VANCOUVER BC, Canada — The Pacific Northwest is known for being a place of beauty but there’s no denying it also has an ugly side.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center there are more than 30 hate groups in Oregon and Washington, many of them white supremacists.
Tony McAleer didn’t grow up in a home with violence, but violence would eventually find its way to him. At just 16, McAleer became a member of the White Aryan Resistance.
For 15 years McAleer ran up and down the West Coast, recruiting and advancing the mission of hate and a white nation.
“It was about a sense of purpose, a sense of power, a sense of meaning,” McAleer said. “It was absolutely intoxicating. Being with a crew of skinheads and beating people up, that was power!”
McAleer said the Pacific Northwest was appealing because of all the land and resources. The perfect place to lay roots, lay out the ideology and build the white nation piece by piece. Eventually white supremacy consumed the region where it has lived now for decades.
But in the middle of all that madness, McAleer became a father.
“For the first time in my life I made a decision that puts someone else ahead of myself,” he said.
By 1998, McAleer made it out of the White Aryan Resistance and in 2001, he founded Life After Hate. Now it’s his life’s mission to get others out of the lifestyle he once lived.
“The level to which someone is willing to dehumanize another human being is really a reflection of how internally disconnected and dehumanized they are,” McAleer said.
Through social media, Life After Hate volunteers reach out to those caught up in the white power ways, offering a new beginning.
“We’ve had 10 times more inquiries than in the last 5 years,” McAleer said.
He said what’s most alarming is the growth in young people, who he said have “experienced some type of isolation.”
“It’s in the hundreds of thousands,” he said. “It’s not in the tens of thousands.”
One of those young people is Hattibelle, who has been part of the National Socialist movement in Oregon for the last 4 years.
“You have black civil rights, Hispanic civil rights. Well, white people have civil rights as well.” — Hattibelle, National Socialist in Oregon
“We are being suppressed whether people realize it or not,” Hattibelle said. “You have black civil rights, Hispanic civil rights. Well, white people have civil rights as well.”
She said when she was in middle school in Florida, she was “harassed pretty bad” by a black student. Hattibelle is white but she doesn’t call herself a white supremacist.
“No I don’t because white supremacy in my eyes is where a white person holds themselves higher than everybody else, higher than every other race and that’s not how I believe,” she said.
Her movement’s website which lists 25 point of the party, covers things like non-white immigration.
“Right now, there’s a huge influx of illegal Somalians, Nigerians and Hispanics, mainly Mexicans from Mexico,” she said. “If that person is illegal, they get help first before we do. We were here first.”
The website also features sharp language targeting Jewish and homosexual populations.
“Homosexuality is a disease, it’s a mental disorder and it’s not really liked upon,” Hattibelle said.
Yet, she says it’s not about hate.
“Hate is a strong word. We don’t hate anybody,” Hattibelle said. “I don’t hate anybody.”
She hopes someday National Socialism will be the law of the land.
“Moving at a progressive rate may be good for some people but for us, we like our traditional morals and values,”
McAleer said if he could look a member of any hate group in the eyes, he would tell them, “It’s not worth it.”
“Nothing in your life is really going to thrive and work out,” he said. “When you realize it’s not working out for you, we’ll be here to help you.”