CHICAGO -- Midwestern white-supremacist groups are using the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to recruit new members, according to a study by a Chicago-area anti-racism group.
The Center for New Community, a six-year-old faith-based organization in Oak Park, counts 338 "white nationalist" groups in 10 Midwestern states. Some of them are using images of the burning World Trade Center towers to advocate closing America's borders, the group says in a report called "State of Hate: White Nationalism in the Midwest 2000-2001."
"These organizations have been responsible for several rallies, public events, distribution of literature and even a few crimes in recent months," said Devin Burghart, who directs the center's Building Democracy Initiative. "They're trying to use anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment in the wake of Sept. 11."
Among the Illinois groups studied are a branch of the Ku Klux Klan in Prospect Heights, the East Peoria, Ill.-based World Church of the Creator, a white-power record company in Tinley Park, and the John Birch Society in Glencoe.
Fifty-six of the groups operate in Illinois and 22 of those are in the Chicago area. Others are in Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio. Ohio has the most, with 73.
Since Sept. 11, the Neo Nazi National Alliance has distributed fliers throughout the Chicago area that feature the attacks on the World Trade Center and the phrase, "Close our Borders!" Burghart said. In the city's northern suburbs, National Alliance members have handed out leaflets blaming the attacks on the Jewish community.
Shortly after the attacks, members of the World Church of the Creator attended demonstrations in Bridgeview, a suburb southwest of Chicago. Hundreds waved flags and marched on a mosque there.
"World Church of the Creator members were out amongst the crowd looking for recruits, handing out literature," Burghart said.
The study found that in the last year, 33 percent of white nationalist groups in the Midwest were actively recruiting. That compares to 10 percent in 1998-99.