Eaton: Tinley Park attack sheds light on extremist groups
By Fran Eaton Always Right/illinoisreview.typepad.com May 22, 2012 8:30PM
Updated: July 2, 2012 9:58AM
Last Saturday’s mob attack at The Ashford House restaurant in Tinley Park was shocking and stirred an array of questions. Who were these people who rushed into a public location with metal bats and hammers, attacking people who were not causing trouble? What was the reason for the vicious attack?
Tinley Park police said Monday that the victims were members of the Illinois European Heritage Association, a white supremacist group. Shortly after Saturday’s attack, an anti-racist website celebrated that black-hooded attackers had “successfully” ended the meeting at The Ashford House. Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki confirmed that the attackers were affiliated with an extreme group dedicated to fighting all forms of discrimination.
So we apparently had a group of white supremacists attacked by self-described anarchists who reject the rule of law and engage in violence in opposing fascism. Ten people were injured, three hospitalized. Some bystanders surely were traumatized, simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
How does something like this happen in quiet, law-abiding Tinley Park? How and why do people get involved in these dangerous, destructive social movements?
It’s not that difficult, said Jennifer, the ex-wife of a National Socialist Movement leader, in an interview Monday evening. She didn’t want her full name used to protect her identity.
The man she married convinced her that his association with neo-Nazi sympathizers had been over for a long time. But soon after his return from Iraq, where he handled rebuilding efforts with a private contractor, he announced he was working for “The Reich.” That shocked Jennifer, who is of Jewish heritage.
Jennifer surmised that Saturday’s incident may have been related to the NATO Summit because anarchist groups, most notably one known as the Black Bloc, were among the more strident protesters during the summit. The Black Bloc is radically opposed to NATO and its efforts worldwide.
Jennifer said one such group, Anti-Racist Action, which has a Chicago chapter, is known for its disturbing tactics and has created a legal defense fund for the five men charged in Saturday’s attack. The organization harassed Jennifer’s family in the western suburbs, she said.
“They leafleted our neighborhood to expose my ex-husband’s affiliation with the National Socialist Movement,” she said. “Their next step is often violence.”
Jennifer said her ex-husband’s activities included answering the NSM’s hotline and talking to the press. He also helped organize neo-Nazi marches in the St. Louis area.
“I went with him to meetings and conferences, and there would be only 150 people at the most,” Jennifer said. “At first the people welcomed me, but I became more nervous at the things that were being said. I eventually became a liability to my husband’s work.”
As a highly trained computer specialist, Jennifer’s income provided for the family’s financial needs, leaving her husband free to devote his time fully to the National Socialist Movement.
“I funded much of his travel expenses and provided a home,” she said. “There were episodes of domestic violence throughout our time together. But when I came home from a trip and found him carrying a knife around the house, I knew it was over. I immediately got a restraining order and began divorce proceedings. I was terrified.”
Being politically conservative, Jennifer cautioned about violent groups such as those that clashed in Tinley Park.
“The white supremacists and NSM intend to infiltrate the Tea Party movement,” she said. “They see people whom they can lure into their ideology because they agree on topics like immigration.”
While a typical conservative is concerned about immigration laws being enforced fairly, white supremacists and the NSM are focused on eliminating minority populations. They appeal to some conservatives’ sensitivity to immigration laws being ignored and concern that we’re paying for health care and education for those that have broken laws to get into the country.
“Tell conservatives to be careful, that when the NSM uses the term ‘illegal immigration’ in their speech and publications they don’t mean the same thing,” Jennifer said. “When you’re going to meetings where the topic is being discussed, be careful. Don’t let them take your pictures. They’ll use your passion and curiosity to get you pulled in.
“I am not stupid, and I married into the movement,” she said. “Now I’m committed to getting the story out about how easy it is to get pulled in and how dangerous these warring factions are.
“Right now, I’m motivated to speak out by the sweeping anti-Semitism so predominant in the Occupy and Socialist movements,” she said. “The Occupy movement frames their anti-Semitism as ‘Free Palestine.’ That’s terrifying to Israelis. We need to understand that the Jewish state is endangered by Iranians, radical Muslims and the NSM.”
The other reason Jennifer is motivated to speak out is the domestic violence within these hate groups.
“It’s ironic, though, because it was domestic abuse that saved me and my daughter from a violent socialist,” she said.
If nothing else, the violent confrontation in a Tinley Park restaurant has brought much public attention and awareness to these warring extremist organizations. There’s certainly much more to be told.
Fran Eaton is a Southland resident who co-founded and edits the conservative political blog illinoisreview.com.