KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Missouri white nationalist organization has surfaced in a manifesto possibly written by the suspect in the Charleston, S.C., church massacre.
The Council of Conservative Citizens, a St. Louis-based group that promotes the preservation of the white race, was mentioned in the document by the writer, who said its website helped usher him into the white nationalist movement.
The organization, which some experts consider to be the largest grass-roots white nationalist group in the country, could not be reached on Saturday and did not respond to a message left at its headquarters.
The manifesto was included on a website that appeared Saturday on social media. Authorities were working to verify whether it was actually written by Dylann Roof, who is charged with killing nine people during a Wednesday night Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
In the document, the writer says that “the event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case,” referring to the 17-year-old unarmed black student who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, in Sanford, Fla., in 2012.
That case prompted the writer to conduct a Google search for the phrase “black on white crime,” the document said, “and I have never been the same since that day.”
The first website the writer came across was the Council of Conservative Citizens, according to the manifesto.
“There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders,” it said. “I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong. How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?”
Those who monitor extremist groups said the writer’s description of coming across the council’s website is significant, if indeed he is Roof.
“It’s a very important piece of the overall equation,” said Devin Burghart, vice president of the Kansas City-based Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. “According to the manifesto, it was his entry point into the depths of white nationalism. It’s what changed him from being an ordinary racist to being a white nationalist killer.
“This is probably the clearest example that we’ve had in years of someone saying, ‘Here is how it happened.’ It also shows that he was deeply mired in white nationalism. It’s not somebody who just had a surface understanding of this stuff. He was very deeply involved.”
The Council of Conservative Citizens is the descendant of the White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s, which organized opposition to the civil rights movement in the South. The group opposes affirmative action, quotas, race-mixing and immigration and has fought to preserve displays of the Confederate flag in southern states.
The council’s website has referred to blacks as “a retrograde species of humanity” and said non-white immigration would turn the U.S. population into a “slimy brown mass of glop.” Gordon Baum, the co-founder and chief executive, supported former Klan leader David Duke in his campaign for governor of Louisiana. Baum died in March.
In the late 1990s, Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi and other Southern politicians were criticized for speaking at council events. And when campaigning for Mississippi governor in 2003, Haley Barbour created a flap when it was reported that his photo was on the council’s home page and he refused to ask them to remove it.
In 2013, one of its national board members and tea party activist Roan Garcia-Quintana was forced to step down as a volunteer for South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s re-election campaign after his affiliation with the Council of Conservative Citizens was revealed.
Over the years, the council has urged members to become more politically active.
“We encourage our people to participate in political efforts, and this is a good thing,” Baum said in an interview in 2010. “They’re wanting their voices heard. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a symptom of the fact that people are waking up.”