While I patiently wait for a reply from my email to ALA and OIF (https://katieanderson.camden.rutgers.edu/2018/07/12/letter-to-ala-oif/), I am going to share the responses I received from different people who research, report on and are very familiar with hate groups (specifically white supremacist groups as this is an area of my research). I reached out to them via email and twitter and expressed the concerns about the language of the statement and how it is read outside of librarianship, specifically by people who work closely with these groups and are familiar with their tactics.
Megan Squire is a Computer Science professor who applies data science techniques to study online communities and uses these techniques to track white supremacist and other hate groups. She suggests that the phrase “hate groups” be removed entirely, pointing out (as many of us have) that hate groups do not consider themselves that anyway. She notes “it will just annoy them and provide no real clarity to librarians”. Asking a hate group to identify themselves as such only leads to offend. She goes on to point out that:
“they would certainly say that they are just a political organization like any other. They would give a line about being “pro white” or even “a white civil rights” group. Thus, I would just take it out. It really serves no purpose it seems, since you may as well list every other group type in the world under there. Most hate groups are going to present themselves as Religious (e.g. Christian Identity, Creativity Movement), Social (e.g. Identity Evropa, TRS “pool parties”, Daily Stormer book clubs), Civic (e.g. Council of Conservative Citizens, pro-secession groups), or Partisan Political (e.g. Traditionalist Worker Party, National Socialist Movement) anyhow. “
Daryle Lamont Jenkins, founder of the One People’s Project has been documenting and writing about hate groups and organizations since 1988. He provides an example of an event that mirrors what many have been showing concern for; the fact that all public meeting space is open, and thus the potential for clashes remains and asks the question many of us are asking regarding how to safeguard our patrons and workers. He says:
“Thanks for reaching out. This has been an issue for some time, and there has been exceptions to the rule regardless of what the then-current one was, namely concern for safety and if the organization misrepresented themselves with a false name for example. The wording does come across as signaling, and that’s a problem given the history of such groups using meeting rooms. The most infamous was the then-named World Church of the Creator, a particularly violent White Supremacist group whose leader Matt Hale held a series of “public meetings” at libraries around the country in 2001-2002. The issue is although they were allowed to use the conference rooms because they were public spaces, what they could not do is keep anyone out of the meeting because of the same reason. That led to a number of such meetings turning into full-on riots, the most notable one being in York, PA on Jan. 12, 2002 when hundreds of neo-Nazis and antifa clashed in the streets outside the library when it was filled to capacity. It was parallel to what we saw in Charlottesville, up to an including a neo-Nazi that drove his car into a crowd of people. Luckily no one was killed, and he served two years in prison. Hale eventually went to prison for 40 years for conspiring to kill a federal judge.
I bring this up because I think if we are indeed dealing with signaling, we also have to address how we can safeguard ourselves from what hate groups bring to such an event, and put those measures in place. I would definitely take issue with the wording from the ALA policy, as well as how obtuse they are to putting things in place that will protect libraries from hate groups.”
More details on the events in York, PA.
Blanchard, S. (2017, August 22). Why we posted about a 2002 rally. York Daily Record (PA), p. A3. Available from NewsBank: https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/1666FEA72C76DBB8.
Comparison of the events in York, PA in 2002 to those in Charlottesville, VA in 2017 by someone who was present for the York clash.
Dudley, B. (2002). It can happen here: When hate comes calling. American Libraries, 33(9), 48-49. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/57563599?accountid=13626
Describes the occasion when a racist and anti semitic group in the USA, the ‘World Church of the Creator’ (WCOTC) used the public library in York County, Virginia, for a controversial speech by its leader, Matt Hale. Notes the protests that the event provoked. Highlights the use of public libraries by the group and gives advice to other librarians should they be targetted by the group.
Jordan, A. (2002). White-rights speech triggers violence, new meeting-room policy. American Libraries, 33(3), 20.
“Supporters of Hale, a white supremacist, clashed with antiracist protestors outside the library, resulting in 25 arrests and the confiscation of several guns. The library reworded its meeting-room policy to require users to show proof of $1 million in liability insurance before holding a public meeting following Hale’s appearance” Hale booked the room as a “church”. (this policy was challenged and was not sustained)
Lee, R. (2017, August 15). ‘The Battle of York’ was here. Who knew? – The neo-Nazi/white nationalist vs. anti-hate protesters clash in York 15 years ago was a battle in some people’s minds. York Daily Record (PA), p. A2. Available from NewsBank: https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/1664AF9B0B6A5148.
The events in Charlottesville prompted another reminder of the history of York.
Record staff, D. (2002, January 14). Protests turn violent on city streets SPECIAL REPORT. York Daily Record (PA), p. 10. Available from NewsBank: https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=AWNB&docref=news/0F10CB4DD10B4A96.
Detailed description of the events.
There is a reference to these events in this publication by the ADL: https://oif.ala.org/oif/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Libraries-Extremism-Anti-Defamation-League.pdf
There are several articles in Library Journal and American Libraries regarding this event as well a numerous newspaper articles.
Jarod Holt writes for Right Wing Watch. He specializes in Alt-Right groups. He too reads the wording as an invitation that appeases these groups.
That's how I'm reading that too— Jared Holt (@jaredlholt) July 12, 2018
Mark Pitcavage is an expert on right-wing extremism and the Senior Research Fellow for ADL’s Center on Extremism. He did not find the wording problematic and sees it as a way to protect libraries, but does point out that the tactics regarding library meeting rooms that have been used in the past.
Libraries that allow public events have to allow any group, even hate groups, to have events there, or they will be sued. They can have restrictions on things like commercial events but not on beliefs.— Mark Pitcavage (@egavactip) July 12, 2018
2. supremacists were holding a number of meetings in library, because it would help create publicity/controversy. Some could try that tactic again–and sue libraries that might try to prohibit them. I think this is ALA just looking out for its own members, actually.— Mark Pitcavage (@egavactip) July 12, 2018
I look at it this way: making sure ppl/libraries are protected from costly lawsuits (that would also give more publicity to white supremacists) is probably better than whatever meager joy white supremacists would get from the words "hate group" in a statement they will never see.— Mark Pitcavage (@egavactip) July 12, 2018
It is interesting that three out of the four that I contacted do read the words in the same ways many of us are reading them, while another’s thoughts are closer to the responses we have gotten from ALA. What this obviously indicates is that the interpretation is problematic and must be changed. I am heartened to see that steps are being taken to address this and I hope that the thoughts and concerns of voices like these are being taken into consideration. I thank all of them for taking the time to respond.
If you are interested in learning more about these groups and the people I reached out to, they are on this list of suggested people and organizations to follow on Twitter who specialize on researching and reporting on hate groups and extremism. This list is by no means comprehensive and I am continuously identifying people doing important and often very brave work on these groups, as each person here and most of the people on the list have been subject to threats and harassment themselves because of the work they are doing.