Interview with Daryle Jenkins, the Klanbuster
Everybody admires the bravery firemen exhibit by rushing into a burning building when the human survival instinct calls for exactly the opposite behavior. It is for similar reasons that you are likely to find Daryle Lamont Jenkins so fascinating, since this 37 year-old black man born in Newark devotes most of his free-time to monitoring the movements of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists.
When you’re watching the evening news coverage of the latest Klan rally, odds are Daryle’s there as part of the counter-demonstration, shouting at the racists to crawl back under a rock. Just as importantly, he’s there to take photographs in order to expose their identities by posting their mug shots on his website. Daryle has been compiling information about white supremacists since 1988, and in 2000 he joined with some like-minded activists in forming One People’s Project in order to monitor racist right-wing activity. Established in Morristown, NJ, in the aftermath of a Klan rally, the watchdog organization currently maintains a database of records and information not only on hate groups but on their individual members as well.
It is Daryle’s aim to make certain that these groups are not allowed to function in any capacity. Thusfar, his group has been successful in outing several neo-Nazis and those that give them financial support. Don’t think that being the very visible spokesman of an organization dedicated to the outing of hate groups all across the country doesn’t come with considerable risks. As Daryle explains, he routinely receives anonymous death threats, and frequently finds his website the subject of sabotage. In fact, he didn’t even feel comfortable sharing his home address or the nature of his day job with me, which is understandable, given the information he had recently received from the Federal Prosecutor’s Office. On June 16th, a couple of neo-Nazis already in custody for possession of bomb-making materials admitted that Daryle’s name had been prominent on their hit list.
While I don’t necessarily recommend joining Mr. Jenkins on the frontlines, I do hope folks will consider visiting his homepage and sending a contribution to his most worthy cause.
ONE PEOPLE''S PROJECT - http://onepeoplesproject.com
AfroToronto: How did you get started chasing the Ku Klux Klan and their ilk?
DJ: Well, monitoring politics is something I’ve done since I was a kid. I was always fascinated by the struggle for civil rights. And as a student of history, I developed an interest in those who had opposed it, trying to figure out what made them tick, so to speak. I probably began collecting data on hate groups around the time when Oprah featured some skinheads on her show and Geraldo had that incident when he had his nose broken by neo-Nazis. So, I’ve basically been doing this since I was in my teens.
AfroToronto: I remember years ago once checking into a motel in a rural part of Western Connecticut, picking up the local paper and seeing the front-page story about how the Klan had a permit to march up Main Street the very next day. Needless to say, I decided maybe I wasn’t too tired to drive another 100 miles, and I checked right back out. Besides, I don’t think I would have slept well knowing Klansman could be in the room right next door. When most black people hear that the Klan’s in town, they want to get away.
DJ: I don’t know that people of color are necessarily afraid of them, but I will definitely say that there is some confusion about what to do about them when they come around. One People’s Project is here to help people find the answer to that question.
AfroToronto: What is the ethnic make-up of your group?
DJ: It’s predominantly white. In fact, I’m one of the few people of color in the underground, anti-Fascist scene that is this active. There are a number of us, but you don’t see a lot. I’m always trying to encourage others to get involved.
AfroToronto: About how many die-hard black activists are involved in the anti-Klan movement?
DJ: Ironically, maybe two or three, and I’m one of the founders. That has to change. I’m definitely interested in recruiting more people of color.
AfroToronto: Why hasn’t that been a priority before?
DJ: Basically, because a prime way to get information is by being inside these groups. And there aren’t too many black people who could work undercover in that fashion. A lot of white people who have been a part of this organization have extracted the information that we need by infiltrating a hate group.
AfroToronto: What makes you want to show up at a Klan rally to confront them?
DJ: [laughs] I love a good fight. Basically, I’m a guy that wants to find some solutions to the problem. We can’t keep on allowing groups like the Klan, the Aryan Nation, the National Alliance, the National Vanguard, and the National Socialist Movement (neo Nazis) to hold society at-large hostage. You have to take them out.
AfroToronto: How do you go about that?
DJ: The first thing you have to do is get as much information as you can on them, determine their weaknesses, and then you go after them on that level.
AfroToronto: What type of help is your organization looking for besides financial contributions?
DJ: The main thing we need are volunteers to do research. And we also need writers. Unfortunately, we’re so short-handed that we often get frustrated by the fact that we can’t deal with a lot of things we are aware of. We’re also frustrated by our very limited finances. Everything is out-of-pocket.
Since I’ve made myself high-profile, the white supremacists have taken to going after me in any way they can. For instance, after a demonstration in March, the neo-Nazis put out a totally false press release saying that One People’s Project passed out the rocks and eggs that were thrown at the police, when none of us were even there. That inaccuracy was reported by CNN, which in turn, affects our credibility. So, we could also use some pro bono legal help to respond to libelous allegations like that.
AfroToronto: About how many white supremacist rallies a year do you monitor?
DJ: Over the past five years, an average of about five to ten.
AfroToronto: When you attend a Klan or neo-Nazi rally, how close have you come to a violent confrontation?
DJ: One People’s Project really tries to stay away from that, but you can’t guarantee that it won’t explode into that like what happened in Valley Forge in 2004, and in York, Pennsylvania on January 12, 2002. That one was huge.
AfroToronto: How huge? Were you outnumbered?
DJ: There were about 150 of them, but there 300 on our side.
AfroToronto: How did it escalate into violence?
DJ: The police didn’t keep the people apart all that well, and the next thing you know, all hell broke loose. That was one of the biggest confrontations in the past 30 years.
AfroToronto: What happened?
DJ: One neo-Nazi who ran over a dozen people with his truck, you had a number of arrests. It was crazy.
AfroToronto: As an expert on the subject, what areas of the country would you say are hotbeds of white supremacy?
DJ: In the Northeast, definitely Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is insane, because a number of groups are based there. As a matter of fact, I think the Southern Poverty Law Center lists it as the state having the largest concentration of white supremacists. Then there’s Florida in the South,
but also Portland, Oregon that has a number of Nazi groups.
AfroToronto: How do other counter-supremacist groups located close to those areas, like Anti-Racist Action, deal with the Klan?
DJ: They get into underground wars with them, by getting into battles with them in the streets, by going after them at rallies. Most of the press doesn’t cover what’s going on at that underground level, but it’s very intense and heats up.
AfroToronto: How large a contingent can One People’s Project get to attend a counter-demonstration?
DJ: We’re small. I’d say there are only about 20 or 30 people in our group right now. So, whenever we go out to an event, there are usually just a handful of us, so our main mission is to gather information. We want people to understand exactly what’s going on. We’re there with our notebooks
and pens taking down names, and with our cameras taking pictures and videotaping everything. We want every moment documented, so that people know what’s going on. One of the main features of our website is our “Rogues Gallery,” it’s loaded with a long list of people we’re concerned about that we used to call “The Scum of the Earth.” And we post their names and home addresses.
AfroToronto: Is what you’re doing legal?
DJ: Yes, we do not wish them harm, or call for anybody to do anything illegal with our information.
AfroToronto: They must still get upset about being outed over the Internet. Do they try to retaliate?
DJ: Yeah, we expect for them to try to respond and we’re prepared for it. Our website gets hacked and our servers get threatened with lawsuits.
AfroToronto: Are you at all afraid for your personal safety?
DJ: What protects me is the fact that I move a lot. So, by the time they put my information on a website, I’m pretty much out of there.
AfroToronto: You’re single, but what about your folks?
DJ: My parents have gotten calls from white supremacists, but they know how to handle the situation. My siblings haven’t been hassled as much.
AfroToronto: So, you have some enemies who would like to silence you?
DJ: Yeah, and it’s not for a lack of trying. I just won’t let them. I got a call from the Federal Prosecutor’s Office yesterday about the case of a couple of New-Nazis who were arrested on weapons charges and for conspiracy. They were caught with bomb-making materials. My name came up during the interrogation of one of them, and I was told during that call that the bomb was actually meant for me. Apparently, I was mentioned on an FBI transcript of all this.
AfroToronto: Does that scare you?
DJ: Needless to say, it’s something that I have come to expect. It’s nothing that’s going to slow me down. But it’s definitely something to stay mindful of in this line of work.
AfroToronto: Speaking of work, what’s your day job?
DJ: Sorry, but I can’t divulge that for security reasons.
AfroToronto: I suppose you wouldn’t want to answer what I call the Jimmy Bayan question, namely, where are you living now?
DJ: I can’t.
AfroToronto: Well thanks for the interview and keep up the good work.
DJ: Not a problem.