Attack victim claims no white supremacy ties
BY STEVE METSCH email@example.com May 22, 2012 10:14PM
Police investigate the scene at The Ashford House Restaurant, 7959 W. 159th Street, in Tinley Park, IL where allegedly a group of people entered and started assaulting patrons Saturday, May 19, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 2, 2012 9:40AM
A group of people meeting at a Tinley Park restaurant Saturday was attacked with metal batons and other weapons because the assailants believed they were part of a white supremacist organization, according to officials.
But a man who was among the vicitms told the SouthtownStar on Tuesday that the group is only dedicated to helping people in need.
“We are not white supremacists. Everything that has come out at this point is completely unfounded,” said Brandon Spiller, who suffered cuts and bruises on his head during the melee. “I feel that is very unfair for people to be labeled and defined in the nature the media is doing right now.”
Police apparently aren’t buying Spiller’s claim.
“They have a right to think what they think,” Tinley Park Police Chief Steve Neubauer said Tuesday. “But if you track down their website and see what their philosophies are ... ”
The fight appears to be continuing online as word spreads that the incident apparently was linked to a feud between anti-racism groups and white supremacists. Elements of the two factions have engaged in a cyber-war of words since Saturday.
Spiller, 29, said he fears retribution from members of the Anti-Racist Action Group that officials say were behind the attack at The Ashford House, 7959 W. 159th St. He said he lives in Wisconsin but declined to specify which town.
Five Indiana men charged with mob action, aggravated battery and criminal damage to property in the attack remained in Cook County Jail on Tuesday, according to the sheriff’s office. Their bails range from $175,000 to $250,000.
A defense fund started on the group’s website had raised $635 as of 5:45 p.m. Tuesday.
On the website of the Hoosier Anti-Racism Movement, there also was a plea for money to help defend the “Tinley Park Five.” Another website, the Anti-Racist Action Network, reported the incident in a post that focused on two of the alleged victims being arrested on charges unrelated to the fight. And on Stormfront, a white nationalist website, several posts angrily denounced the alleged attackers as “raving maniacs” and “cowardly left wing thugs.”
Another right-wing group, White Reference, reported that the “anti-racist terrorists” invaded the restaurant as part of a “completely unprovoked assault on at least 20 white nationalists gathered for an economic summit.”
Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research for the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks extremist groups, said there is a history of confrontations between anti-racist and white supremacist groups. He said the ADL had seen advertisements for a meeting of a right-wing group at the restaurant.
“This has all been part of the scene for decades. There is a long history of antagonism between these two groups,” he said. “We obviously disapprove of the notion you have to confront them. That is positively counterproductive.”
But Spiller said the group he gathered with at The Ashford House included members of the Illinois European Heritage Association, for what would have been its first meeting. It was arranged by a woman named Beckie Williams, Spiller said. Williams did not return a message left Tuesday.
Members came from several states, Spiller said. They had just ordered appetizers and drinks when the attack began, he said.
“We were minding our business and didn’t see them come into the restaurant. We were sitting at a back table and they came in and started terrorizing the restaurant. We had no idea what was going on,” Spiller said. “They were armed with weapons from metal batons, hammers, nun-chucks, wood batons and various other items. They even used chairs and tables as weapons.”
Video of the minutes-long fight shows a table being knocked over, swinging arms and some men holding up chairs to defend themselves, Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki said.
Spiller said he needed staples to close a gash in his head where he was hit with a metal baton, and he had a bruised eye. He said doctors told him he would make a full recovery.
“I don’t know why we were attacked,” he said, adding he and other group members did not know their attackers.
A prosecutor said the Illinois European Heritage Association claims association with White News Now and Stormfront, but Spiller vehemently denied the accusation.
“This group is not about white supremacy. We network with other people to help find jobs and support for their families. We find resources and ideas. We do brainstorming. But we never even got around to discussing anything. We had just sat down when the terrorists came in,” Spiller said.
“Maybe they’ve got something against us but we’re just about helping people,” he said.
Asked why the meeting was touted at www.stormfront.org, Spiller said “there’s no connection with that as far as I know. Maybe someone found out about our meeting and posted our information there.”
The group met in Tinley Park, he said, because “it’s centrally located and we heard it’s a safe town with a low crime rate.”
The melee was confusing, Spiller said, because “we planned a peaceful meeting and had no violent intent at all.”
Spiller said he was at a local hospital until about 4 p.m. Saturday before Tinley Park police took him in for questioning with other members of the group. They were at the police station until about 6 a.m. Sunday, he said.
Other diners in the restaurant helped fend off the attack, said Spiller, who is unemployed. He said he has worked repairing computers.
“The bystanders, they fought back because that group was terrorizing everyone in the restaurant,” Spiller said. “One of (the other diners) knocked out one of their guys. That’s when they took off.”
Investigators said the incident had no connection to the NATO Summit.