WHITE POWER AT THE Glendale Holiday Inn
J. B. STONER
As a teenager, Jesse Benjamin (J.B.) Stoner was a Kleagle, or recruiter, for the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia. In the 1950s, he formed the Christian Anti-Jewish Party. He was the National Chairman of the anti-Black, anti-Jewish National States Rights’ Party (NSRP) whose goal was to stop the civil rights movement by any means, encouraging supporters to obtain and use firearms. To further that end, he also committed violent acts against civil rights activists, including the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, when he planned the planting of a bomb near his church. Shuttlesworth had fought against segregation, organizing sit-ins and boycotts, and established the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights when the NAACP (originally founded in 1909 as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in response to ongoing violence against Black people) was outlawed in Alabama in 1956. Shuttlesworth had already endured other attacks on his life and church due to his activism.
On June 29, 1958, the bomb Stoner placed at the Bethel Baptist Church was discovered by a man keeping watch on the church; it exploded breaking windows but causing no injury or death. (In newspaper accounts this bombing is often conflated with 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963 that killed four children, and to which Stoner had no known connection.)
Although Stoner was suspected of planning and carrying out several bombings of synagogues and churches during the civil rights era, he was only convicted for his part in the Bethel Baptist Church bombing 22 years after the act was committed. He was sentenced in 1980 to 10 years in prison. Despite fighting extradition for two years, fleeing after his conviction and failing to surrender for more than four months, he served only three and half years in prison. He was released on parole in 1986.
Between the bombing of Bethel Baptist Church and his arrest for the crime, Stoner became an attorney and would oversee James Earl Ray’s appeal when he was convicted in the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.
Rev. Fred L. Shuttleworth
Stoner ran for public office often. He made two failed runs to be the governor of Georgia in the 1970s; he also ran for United States senate and for lieutenant governor. He ran venomous television ads that the NAACP petitioned to have removed due to the use of a racial slur and inflammatory, obscene statements. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sided with Stoner and the broadcasters. The FCC ruled the ads did not represent a “clear and present danger” and to pull the ads would be censorship of political speech and would violate the First Amendment. Laws requiring “truth in advertising” have been consistently found by courts not to apply to political advertisements.
J.B. Stoner with James Earl Ray
By 1986, when Stoner had completed his prison sentence, the NSRP had ceased activities. He founded a new organization, the Crusade Against Corruption, to urge white people to “vote and purge corruption from government . . . so that we can restore Freedom, White Rights and White rule.” He embarked on a national tour, holding rallies in various cities along with other known racists like Tom Metzger of the White Aryan Resistance. Glendale was one of his stops.
WHITE POWER IN GLENDALE
In 1987, one year after his release from prison, J.B. Stoner sent fliers to “White Patriots” to alert them of his planned rally in Glendale on Sunday, November 22nd at the Holiday Inn on Pioneer Drive. The media became aware of the event, and it then came to the attention of the City Manager at the time, James (Jim) Rez. Rez made it clear to Stoner and other racist groups, “Glendale’s no place for you” and that the City planned “to do everything in [its] power to prevent trouble.” In practice, this meant sending 75 police officers and sheriff’s deputies in protective gear to form a line in front of the hotel with attack dogs and a water cannon at the ready.
Although the Holiday Inn was pressured by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, particularly Board Chairman Mike Antonovich and Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, to cancel the event, the chain refused and reiterated their position that the hotel’s policy did not need to be reviewed. They denounced Stoner’s views, but claimed it was impossible to vet everyone who wanted to use their facilities. Antonovich argued that Stoner, a “convicted church terrorist,” was certainly entitled to freedom of speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment, but that the Holiday Inn could have refused him service thereby denying him a platform in Glendale. The labor union representing the hotel’s employees also agreed with the Board.
A group was swiftly formed in Burbank in response to Stoner’s upcoming appearance, People Against Racist Terror (PART), by Michael Novick. PART intended to halt “the growing climate of racist violence in Southern California.” Joining PART to plan a counter demonstration at the Holiday Inn was the International Committee Against Racism (InCAR – See “Library Brawl”) and the Jewish Defense League. The Jewish Defense League and the L.A. Weekly had reported that a “public white nationalist rally,” not associated with J.B. Stoner, would be occurring at Glendale’s Central Library before his speech. Although that rally did not happen, a large group gathered at the library in protest. The march began soon thereafter and terminated one and half miles away at the Holiday Inn, with a crowd of around 250 people chanting, “Racist terror, we say no! J.B. Stoner’s got to go!”
When Stoner later spoke at the Holiday Inn, he addressed a small crowd about Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) being used by God as “germ warfare” to eliminate African Americans. Outside, five teenage white supremacist “skinheads” attempted to enter the rally but were prevented by police. When a group of protesters spotted the teenagers, they chased the teenagers into the hotel parking lot where two were punched and kicked. The teenagers fled, and there were no significant injuries. Police blocked off the streets and freeway to prevent anyone else from entering the area. Several protesters were arrested for assault, unlawful assembly, and failure to disperse.
In the aftermath of the Holiday Inn incident, civil rights leaders Raymond Johnson, Jr. of the Los Angeles NAACP and Ray Reyes, chairman of the Glendale Human Relations Council, criticized Glendale’s leadership. Reyes contended that the City was trying to ignore racism and asked them again to address his question, “’What is it about this town that encourages groups like these to be here?’” Johnson encouraged the creation of a committee of diverse members that could focus on racism and hate crimes in Glendale. Then-Mayor Ginger Bremberg condemned Stoner calling him a “poor old fool,” but did not acknowledge Glendale’s racist reputation, its history as a home to racist groups, or the presence of any institutional racism in Glendale.
Copyright notice: Any materials under copyright in this exhibit are covered by the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act. Permission and preferred attribution were requested of all copyright holders.
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