Chico Nazi hate fest
Over the past two weeks, Chico has seen an alarming rise in white supremacist and neo-Nazi activity, including the spreading of racist propaganda, acts of vandalism, physical threats bordering on assault and the discovery of a crude homemade weapons lab in a westside apartment.
At a meeting of the Chico City Council Tuesday, a group of local activists and anarchists said they are fed up with what they consider a feeble response from the city and its Police Department.
“I don’t get it,” said one unidentified female activist. “Domestic terrorists are making bombs. These people are insane, and it appears you don’t care.”
Members of the council denied complacency and said they were indeed concerned about recent events. City Manager Tom Lando ordered a progress report from the Police Department, and Councilmen Dan Herbert and Scott Gruendl said they will work with activists to try to address their concerns.
The incidents began on Wednesday, July 14, when Westside Chico residents on and around Sixth Street awoke to find their street and lawns littered with newspapers put out by Fallbrook hatemonger Tom Metzger and his White Aryan Resistance organization. Inside the newspapers were flyers paying homage to a white-power event that supposedly took place in the Northstate recently. At that event, the flyer said, attendees were given instructions in bomb making, assassination, torture, and interrogation techniques.
The flyer also contained the phone number of local white-power promoter and publicity hound Gregory Tremaine, a.k.a. Gregory Withrow, a self-described “lone wolf” who has distributed similar materials in Oroville, where he lives, and in Gridley.
Withrow could not be reached, but police say they are fairly certain he is behind the flyers. Chico police Lt. John Carillo said the FBI and Department of Justice had been alerted but added that putting out racist literature, while repugnant, is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. The flyer’s claim of a neo-Nazi terror camp is under investigation, he said.
The night of the 14th, a group of activists, some of whom had received the racist newspapers at their homes, staged a small protest at the Downtown Plaza Park. At that event, police said, a man shouting white-power slogans threatened the protesters. The man apparently left and came back with a small group of young men who had hand-drawn swastikas on their T-shirts. One brandished a machete at the activists, and another had a pair of nunchakus. Police arrested both men on charges of carrying dangerous weapons; they apparently were released over the weekend.
Then, on Friday, as activists were making preparations for another rally that night, police were called out to the 5th and Jefferson apartment building to investigate a possible bomb-making operation at which several racist flyers, writings and posters were found.
The apartment reportedly had been illegally occupied by one or two transient squatters for a few weeks. When police responded to a call from apartment managers, they found two clubs with nails driven through them and racist epithets scrawled on them, a small vial of mercury, a package labeled “black powder” that actually contained buckshot from an emptied shotgun shell, a Tupperware container full of live gun cartridges with the bullets removed and a PVC tube that may have been modified to use as some sort of launching device.
One of the men, police said, may have been the same man carrying nunchakus in Wednesday’s incident. He and another unnamed suspect are being sought for questioning.
Friday’s rally, attended by about 100 people, was nonviolent but stopped traffic for a few minutes when marchers briefly took over Main Street, carrying signs and chanting anti-racist slogans.
While police say they are carefully monitoring the situation, racist incidents continue to occur. On Saturday, a car and fence in North Chico were covered in spray-painted swastikas. The owners of the car are white, and police say they do not know why they were targeted. On the morning of July 21, more racist literature was discovered on the west side, which police said appeared to be "even more vicious" than the papers from the previous week.