SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Those who track white supremacists — such as the Missouri man arrested in the shootings at Jewish centers in Kansas — know that free speech often protects hate speech. But what they fear most is that dangerous intersection of hate speech and violence.
Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, after decades of spouting hate toward Jews, is accused of killing three people outside Jewish community sites last week in suburban Kansas City. None of the three slain was Jewish.
Cross, also known as Frazier Glenn Miller, had been living just outside Marionville, Mo., a city of 2,250 that, according to the 2010 Census, is 96.3% white and without a single black resident. Marionville is 25 miles southwest of Springfield.
His house sits on five acres, isolated from neighbors, other than cattle, where two lonely roads form a T-intersection. A nearby sign warns: "dangerous intersection."
Karen Aroesty, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League for Missouri, Southern Illinois and Eastern Kansas, said rural America is a great place to live for those seeking to avoid ethnic and cultural diversity.
With that said, she added, most whites don't choose to live in rural areas to avoid diversity; it's more a matter of where they happened to be born and raised. Cross moved to the Ozarks at least 12 years ago. He had been living in North Carolina, where he founded a state chapter of the KKK.
Aroesty does not believe there is anything unique to the Ozarks — the area encompassing parts of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma — that might lure hate groups. Neither does she believe they necessarily flourish here. Hate groups can just as easily be found in major urban areas across the nation.
"You don't have to live in the mountains of northern Arkansas to have a hate group," she said.
What has dramatically changed over the decades, she said, is this: In the age of the Internet, you can acquire extremist literature, contribute to extremist causes and share wild conspiracy theories without ever leaving your recliner. Today, neighbors will never see you walk to a neo-Nazi rally or buy anti-Semitic literature.
Instead, believers can get their fill of hate online, without ever leaving home.
Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., has a different view.
He thinks the Ozarks area — particularly Harrison, Ark. — has consistently been home to hate, patriot and militia groups over the decades.
The region, like a good soil, provides some of the main nutrients needed to sustain hate groups, he said.
The area has a predominantly white population, conservative religious views and a general attitude that government should stay out of people's business.
"A certain portion of the population, they don't want to be told by the government who they should like or dislike," he said.
It doesn't mean that whites, or religious conservatives, or those favoring limited government are racists, he said. Or criminals. Or dangerous.
What it means, Potok said, is that some people twist their notion of freedom from government into freedom to hate.
The law center lists 22 hate, patriot and militia groups in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas that were active in 2013.
For years, he said, such groups have flourished in three areas of the nation: the Ozarks, western North Carolina and the northern panhandle of Idaho.
"I am very aware of the Ozarks," Potok said.
No hotbed of racism
Doug Burlison, 49, a Springfield, Mo., councilman, was born and raised in Springfield and does not believe the area is a hotbed of racism or hate speech.
"That does not really resonate with me," he said.
Burlison describes himself as a Libertarian. He believes in limited government.
"There are appropriate views on limited government and there are inappropriate views," he said. "The freedom to persecute your fellow man — I do not think — is appropriate."
In rural areas, Burlison said, you simply have many people with little or no exposure to people of color.
"You are more prone to being fearful of something you are not familiar with," he said.
In Burlison's view, the Southern Poverty Law Center is no pillar of fairness. The center has included Libertarian groups on its lists, Burlison said.
The center does state that the organizations it lists do not necessarily condone violence or act violently.
"I have a real concern that people who believe in limited government not be labeled as domestic terrorists," Burlison said. "Doing that is as inappropriate as racism."
After the slayings, Marionville Mayor Dan Clevenger told reporters he was friends with Cross and shared some of Cross' views about Jews.
Then, it was discovered that about 10 years ago Clevenger wrote a scathing anti-Semitic letter to a local newspaper.
And while talking to the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader on Wednesday, Clevenger made more questionable comments about Jews while trying to back away from earlier comments.
"This country is dead," Clevenger told the News-Leader. "I hate to say that. We have a fake economy, high unemployment. Fuel prices are high. We don't have no industry. All the factories have left.
"The futures market, the Federal Reserve, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health — every time I see that on the news, there are Jewish names and they run things."
Marionville Alderwoman Jessica Wilson resigned in the wake of Clevenger's comments. Some residents are trying to impeach the mayor. Clevenger said he does not plan to resign and does not consider himself an anti-Semite.
On Friday, the Rev. Phillip Harter, a former Marionville alderman and the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Reeds Spring, defended the mayor.
Harter, 33, said Clevenger was stating what he thought were facts about Jews who were in positions of national power in government and business.
"They may not be true or they may in fact be true, according to the information you have," said Harter. "I am not saying I disagree."
"I want to make it really clear that I love the Jews," Harter said.
Aroesty, with the Anti-Defamation League, addressed Clevenger's comments in a prepared statement.
"His remarks play into classic anti-Semitic stereotypes about supposed Jewish greed, Jewish 'control' of money and the Federal Reserve, and Jewish 'control' of the government. ... This is exactly the kind of conspiratorial antisemitism and racism that can lead to acts of violence and intimidation against Jews."
'Love your people'
Seven of the 22 Ozarks groups listed by the law center have headquarters in Harrison, Ark. Two more are in nearby Bergman, Ark. Harrison is a city of 12,943. It is 96.2% white, according to the 2010 Census.
Harrison Councilman Jason Brisco declined to comment about the hate groups. Mayor Joe Crockett could not be reached for comment.
Harrison has a history of racial hatred rooted in riots in 1905 and 1909. In the first one, blacks were whipped and beaten and a white mob shot out windows, burned about 30 homes of blacks and ordered blacks to leave the city, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.
Remnants of the black community lived a tenuous existence until 1909, when Harrison's transformation to all-white was complete. A second race riot drove blacks out of town after a black man was charged with raping a white woman.
The Rev. Tom Robb and Michael Hallimore are both 67-year-old white men who operate organizations in Harrison that the law center considers hate groups. Both say they don't hate any group or person but simply love whites more than others.
Robb moved from Tucson, Ariz., to Harrison in 1971. He chose Arkansas because he wanted to live in a rural area in the middle of the nation. He chose Harrison, he said, in part because it is predominantly white.
"I certainly would not have picked Pine Bluff," Robb said. (Pine Bluff, Ark., is 75.6% black, according to Census data.)
Since the 1990s, he has held worship services. Part of his biblical message, he said, is that God wants you to "love your people."
Asked whether the message wasn't, instead to, "love your neighbor," Robb said "neighbor" can be interpreted as "your people."
In a phone interview, Hallimore calmly explained his views on race and religion, which are based solely on his reading of the Bible. He heads Kingdom Identity Ministries, which publishes Christian Identity material that the law center considers hate speech.
Christian Identity has an interpretation of the Bible that concludes European whites are the true children of Israel; Jews are descendants of Satan; and people of color have no spirits and, thus, even if Christian, are barred from heaven.
God's "elect," Hallimore said, are descendants of white Europeans from countries such as Germany and Scandinavia. Over centuries, he said, they left Israel through the Caucasus mountains and, thus, became Caucasians.
Hallimore said that although he likes some people of color, it does not mean that they have equal standing with him in the eyes of God.
"I have a couple of llamas out there," he said. "Just to say that they are not humans does not mean I don't love them. I realize that the black race and the Oriental race are much higher than a llama. But just to say that they don't hold my position does not mean I hate them."
He said he does not condone Cross' alleged actions. But he then added, "If he was going to be an assassin, why did he not go after some of the Jewish leaders in Washington, D.C., those who control the Anti-Defamation League?"
Hallimore was born in California. He chose to live in Arkansas after attending Harding University, in Searcy, Ark. He chose Harrison because it is rural and primarily white, he said.
His location in the Ozarks does not help him spread his message because he conducts business over the Internet. Customers live across the nation and around the world.
The ministry's statement of beliefs quotes the Bible, from Leviticus, that "homosexuality is an abomination before God and should be punished by death."
Asked whether he literally believed that, he said yes, adding there must be a fair trial. And then, if guilty, the state should put the person to death just as it would a murderer.
Potok, with the law center, calls Hallimore's organization the nation's top supplier of Christian Identity materials.
"I do not know if Mike Hallimore is a threat," Potok said. "But the materials he produces — that Jews are Satan. They are evil. They will destroy white people. They are preparing the world for a return of their father, Satan. ... He may not have gotten a parking ticket in his life, but he publishes the most incendiary material."
America's whitest cities
America's 10 whitest cities over 100,000 population
Hialeah, Fla., 94% (224,669)
Arvada, Colo., 92.4% (106,433)
Billings, Mont., 92.3% (104,170)
Fargo, N.D., 92.1% (105,549)
Fort Collins, Colo., 91.9% (143,986)
Springfield, Mo., 91.7% (159,498)
Boise City, Idaho, 91.7% (205,671)
Scottsdale, Ariz., 91.3% (217,385)
Spokane, Wash., 90.8% (208,916)
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 90.7% (126,326)
Source: 2010 Census