White supremacist Frazier Glenn Cross, once known in these parts as Glenn Miller, provided my Indiana family with a bracing welcome to the South when we moved to Raleigh in the early 80s. While it didnt take long to see that North Carolina as a whole was a delightful place to live, full of diverse and accepting people, reading about this nightmare of a man and his local ilk was a lesson in the lingering existence of hardcore, out-in-the-open activist racism.
On my first drive down to Topsail Island (the old way, through Johnston County,) I was astonished to see a gigantic billboard advertising the local chapter of the KKK. As I was growing up in southern Indiana, the Klan was so surreptitious in its doings that it existed at least for my classmates and me as dark rumor.
After seeing the billboard, I began to take notice of stories about the activities of this chapter of the Klan, known first as the Carolina Knights and later as the Confederate Knights, and their founder and leader Glenn Miller. I followed their progress with quiet alarm as they took on an even more radical bent, calling themselves the White Patriot Party and training themselves for armed conflict.
In 1985, when my new husband and I formed a support group for interracial families, we were earnestly warned to beware of these men. When our group was profiled in a story in The News & Observer, I witnessed a chilling apprehensiveness among sympathetic local folks about our high profile.
Miller/Cross has engaged in a terrifying brand of racist activism since the late 70s. He participated then in a Klan protest of a Communist Workers Party march in Greensboro, at which five CWP members were shot to death. Since then he has waged a relentless, aggressive, unabashedly violent campaign to destroy any segment of the population not white and Christian. His efforts continued full throttle until Sunday, when he was arrested after madness was unleashed in Kansas City. My heart sank when I saw the story. These shootings were almost inevitable.
But an evaluation of how Miller might have been thwarted requires judicious consideration of the balance between one citizens personal liberty and other citizens personal safety. Are there constitutionally sound, broad and legal sanctions that might have been levied upon Miller to hinder him during his decades of menace and prevent what happened Sunday? Its a complicated question, but we must learn to answer it better than we have.
Miller has frequently operated well outside the protections of free speech. Some will remember that he successfully endeavored to spirit weaponry off the Army base at Fort Bragg to support militia-style training of White Patriot Party members. He has been sued for harassment and intimidation and has served time in federal prison for weapons and explosives crimes. But the criminal justice systems hit-or-miss efforts to rein him in have never seemed to coalesce.
Our country has to find a way to deter an individual so explicitly eager to cause others deadly harm.
News stories have described confusion on the part of a nephew of Miller about what might have prompted these three murders. The nephew wondered whether the lethal violence was triggered by some personal upset, perhaps involving an insult, excessive drinking or a loss of money. It isnt this nephews responsibility to provide answers, of course. But it is surprising to read that any relative of Frazier Glenn Miller/Cross would be puzzled by this materialization of Millers long-held ambitions. A glaring feature of this devastating act is that it was entirely predictable.
Julie Boler is a freelance writer in Raleigh.