anti-racists have their day in court

Brent Finnegan -- December 5th, 2007

On October 20, several activists calling themselves Anti Racist Action Harrisonburg (ARAH) confronted three men in Barnes & Noble — men ARAH believed were white supremacists — and created a disturbance, publically accusing the three men them of being neo-nazis. Three activists spent the night in jail, and were charged with wearing masks in public, a class 6 felony.

Today, a sympathetic judge dismissed charges against the activists, and ordered them to steer clear of B&N.

One of the defendants, Christopher Heneghan is a spokesperson for the group. While Heneghan didn’t specifically defend ARAH’s actions, he does believe that white supremacists in the Valley should be exposed. He said, “Neo-nazi organizing in our community should be confronted.” He said one way of accomplishing that is a “nonviolent direct action” like the one ARAH took at B&N, but added that there are other ways of confronting and exposing racism.

Anti Racist Action is organizing a benefit concert and presentation at The Little Grill on Friday, December 14 at 8pm. Heneghan hopes to raise some money to help pay for legal fees incurred in today’s ARAH cases, and to educate the public about racism in the area.

Hat tip to Dave Reynolds at the DNR for letting me follow him around today.

78 Responses to “anti-racists have their day in court”

  1. veggies! yum yum! says:

    i agree with Emmy, I think that what will keep these extremist suppressed is to show our overwhelming majority!

    Thanks for stepping up Eli!

  2. JohnLL says:

    Emmy, like you, I have read this thread with interest. A question for you: did you grow up in the same house as your “father?” If you did, how did you learn that you didn’t agree with his views? It seems to me that many people blindly follow along with whatever they grew up with. At least, that’s my experience in dealing with high schoolers.

  3. Frank J Witt says:

    John, I lived upstairs from a man that in the town is considered the most hateful of all people. Watching his actions and how ridiculous they were is what allowed his children to change their tune. His children saw things differently because of what they saw. I can hope his children’s interactions in school or on the playground help change their views…but you can ever change someone that is hateful, just to be hateful.

    The idea of someone being better than someone else stems from their own shortcomings. Whether it is about money, property or clothing, they view the enemy negatively because they PERCEIVE the other person has somehow got “a leg up on them”. Sad but true.

  4. JohnLL says:

    “The idea of someone being better than someone else stems from their own shortcomings.”

    I agree, Frank. I would also add ignorance and fear; we tend to fear that which we do not understand….

  5. Emmy says:

    Well I don’t know how I would have turned out if he’d been this way when I was little. My parents divorced when I was 10 but while he still lived with us he wasn’t the way he is now. My mother never would have married him if he’d been like this when they met. This has come about in the past five years or so. I guess I’m lucky.

  6. David Miller says:

    Just my two cents. I never see outright racism anymore. Growing up I had an uncle who would make racist jokes but that’s about it (I didn’t get them because the supposition was always that blacks were inferior, I didn’t hold that assumption and therefore didn’t get the jokes). To be honest with you, until I got to college I didn’t know that racism still existed outside of my uncle (my mother did a great job of shielding me from bigots). We find ourselves debating over what can be done. I don’t really have any earth shattering answers but can contribute the following. I love jokes, I can only remember one or two of them and well that’s just me. Whenever I tell a joke to lighten the mood or whatever the situation is, I have discovered that a lot of times people will come back with a racist joke. If I’m white and they’re white then they assume that I’m going to laugh. I don’t. In fact I insist that people don’t tell them around me. It’s just a rule I have, my friends know this and respect it. It’s really easy to live by, it’s a really easy way make a tiny difference that lets people know that racist humor is not funny, it’s bigotry.

  7. Kyle says:

    Having been raised in the North, I was never exposed to racism (I’m not saying that there is no racism in the North, just that it was not seen in my neck of the woods). I never experienced racism until I moved to the South. Here I’ve seen lots of racism of all different types.

    I’ve also experienced hatred and intolerance toward me for being a “Yankee” to which I can only reply “that war happened over 140 years ago, get over it. Or at least, if you want to glorify a war, pick one that you actually won.”

    Lastly, and this boggles my mind, is the disdain, arrogance and condescencion that I expereince down here by so called “chrisitians” who feel it necessary to force their beliefs on me and then get angry if I don’t share their beliefs and thoughts. I was brought up that your religious beliefs are personal, not to be forced down other people’s throats, and to respect different belief systems.

  8. JohnLL says:

    Glad to hear you haven’t encountered outright racism, David, but I have. Just three months ago former students wrote racist messages on the outside of my classroom window, backwards, so I would be sure to understand their meaning. One of the phrases attacked me, the other attacked my 7- and 8-year old daughters. Sure gave me something to talk about in my classes that day!

  9. David Miller says:

    I can imagine it would! I have the luxury of choosing whom I associate with. As a teacher, you lack this luxury (but have the honor of a choir to whom you can preach truth). I’d like to think that racism is fading over time. I’d like to believe that our grandparent’s generation was the last to feel truly justified in their racism (with your story as proof, this is not absolute). I’d like to believe that with the positive influence of people like you and I, this to shall pass. We’ll see.

  10. Draegn88 says:

    The ara decided that they would go into Barnes and Nobles and “verbally assault” some people. Regardless of how the ara and anyothers here may feel about National Socialists, or White Nationalists, we just as you are entitled to freedom of speech, assembly, and association.

    Who are the ara to deny those persons their rights? They made a decision, now they must suffer the consequences of those decisions.

    They did not have to hire a lawyer. I believe that judge Heatwole would have rendered the same decision regardless of legal advisement.

    Some of you here may wish to call me a racist. I do not care. You know the childhood rhyme. “Sticks and stones…” I will tell you this, I have my believes and feelings because I am tired of being subjected to government sponsered racism for no other reason that being white. Racism is a two-way street. My journey on this road started in kindergarden. You can continue to come at me with your highbeams on, or you can treat me the way you wish to be treated. Pick one, the choice is yours.

  11. JGFitzgerald says:


    Your self-pity is interesting, but leaves out a vital point. If people on this blog or elsewhere despise you for what you are, you may indeed be the subject of the same sort of judgmental and unforgiving attitude that you espouse. But there is a difference between judging people by what they were born to and judging them by what they have chosen to become.

    And what a shame Robert Fulghum wasn’t in your class.

  12. Commie Redneck says:

    If “white nationalists” like the ones who run VNN believe in freedom of speech, they should institute an open membership policy on their message board.

  13. Ben says:

    Wow, where to start? There are so many good points here, and so many parallels to our larger political climate I could follow tangents for most of the day!

    I believe some of the most important points to consider here are directly or indirectly raised by Lowell about half way down the thread. If we reduce the arguments about tactics, intent, and agenda down to the single point of personal responsibility, the fine points are distilled into the question of “What am I going to do about this?”

    You can’t “fight” hatred; that strengthens it. You can’t “protect” yourself from fear mongering, that’s their agenda, to create isolation through fear. You can’t win an argument that starts from an entirely irrational position, since the irrational conviction is the argument’s strength.

    What we CAN do, is continue to live our lives in the must UNAFFECTED way possible. Not ignore it. Say to people exactly what we think and don’t ever look the other way. Do what you believe, and talk about it. You aren’t going to win over the irrational, hate-filled narcissists, but everyone else is going to see what you do and who you are and in the long run (sadly, it’s the long run again) you and everyone else living the same convictions are going to win. The neo-nazis will stand out like a broken toe, because in fact, they are broken. To that end, it’s important to identify a broken toe, and bandage it if it’s practical.

    As for the Grill, I’m not sure Bob Driver likes being talked about in the past tense. The place is definitely different from the old dirty blues, Mildred, smoky days of old (Damn, that makes me one of those 40 year old yuppies?), but it has continued to evolve as a business in a positive direction, although different, and still has the best food in town. Some businesses exist solely as a means to generate revenue, and some exist around a concept and are successful in their own right. I think the Little Grill fits the latter category. I respect their decision in the matter for the reasons given. I might not make the same decision, but it certainly wasn’t irresponsible on their part.

  14. Draegn88 says:

    VNN has an open membership. Anyone can join. If a person proves to be disruptive they are banned to the op board.

  15. Kyle says:

    By “disruptive” do you mean if the blogger has a different opinion and doesn’t conform to your beliefs then he/she is banned to the op board? It seems to me that if you want YOUR voice to be heard, then you should be man enough to allow others to voice theirs in civil discourse.

  16. Lydia Lichen says:

    I am pretty amazed that there are folks out there that do not experience racism.

    Has it has become so ingrained and institutionalized that it goes unnoticed?

    In Portraits of White Racism, David Wellman (1993) has defines racism as “culturally sanctioned beliefs, which, regardless of intentions involved, defend the advantages whites have because of the subordinated position of racial minorities,”

    Take a long look around and I think you will notice that 9 times out of 10 the person in charge is white, and the person doing the crap job is one of color. In my mind that’s racism, and I see it everyday. People of color live in a certain neighborhood, whites live in another. People of color mow yards and work at poultry plants. Look at the color of our prisons, and do the research as to why…anyone who doesn’t see racism in their daily life isn’t looking.

    On a separate note, I heard “Neven” (one of the young men arrested in the B&N protest) on “Eye on Hate Radio” last night, anyone who didn’t get a chance to hear this courageous, articulate young man should go to and listen to the pod cast of the show. No matter if you agree with all of his tactics or not, at least he’s standing up for what he believes is right when most folks are standing on the side lines.

    Also…don’t forget Anti Raciest Rally on Court Square today (Friday) at 4:30.

  17. Draegn88 says:

    Kyle, I am not a moderator on VNN. My understanding of “disruptive” is people who post spam, interrupt threads, or do things such as posting pornography.

    Lydia, why is it the “PC” belief that only whites can be racist? Why does this author as you posted:

    In Portraits of White Racism, David Wellman (1993) has defines racism as “culturally sanctioned beliefs, which, regardless of intentions involved, defend the advantages whites have because of the subordinated position of racial minorities,”

    and others such as the recent attempt of the University of Maryland to require all students to attend classes where racism was defined as “only whites can be racist” and the University of Oregon who had a similiar policy?

    Are not the members of the New Black Panther Party equally, if not more racist than a white supremist?

    Kamau Kambon, read what he has to say;

  18. Lydia Lichen says:

    I was in no way saying that only “whites” can be racists. Unfortunately, all humans have that potential. Wellman’s book specifically deals with “white racism” and thus the context of his definition.

  19. Draegn88 says:


    Thank you for clarifying that. Unfortunately however, there are too many people who believe that Wellman’s definition is the only one.

    I do agree with you in that anyone regardless of race or ethnicity can be a racist, supremist, nationalist, or any other kind of “IST” that a person chooses to be.

  20. JGFitzgerald says:

    Whites are not the only racists. But they’re the only ones who’ve felt superior enough to kidnap and enslave four million members of another race. Nazis aren’t the only racists. But they’re the only ones to murder eleven million of their fellow men and women.

    Whites and nazis don’t stand alone. But they do stand out, don’t they?

  21. Draegn88 says: shows that whites were not the first and not the last. Saying that only whites felt superior is wrong.

    I disagree with your number of 11 million, just as you will disagree with my number of 5.75 million. Regardless, I see any number as a waste of resources that could have been better used. One must wonder as to how many potential cures, symphonies, and artwork were lost.

  22. luis padilla says:

    It is Luis Padilla the family values man from the valley
    You’re talking about us Christians, but the intolerant here is you. I don’t put my values and beliefs on you but I have to talk about them
    another thing…you talk about hate…I want to ask you…
    Why do you hate our PRESIDENT

  23. Kyle says:

    Aaah Luis, Luis, glad to see you back. No, I’m quite accurate in my assessment. I’m so tired of supposed christians telling me that I need to be “born again” and that I have to accept “JC as my savior,” blah, blah, blah. I don’t need, nor do I desire, to hear the rants of these simpletons (I think I was born just right the first time, thank you very much).

    It seems many of these born again preachers are former felons, pediphiles, crackheads or pyschiatric patients that never accomplished anything in life anyway. They suddenly “find” God, gain a little bit of perceived respectablity by becoming a preacher, and then feel the need to force their new-found glory on everyone else. I’m tired of goof balls telling my how to lead my life and what to believe. If I’m intolerant its because the self-righteous made me that way.

    As for your last question, I’m not sure that it fits in this thread but I’ll quickly respond. I, like most of the U.S. and the world, think that bush is the most dangerous, incompetent, greedy, an unconscionable president in American history who has done irrepairable harm to this great nation.

    . The reasons that I dislike him so are many and don’t need to written here. Instead, here are a couple of websites that explain it better than I ever could.
    (this is an EXCELLENT site Luis).

    and just for fun………


  24. Kyle says:

    Did you visit the sites? Any questions?

  25. Commie Redneck says:

    Dragen88, I’m throwing my better judgement to the wind and trying to reason with you:

    A) The politics of anti-racist action have nothing to do with the politics of the “New Black Panther Party”, which, in case you don’t know, is a front for the notorious Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam is the black equivalent of Neo-Nazis, such as yourself; (and the folks at Barnes and Noble that our friends at ARA were trying to whip) misogynistic, homophobic anti-Semites who use pseudo-theology to justify their unscientific notions regarding the subject of human genetics. (In fact, they frequently tried to side with the Neo-Nazis and the KKK, who you probably like, to further their shared goal of racial purity.) The politics of ARA, or at least the average ARA member, is anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, and opposed to all forms of genuine anti-Semitism (by anti-Semitism I mean genuine hatred of the Jewish people, not just opposition to the policies of the state of Israel)

    B) The “New Black Panther Party”, in case you didn’t know, is choosing to use the steal the name “Black Panther Party” from a group of famous 60s radicals because the name has positive connotations among most working-class and some middle-class blacks and because the name also has negative connotations among the (predominately white) mass-media, negative connotations that they wish to posess in order to get attention. The New Black Panther party has nothing to do with the Black Panther Party we all know about from the 60s. The folks from the 60s Black Panther Party were heroes who believed in the freedom of blacks to take power in their matters of own life and to practice self-defense against racism. The Nation of Islam is a religious cult, like the Manson Family, the Moonies, Scientologists, or the People’s Temple, and it’s motivations are similar to any other religious cult. All of the folks still around who had a part in the 60s Black Panther Party are disgusted by the Nation of Islam’s appropriation of their name and are vocally opposed to the Nation of Islam’s politics

    C) Racism generally refers to the pathological, pseudo-scientific notion that there’s this magic genetic barrier that separates people who are “white” from people who are “non-white” (Are Turks and Assyrians white? What about Armenians, Georgians, and Chechens? What about Tatars? Most Russians think Georgians, Armenians, and Chechens are “black”, whereas many Greek fascists view Kurds and Armenians as white and Albanians as non-white. And Anglo-Saxons used to view Slavs, Southern Europeans, Celts, and Finno-Ugric and Baltic people as non-white, and Spanish and Scandinavian fascists respectively still view Basques and Lapps respectively as somewhat un-white despite being fellow native Europeans) or the general irrational aversion to the social or sexual intermingling of people who have randomly been assigned as “white” with those assigned as “non-white”, or more broadly individuals who let this socially constructed attitude dramatically effect their dealings with or opinions of other people.

    D) However, I think of racism, I generally think of the historical fact that European nation-states conquered the Americas, the Middle East/Central Asia, India and Southern Asia, China, Siberia, Southeast Asia, Polynesia, Australia and Oceania, (This doesn’t mean all Europeans and all European culture is “bad”. I’m very proud of my Southern German and Scotch-Irish heritage, and as someone who was raised by a conservative Mennonite family I probably have ten times more real connections to my German heritage than you or any other American Neo-Nazi) and in my opinion racist attitudes are very much shaped by the real economic situations people are in. As the poster Lydia Lichen has alreadypointed out, there is real, substantial racial inequality in the current economic and political set-up we live in, not just percieved racial oppression like the kind you allege to have experienced because of your bad time in kindergarten. (Kindergarten was hard for all of us. A Russian kid picked on me and stuck a booger up my nose in kindergarten but that hasn’t given me a genocidal hatred of Russians)

    E) Black fascists like the Nation of Islam and the New Black Panther Party are dangerous, but an irrelevant political force compared to Neo-Nazis. (relatively speaking. Thankfully Neo-Nazis such as yourself are also currently fairly irrelevant) But I’m sure the day a Harrisonburg section of the Nation of Islam forms there will still be people there to point out how ridiculous and silly it is.

    PS: Regarding your comments directed towards Joe Fitzgerald, the numbers you cite only take into account the Jewish deaths. (And your numbers are a conservative estimate, as more than 5 million Jews were killed, but that’s another argument for another day) More than 11 million people perished at the hands of Adolf Hitler’s administration, if you count the Roma a.k.a. “gypsies” that were jailed and slaughtered along with those deemed mentally and physically handicapped by malicious, incompetent Nazi “scientists”, as well as homosexuals, women viewed as “anti-social” (ie: women who practiced the freedom to use contraceptives, women who forced by existing economic situations to prostitute themselves, and women who were lesbians or perceived as being lesbians because they lived alone) and religious, political, and artistic dissidents. and especially if you count the tens of millions of Poles and Russians who were killed in Hitler’s unprovoked invasion of Eastern Europe. Also, no, Europeans were not the first and only people to enslave any one. That’s irrelevant. The power dynamics of the Chinese empire or the Mali empire have no bearing on contemporary sociological reality, which is nothing you can say about the long-term results of white colonization.

    I’m only trying to argue with you because you don’t seem like a Nazi. You seem like a garden-variety conservative who doesn’t realize the full ramifications of what he’s saying.

  26. finnegan says:

    Are you guys seriously trying to have a debate about the holocaust of WWII on hburgnews?


    There are thousands of other forums for that debate all over the world wide web (and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find or make any new arguments on those forums).

    Please, do not carry it out here.

  27. Anti Racist Action Harrionsburg says:

    Just wanted to let people know that tomorrow night (Thursday, Jan 17th) at 8pm we are going to be having the show for ARAH. It is taking place at Jimdels (formerly Captain Tees – 1594 S. Main St.) with PaPa Grove, Secret Ninja Death Squad, The Brooms, Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Ryders, & Big Drum in the Sky Religion. It should be a great show and the cover is only $5. Hope to see everyone there tomorrow!!!

  28. Kyle says:

    You’ve lined up some great bands!

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