Happy MLK Day
Local rights activist denounces racist newspaper, fliers distributed in Oroville
On the Monday when many were celebrating the life and work of slain civil-rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., local rights activist Willie Hyman held evidence of why the battle continues.
Two weeks ago a white-power newspaper and a flier calling for a race war were distributed in south Oroville near an elementary school and in the Kelly Ridge area.
Hyman, long a critic of local, state and federal government inaction on perceived hate crimes, is decrying the dissemination of the flier titled “RaceWar!” that was inserted into a newspaper called “War” and published by former California Ku Klux Klan grand wizard Tom Metzger out of the San Diego County town of Fallbrook.
Hyman is president of the Butte County Coalition, a seven-member group established in 1978 to monitor racism and the movement of racist organizations. He said his group includes hundreds of associates. The activist said he is less than satisfied with the response of local law enforcement to the issue, adding that the non-response is par for the course for the area.
“We believe something is going to be done about this by any means necessary but within the law,” Hyman said.
The paper and flier were distributed locally by self-avowed Aryan Greg Withrow of Palermo. Withrow, whose racist, violent and bizarre past was examined in this paper three years ago ["The great pretender,” cover story, Sept. 6, 2001], acknowledged he had distributed the papers.
“I’m not just pretending,” he told the News & Review last week. “I’ve got a lot to say.”
Indeed, Withrow, who also goes by the name Tremaine and last year was arrested for violation of probation for an earlier conviction of domestic violence, said he is filing a federal lawsuit against the Butte County District Attorney’s Office and the Probation Department for violating his First Amendment rights.
One year ago probation officers arrested Withrow because of the Nazi-related reading material he had in his possession when they entered his Palermo trailer.
The case was dismissed by Butte County Superior Court Judge Jim Reilly last November based on the language of Withrow’s probation, in particular whether the word “insignia” referred to reading material or badges on clothing.
The RaceWar! flier says that the organization “Supports the complete and total extermination of all sub-human non-Aryan peoples from the face of the North American Continent.” A phone number on the bottom of the flier reached an answering machine. Withrow returned the message left by the News & Review.
Ironically, many of the stories, letters and comments in the newspaper, including “Republicans Bitch Slap Lady Liberty,” criticize the Bush administration and Attorney General John Ashcroft for the erosion of personal and civil rights in the wake of Sept. 11.
Withrow, who calls himself Lonewolf and says he operates as a single cell in a decentralized organization, says violation of the white man’s personal rights is the mainstay of his suit against the government.
“I’m simply doing what I’ve planned from the beginning,” he said. “My life is unimportant, insignificant. What matters is the survival of my race.”
Those who’ve had dealings with Withrow say he is a lonely and troubled figure seeking attention through his actions. Twenty years ago he was bathed in the television spotlight, traveling the talk-show circuit as a reformed racist. When the curtain came down on that act, he disavowed the reformist role and said he was back in the trenches of the race war.
Hyman said the fliers and paper were distributed along El Noble Avenue in Oroville, which is walked during the week by children on their ways to Central Elementary School. Some of the children picked up the material and took it to school.
“This is the continuation of the acts of racist [Perry] Red Warthan,” Hyman said, referring to a self-proclaimed Nazi who lived in Oroville and was convicted in the early 1980s of killing an Oroville teen, a recruit who told an outsider of his concerns about Warthan’s philosophy and plans.
Hyman, who moved to the area in 1976, said at the time the coalition was negotiating with the Oroville School District to hire African-American teachers in the schools.
“I sent a copy of this to a friend and drew an arrow pointing up,” Hyman said. “It meant my blood pressure is up again. That is how it makes me feel. We take care of one issue, and we turn around and have another facing us.”
District Attorney Mike Ramsey would say on the record only that his office was investigating the case and that, while the First Amendment does protect a person’s right to “say anything stupid that you want to say,” it is a “fine line between advocating and soliciting destruction.”
Hyman said the government at all levels is failing to address the issue of racism and discrimination.
“Sometimes I feel like the U.S. government doesn’t want this to end,” he said. “What is really killing the people is the government, federal, state and local.”
He said local government must make a statement that such action will not be tolerated.
“When I was a sergeant in the Marine Corps in Korea, I had a couple of underlings from Missouri who used the word ‘gook." I’d never heard it before, and when they told me what it meant, I said, ‘That’s like calling me a ‘nigger.' If you use that word again you’ll regret it.' And they never did."