The Nazis have arrived in Pasco, Washington, some two months after local policemen shot and killed agricultural worker Antonio Zambrano Montes on a downtown street corner. Montes’s death has prompted ongoing vigils and protest marches organized by community leaders in this predominately Hispanic city.
And the American Nazi Party’s message to Pasco citizens, in the form of flyers plastered on car windows, isn’t meant to inspire camaraderie with the city’s Latino community.
“Deport ten million illegals,” the flyers read. “American workers gain millions of jobs!”
Axl Hess, spokesman for the American Nazi Party, confirmed that the flyers were distributed as part of a “Spring Blitz” literature campaign by the party’s supporters in Pasco.
“We feel that the white populations in many U.S. cities (e.g., Pasco) are anxious for a positive change towards a government that will truly represent them and fight for their well-being instead of pandering to illegal aliens,” Hess wrote in an email response to The Daily Beast’s inquiry about the flyers.
Zambrano, a 35-year-old orchard worker who lived in Pasco for 10 years after migrating from Mexico, was gunned down by three local police officers on February 10 after they responded to a call about a man throwing rocks on a street corner in the city’s downtown. When confronted by the officers, Zambrano allegedly threw rocks at them, and the police responded by using a Taser gun on him, to little effect.
Zambrano then ran away as the three officers opened fire on him and pursued him across the street. Moments later, as Zambrano turned to face the law enforcers, raising his hands, the officers snapped off another volley of shots. He died at the scene, with at least one independent autopsy (requested by Zambrano’s family) indicating he was shot up to seven times, including twice in the backside.
The incident has sparked an ongoing series of nonviolent vigils, rallies and marches in Pasco in protest of the shooting—which is being investigated by a task force composed of local law enforcement agencies. The three officers involved in the shooting are on administrative leave pending the outcome of that investigation.
Pasco, with a population of 68,000, is part of the Tri-Cities metro area, which has a predominately white population of 254,000. In addition to Pasco, the Tri-Cities include the adjacent cities of Richland and Kennewick.
Community leaders within the largely Hispanic population of Pasco say the protest activities that have been underway since the Zambrano shooting are part of a well-organized movement to address what they see as a problem of a poorly trained, largely white police department that is out of touch with the predominately Hispanic community it serves.
Rick Rios, one of the leaders of Consejo Latino, a Pasco-based community group that is part of the city’s police-accountability movement, said the Nazi flyers were found this month on the windshields of cars parked outside of a local hotel that hosts a weekly Salsa music night that is popular draw in the Hispanic community.
Rios added that though the flyers are disturbing, he doesn’t believe the Nazi party’s presence in the city is very organized.
“It doesn’t surprise me that a group like the Nazis are here, especially now because of all the protest marches over the past two months,” Rios said, adding that it’s likely a calculated move to get free publicity.
Hess says the ANP’s goals in Pasco are more far-reaching, however. “I won’t give specifics on our personnel in Pasco,” he said, “but I can say that we are there focused on building up support and preparing for campaigning in the local elections.”
The ANP is a descendent of the original American Nazi Party, which fell into disarray with the death of its leader, George Lincoln Rockwell—who was assassinated in 1967 by one of his former disciples. The current version of the ANP has chapters in seven states and is headed by Rocky Suhayda, who was a member of Rockwell’s Nazi organization.
The ANP’s platform, according to its website, calls for creating “an all-white” America that is “free of alien, Jewish influence; an America in which white people are the sole masters of our own destiny” and in which “our grandchildren … will date and marry other young people of our own race.”
Mark Potok, a senior fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks and exposes hate groups, said the ANP’s agenda is “pretty orthodox Nazi stuff.” He added that a number of the splinter Nazi groups that were formed with the demise of the original ANP “have been associated with serious violence” in the past, “but that was like 20 or more years ago.” Still, he added, that history is concerning.
Potok estimates that the current version of the ANP, which is based in Michigan, has about 50 active members nationwide across its seven chapters. The ANP does not now have a chapter in the state of Washington, though it does have a West Coast presence in California and in the Southwest border states of Texas and Arizona, he said.
In addition, the ANP has a lobbying presence in Washington, D.C., through an individual named John Taylor Bowles, who was a U.S. presidential candidate in 2008 running under the banner of a neo-Nazi group. Bowles registered as a Capitol Hill lobbyist in April 2012 and has filed quarterly reports since that time, according to federal lobbying disclosure records.
“They [the ANP] have not poked their head up very much, so it’s interesting that they’re distributing leaflets” in Pasco, Potok said, adding that he suspects the flyers are the work of party sympathizers as opposed to active ANP members.
Making public the activity of hate groups such as the Nazis does have the negative effect of giving them publicity, Potok said. But he added that, on balance, it is usually the best approach, if the reporting exposes their racist and intolerant ideology. That has the effect of “inoculating 99 percent of the population” against their message and methods because they are so repulsive, he explained.
The ANP’s website indicates that the group does not believe in “directing its efforts … into senseless ‘demonstrations,’” but rather is focused on “campaigning for low-level political offices—school board, city council and the like, where we have an actual chance of obtaining a power base.”
“When the day comes that the ANP can field a minimum of 50 highly disciplined and well-organized SA Men [paramilitary enforcers]—or more Party Activists—we will hold public events,” the ANP website states, “but it will be held very differently than the circuses we see now. How? Well, we are not going to tell the enemy our tactics—but, I assure you, it will be a surprise that they’re not used to!”
Captain Ken Roske of the Pasco Police Department said law enforcers are aware of the ANP’s activities in the city. He added, though, that the Pasco PD does not have any information on the “specific individuals” involved with the group.
Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins said he did not know about the ANP or its supporters’ presence in Pasco until contacted by The Daily Beast. But he stressed that he is “not aware of any local candidates being related to Nazis in any way.”
“However, I do remember a Kennewick City Council candidate [in 2011] who thought people coming into the country illegally should be capitally punished,” Watkins said.
That candidate, according to media reports at the time, beyond calling for the death penalty for undocumented immigrants, also advocated making Kennewick—a sister city of Pasco—an English-only community. The council candidate lost in the general election, but did garner nearly 2,800 votes—30 percent of the total cast.
FBI Seattle Division spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich-Williams said, with respect to the ANP activity in Pasco, that the agency “doesn’t investigate anyone for constitutionally protected behavior.”
However, she stressed that the FBI “routinely supports our law enforcement partners in continually assessing the full spectrum of potential threats, and preparing to address them, if needed.”