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Spam Kings by Brian S McWilliams

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Ho, Ho, Ho, the Nazis Didn't Show

In a matter of days, orders from Davis Hawke's eBay auctions started to roll in. He found that buyers, caught up in the excitement of the auction, were often willing to bid more than double the price he'd charge for the same item at the KOF site. And since eBay was brokering the deal, there was less of a chance of someone ripping him off with a bad check. The new, tax-free cash flow helped allay his fears about having to take a humiliating civilian job that summer, such as flipping burgers at McDonalds or mowing lawns for the ground crew at Wofford.

As classes finally ended in mid-May 1999, Hawke turned his attention to drafting what he called the Millennium Plan—a long-term strategy for turning the Knights of Freedom into a mainstream political party. The first step would be a new name, the American Nationalist Party (ANP), and a new web site, ANParty.com. To broaden the movement's appeal, Hawke decided he'd drop the Nazi graphics and replace them with American flags, bald eagles, and other patriotic symbols. He'd phase out using the Bo Decker moniker. To cap off the change, that summer ANP members would assemble at the group's to-be-built training camp on some property owned by a comrade in Virginia. They'd spend a weekend setting up a shooting range and an obstacle course. And there would be time for camaraderie with other proud Aryans. Then, by the end of the summer, the ANP would stage a massive rally in Washington, D.C., where he would give a speech in front of the White House.

In preparation for the event, Hawke had been on the phone with city police and the National Park Service about getting a demonstration permit. The bureaucrats seemed confused by the name of Hawke's group; he had to correct them several times when they referred to it as the American Nazi Party or the Nationalist Movement. The city, apparently still jumpy from a Ku Klux Klan march down Constitution Avenue in 1990 that resulted in injuries and arrests, wanted an accurate estimate of how many protestors would assemble and a detailed plan about where they would march and give speeches.

Since the White Pride News Service e-letter had over 1,600 subscribers, Hawke figured conservatively that 300 members would be at the rally. That was the estimate he gave D.C. police anyway, but Hawke secretly had his doubts. His top lieutenants—who comprised five people, including Patricia—were gung ho about the event. But Hawke wasn't sure about the rank and file. The party's member rolls had swollen quickly. But he had met only a handful of them face to face. Would these people take an active interest in promoting the interests of the White Race?

The previous November, Hawke had sent email to members announcing a January rally in Andrews, North Carolina, in support of serial bomber Eric Robert Rudolph. Rudolph, whom Hawke referred to in the email as an "Aryan Hero," was a suspect in the 1996 bombings of an abortion clinic and a gay nightclub and was thought to be hiding from federal authorities in the woods surrounding Andrews.

"It's time to stop talking and start acting!" Hawke had written, asking for an electronic show of hands from those who would attend. "We MUST make it known to the citizens of that town and to all the world that they are not alone in their struggle against world Jewry and federal tyranny, that an organization FINALLY exists which will not allow these crimes to continue!"

Hawke had been hoping for 200 volunteers to answer the call and make the midwinter trek to Andrews. But when only a few emailed him to say they could come to North Carolina, he quietly told them the rally for Rudolph had been called off.

One day in late May, Hawke was at his desk, musing about the logistics of the March on Washington. What if, despite all his careful planning and propaganda, only a couple dozen people showed up? What if the "Greenbaum development," as he referred to all the bashing he was taking from other neo-Nazis and the liberal media, had truly undermined his leadership?

Hawke pushed those doubts out of his mind. Instead, he tried to focus on a more manageable matter—a plan for boosting his income online. The eBay auctions had been labor-intensive, and Hawke was curious about running his own Internet shop, without eBay's constraints and commissions. He typed the address of a domain registration service into his web browser. Once there, he checked whether the name KnifeDepot.com was taken. Besides being something of a fetish for Hawke, knives were the items doing best in his eBay auctions. But the domain was already registered, as were KnifeMarket.com, KnifeShop.com, and nearly every other variation.

Then he tried Knifed.com. It was still available, so Hawke pounced, registering his first domain not connected to the white-power movement. To protect his image as the ANP's leader, Hawke listed Patricia as Knifed.com's owner. His plan was to develop it into an online megastore for all sorts of personal weaponry, including high-margin collectible items.

The American Knife Depot, as he named the site, was little more than a list of items and their prices, with a few pictures he had found in a clip art collection and some he had copied from other sites. Shoppers couldn't order online—they had to send a check to a post office box he had opened in Chesnee. But it was a start.

Next, it was just a matter of letting the world know the knife site was there. Drawing on a technique he had learned from promoting the Knights of Freedom site, Hawke seeded several online discussion groups with messages about the American Knife Depot. The messages—Hawke's first batch of spam—were terse and largely in uppercase, a far cry from the loquacious and colorful junk emails Hawke would broadcast by the millions a few years later. "WE'VE GOT THEM ALL AT THE AMERICAN KNIFE DEPOT! Lowest prices in the industry, quick shipping, top-quality - ABSOLUTELY GUARANTEED," shouted Hawke's nascent spams.

With Patricia's help, Hawke spent the early part of June getting the Knife Depot operational while managing his eBay auctions. Only a few orders came in from the Knifed.com web site, but Hawke's auctions were buzzing. His office in the trailer had become a shipping and receiving center, with his desk buried under cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, and rolls of packing tape.

Despite the distractions, in late June Hawke finally managed to nail down a date for the rally with the D.C. police—Saturday August 7. In just over a month, he would take the full measure of the movement he had built. The prospect both thrilled and terrified him. None of his white-power heroes—Metzger, Richard Butler, or Ben Klassen—had ever attempted such a daringly public display of Aryan pride and unity. Then again, Hawke reminded himself, none of them had harnessed the Internet the way he had. If all went well, the rally might even draw members of other groups, and provide a coalescing point for all American racialists.

In an email announcement, Hawke phrased the March on Washington as a challenge to ANP members: "I'm going to be there whether one person stands by my side or whether one thousand rally behind me. I'm going to be there whether I'm threatened, whether I'm shot at, whether I'm ridiculed, or whether I'm slandered. I'm going to be there—no matter what."

Hawke's police-approved plan was to assemble party members in James Monroe Park at three o'clock sharp. The comrades would greet each other with firm handshakes and salutes. There would be drummers or perhaps bagpipes to inspire the gathering. When the assembly reached a critical mass, with Hawke leading the charge they would march the six blocks or so down H Street to Lafayette Park, just across the street from the White House. They'd probably face heckling and even physical attacks along the route, but the police had promised to provide flanking protection the entire way.

At the park, the crowd would pause in front of the statue of President Andrew Jackson, and Hawke would give his speech, using a bullhorn to address the throng. Other party leaders and representatives of other groups would follow. Finally, participants would cross Pennsylvania Avenue and end the march with a picket directly in front of the White House. Hawke had obtained a three-hour demonstration permit, so they would need to disperse by six o'clock.

Word of the ANP's rally traveled quickly throughout the Internet, and not just among neo-Nazis. Several anti-fascist groups swung into action, putting their members on notice to be ready. Everyone from the NAACP and the American Jewish Committee to the Latino Civil Rights Center was abuzz with plans for counterdemonstrations advocating racial and religious tolerance.

A few days before the big weekend in August, Hawke and Patricia shipped some final orders for jewelry and knives. Hawke did a couple of phone interviews about the upcoming rally, including one with the Washington Post. Then he and Patricia packed a suitcase and made the six-hour drive to Fredericksburg, Virginia. There, they would stay at the home of "Doc" O'Dell, a party officer who had a farm about an hour from downtown Washington. The farm was to become the ANP training compound and would be the layover for demonstrators from out of state. With Patricia at the wheel, Hawke practiced reading his speech aloud several times.

Upon their arrival, Major O'Dell, despite being some thirty years Hawke's senior, dutifully pulled Hawke's old suitcase out of the trunk and carried it into the house. As O'Dell was setting the suitcase down in the entry hall, Hawke saw him check the name on the luggage tags—Greenbaum.[2] Hawke winced when he realized he had neglected to update the labels, but O'Dell didn't mention the matter.

Following Hawke's instructions, O'Dell had set up a camping area in the fields beside his house and had brought in food and drinks and even a rented Porta-Potty for the campers. Two large rental vans stood in the driveway, ready to taxi demonstrators into D.C. Many of the protestors would join them at a designated staging area at the edge of the city, from which the D.C. police would bus them downtown. But on the eve of the march, only three party members had arrived.

Just after two o'clock on the afternoon of August 7, over 2,000 D.C. police officers took their positions, in full riot gear, along Pennsylvania Avenue and around Monroe Park. Over 300 National Park Service police, with the support of Secret Service agents, also patrolled the area. Even D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey was on the scene, wearing a helmet and carrying a riot baton, seriously bothered by the million dollars the special police force was costing the city.

More than a thousand counterprotestors surrounded the twenty-block area that had been cordoned off by the police. The demonstrators were chanting and holding anti-Nazi, pro-love signs. Many of them wore bandanas around their necks in anticipation of tear gas. Scores of media people, who had staked out Monroe Park with their cameras, satellite uplink trucks, and boom microphones, were taking it all in.

When the appointed hour arrived and the ANP still hadn't made its appearance at the park, everyone began to grow restless. Had the neo-Nazis decided to move their rally to another location to avoid counterdemonstrators? Chief Ramsey stepped into the middle of H Street, surrounded by media. He told them his department was ready, but the ANP might not be, and he planned to give them all the time they needed to get to the park and hold their rally.

But at the parking lot designated as the pick-up spot, city busses idled empty when a lone American Nationalist Party member pulled up in a car just after three p.m. No sign of anyone except a few bored police officers sipping iced coffee outside their vehicles. Dressed in an SS uniform, the ANP member[3] walked up to the policemen and asked whether Davis Hawke and other party members had been transported to the park yet.

The officers looked the neo-Nazi up and down. Then one replied with a smirk, "No sign of your people, but there's plenty of company waiting for you at Monroe."

The policemen watched as the ANP member returned to the car. After a few minutes, the vehicle pulled out of the lot and quickly headed away.

When word that the march had been called off reached Lafayette Square, counterprotestors began to celebrate. In one section, a group of several hundred people joyously chanted, "Ho, ho, ho, the Nazis didn't show," while others banged plastic drums and blew whistles.

By that time, Hawke and Patricia had already been back in Chesnee for hours. They had climbed out the window of their first-floor bedroom in O'Dell's farmhouse at three in the morning, so Hawke wouldn't have to face the humiliation. They drove straight home, stopping only once for a fuel break. As the miles rolled past, Hawke had composed his letter of resignation. He tried to channel the anger and embarrassment he felt into eloquence. "Whether through laziness, cowardice, or lack of commitment, almost all of you have let down the Party and the white race itself," he chided the members who didn't show up for the march.

"The Party has failed to achieve the standards that I set forth one year ago, and as a man of honor I must therefore resign my position as Leader and Party Chairman," Hawke told them. He closed by saying he would disable the party's web site and his email account within a few days.

Hawke posted the letter at the ANP site and emailed it to his list that evening. By the time he went to bed, Hawke was already feeling better about the day's events. It had been an amazing twelve months since he first announced the Knights of Freedom on the Internet. He believed he might someday reemerge on the political stage. But until then, he would step out of the spotlight and turn his full attention to his Internet businesses. Freed from the constraints of being a public persona, Hawke could finally allow his online ingenuity to run wild.

[2] This detail first reported by Erik Hedegaard in "Rise and Fall of the Campus Nazi" (Rolling Stone, 14 October 1999, p 81).

[3] In a May 2004 telephone interview, Hawke revealed that Jeff Krause, executive vice president of the American Nationalist Party, was the only member of the ANP who showed up at the march.

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