This week's acquittal in Fort Smith, Ark., of 13 white supremacist defendants, most of them charged with plotting to overthrow the government, drew concern from those attending a regional NAACP convention in Ogden.
But Bettye Gillespie, Ogden, Western Region chairwoman for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said she doesn't believe the acquittals will increase hate-group support in Utah.The Aryan Nations, a white supremacist organization based in Idaho, had announced it would open an office in the Ogden area, but Gillespie believes community opposition has kept it away.
"Obviously, they are not here. We do not believe they would be accepted. We do not believe they will find any fertile ground in Ogden," Gillespie said.
Nathaniel S. Colley, an NAACP board member and regional counsel, reaffirmed the NAACP's stand that hate groups do have the right to exist and to exercise freedom of speech, but the NAACP loathes their message of racial supremacy.
The Fort Smith federal court trial began Feb. 16 and ended Thursday with the jury's acquittal of the 13 white defendants on all charges. Nine of them were accused of plotting to overthrow the government by violence and set up an all-white nation in the Pacific Northwest.
Prosecutors sought to prove that the supremacists robbed banks and armored trucks of $4.1 million to finance their activities, including about $1 million still missing. The jury deliberated four days.
The defense contended the conspiracy theory was made up by a key government witness, James Ellison, who led a supremacist group in Arkansas and is serving 20 years in prison for racketeering.