime Investigation Of The Distribution Of National Socialist Movement Flyers In Salt Lake City
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has gone to the extreme of launching a hate crime investigation of the distribution of National Socialist Movement flyers in the Sugar House area of Salt Lake City, Utah.
-- Voice Of Deseret series of posts
-- KTVX Channel 4 March 11th story
-- KTVX Channel 4 March 12th story
-- Daily Utah Chronicle March 12th story
-- Daily Utah Chronicle March 12th opinion column
-- KSL Channel 5 March 12th story
-- Deseret News March 12th story
-- Stormfront discussion thread
-- Vanguard News Network Forum discussion thread
Summary: On Wednesday March 11th, 2009, residents of the 1900 block of Blaine Street in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City awoke to find flyers in their driveways. Closer examination revealed that two different flyers, available HERE and HERE, were originated by the National Socialist Movement (NSM) and wrapped around expired copies of the Daily Utah Chronicle, a free newspaper published by students at the University of Utah. According to one report, as many as 12 homes received flyers.
The Chronicle took exception to their product being used in this fashion. They immediately dissociated themselves from the NSM organization and ideology, and filed theft charges with the University of Utah police department. Local media sources initially released incomplete and biased stories; it was the Voice Of Deseret blog which first revealed the NSM connection. KTVX March 11th news video embedded below:
Because there is at least one interracial couple living on the street, the FBI then immediately inserted themselves into the investigation. They profess to determine whether or not hate crime charges should be filed, although FBI spokesmen said the perpetrator would have to be located and the motive determined before proceeding. To aid in detecting the perpetrator, the flyers are being subjected to a forensic examination. KTVX March 12th video embedded below; note how KTVX actually went out of their way to deliver copies of the flyer to FBI Headquarters in Salt Lake:
Although the NSM has an official unit in Utah, it cannot be said with certainty that an actual NSM member distributed the flyers at this time, since all their flyers are publicly available via the NSM's flyer library. Any patriotically-inclined White activist could have downloaded and distributed the information. And according to comments posted to the KSL story, Utah does have a considerable number of Whites who publicly proclaim themselves to be pro-White, although they quickly proclaim themselves to be "anti-Nazi" as well.
The involvement of the FBI at this stage raises some chilling civil liberties questions; is there a new standard of evaluation for "hate crimes" in regards to flyer distribution? Traditionally, as long as more than one racial group received a flyer, it was not considered "targetting", and hate crimes inquiries were not pursued. But now, it appears the FBI wants to pursue hate crimes charges merely because one interracial couple received a flyer, even though others on the street received flyers as well.
There are also some other lessons for activists as well. It appears the practice of wrapping flyers around expired newspapers may expose activists and organizations to an increased risk of liability. Whether theft charges would stick in this case would depend upon whether one can actually steal "old" copies of the Chronicle. Does the "one copy per day" rule apply only to the most current issue, as deployed at an official distribution point, or does it also apply to a gaggle of older issues that might be found in the trash or in a discard pile at a local library?
Another distribution tactic likely to draw liability is the practice of buying a newspaper through a local distribution box, then, while the box is open, insert flyers into all remaining newspapers. This might be viewed as "theft of advertising", since newspapers generally provide inserts only to authorized paid advertisers. As newspaper circulation and revenues nationwide decline, we can expect newspapers to defend what they perceive as "theft" of their product more aggressively.
The National Socialist Movement posts suggestions for distributors HERE which activists may find helpful.