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Sikh temple shooting renews fears over white supremacist groups (+video)

The gunman who killed six people in the Sikh temple shooting was in a hardcore racist rock band. Experts say white supremacist groups are on the rise, fueled by a bad economy and the election of a black president.

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The most violent group, according to Pitcavage, is the Texas Aryan Brotherhood, which the ADL says has committed at least 29 murders.  

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Even when group members are arrested, they continue operating in prison, Pitcavage says. According to the Houston Chronicle, a four-year statewide investigation by law enforcement into the group resulted in the prosecution of 34 members for murder and racketeering. Another 30 ended up in state prisons.

According to Pitcavage, gaining membership in a hate group such as Hammerskins requires a trial period for other members to assess a prospective member. In the case of Page, he appears to have joined the group early in 2011 and became a full-fledged member by late 2011, Pitcavage says.

Discussion of Sunday’s shooting appeared on several online chat rooms that appear to cater to racist or hate groups. Someone using the user name End Apathy, which was the name of Page’s band, has six posts on Stormfront.org, a site that says it exists to promote the interests, values and heritages of whites. The posts, the most recent one from this March, promote shows by End Apathy as well as events by Definite Hate, Blue Eyed Devils, and Max Resist, all bands that Page was also associated with.

Lyrics from one Blue Eyed Devils song include the lines “Now I’ll fight for my race and nation, sieg heil,” among other anti-Semitic and racist calls to action.

On sites such as Stormfront, organizers obscure details and only post vague information about the specific location and time of events like Hammerfest, an annual concert and gathering put together by the Hammerskins. They direct users to a forum for Hammerskin members and then provide contact information for an organizer only the day of, so attendees, some of whom travel from as far as Australia, can get in touch and find the show.

In an interview with Label 56, Page’s record label, Page is quoted as saying his start in the white supremacist music scene dates to a Hammerfest concert in Georgia in 2000. The label deleted the interview from its website, but cached versions were still available online.

In the interview, Page is quoted as saying that the topics for his songs vary from sociological issues to religion “and how the value of human life has been degraded by being submissive to tyranny and hypocrisy we are subjugated to.”

White supremacists use mainstream social media tools to spread ideas and communicate as well. A Facebook search turns up group commemorating Hitler and sharing racist images. Organizations such as the American Nazi Party have active Twitter accounts. Most self-described white nationalists primarily communicate on forums dedicated to "white pride."

Almost right after the shooting in the Sikh temple, users of Stormfront began to post messages. One of them worried that the person doing the shooting was a “white perp.” The poster, someone by the name of Proud White Chap, worried that after the shooting in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater last month, Congress would “join forces” and confiscate guns from people, infringing on constitutional protections for firearms.

Some visitors to the chat room theorized the Sikh temple shooter must have been a government plot to stir up sentiment against white supremacists. Others note that the sites are getting many more views in the wake of Sunday’s shooting, possibly by law enforcement or journalists.

Many of the posts are signed with 838, which, using letters that coordinate to those numbers, stands for “Hail the Crossed Hammers.” Others reference 88 for “Heil Hitler” or 14, for the 14-word phrase “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” that is commonly found in hate-crime literature.  

Page had a 14 tattooed onto his left shoulder.

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