Masochism in the service of racism

Gregory Withrow

Gregory Withrow

Photo By Tom Angel

Oroville racist Gregory Withrow, a.k.a Gregory Tremaine, has successfully secured another 15 minutes of media time for his twisted cause, this time by having himself partially crucified across the street from the State Capitol as a protest against the Iraq war, illegal immigration and Christianity.

On Thursday, Feb. 3, Withrow and a companion were protesting at the Capitol when Withrow’s companion, an Oroville man identified only by the last name Cheney, took out a hammer and drove a six-inch spike through Withrow’s left hand and into a plank of wood, according to Sacramento police. At that point, California Highway Patrol officers intervened, confiscating the pair’s hammer and nails and calling an ambulance.

Withrow at first refused medical care but later allowed paramedics to take him to UC Davis Medical Center. After treatment for his wounds and a mental evaluation, he was deemed not to be a danger to himself or others and was released.

In a phone interview, Withrow described himself as a “fanatic” racial warrior who believes “Most people have violent thoughts and then they try to hide behind the veneer of civilization. If that veneer were stripped away … all you’d have is your word and the color of your skin.” This world-view leads him to believe that whites, blacks and other “races” are in a constant war in which only the strongest will survive.

By crucifying himself, he said, he is mocking Christianity and emulating Christ. “Christ chose to be crucified to save mankind. … He chose, he allowed them to do it. In that garner, I’m much the same way. I’m allowing this to happen to me. That does not mean I’m a nut. If it brings attention to bring some [soldiers] home one day earlier, then I’d have myself crucified a thousand times.”

Withrow, who said he objected to the war because too many white soldiers have died, plans to repeat the protest at the same spot on March 10. In his application for a demonstration permit, he likens crucifixion to getting one’s nipple pierced and states that “only a wimp or a Jew would weep upon the cross.”

State Capitol Permit Officer Keith Troy said that, due to Withrow’s previous actions, it is unlikely a new permit will be granted.

“The Highway Patrol doesn’t like denying permits, and we don’t do it very often, but when we document violations and they’re serious … there’s a high probability that his application will be denied,” he said.

Withrow had a permit to demonstrate at the Capitol last week but had not specified that he would be nailing himself to a board. Troy said such a protest is against state regulations, which prohibit “creating or causing injury or illness to yourself or to other persons” while protesting on state property.

“He took out a permit, and he did everything correctly in that sense, except he didn’t tell us he was going to crucify himself,” Troy said. “He did it right in front of me. It was gross. I witnessed two ladies get physically sick after they saw what he had done.”

Withrow, a self-described “national socialist” whose hate-filled diatribes and knack for making a spectacle of himself have made him somewhat infamous, has for the past few years limited his public actions to distributing white-supremacist propaganda in locations around Butte County, especially targeting low-income and minority neighborhoods. His answering machine directs callers to a Web site that glorifies the killing of blacks, Hispanics and Jews and encourages visitors to take up arms against the United States government.

This is not the first time Withrow has had himself crucified in an attempt to publicize his cause. In August of 1987 he was found nailed to a two-by-four in the parking lot of a Sacramento K-Mart. At the time, he said he was attacked by a gang of skinheads after he disavowed their racist beliefs. The resulting media coverage made Withrow a staple of daytime talk shows and, for a while, a speaker at events held by groups working against racism. But around 2000, he began claiming the 1987 crucifixion had been a ruse perpetrated so he could spy on those same groups.