Tom Metzger, the notorious former Ku Klux Klan leader who rose to prominence in the 1980s while promoting white separatism and stoking racial violence, has died at age 82. Metzger died Nov. 4 at a skilled nursing facility in Hemet, the AP reports, of Parkinson's disease. The former grand dragon of the California chapter of the Ku Klux Klan became one of racism's most prominent figures after he left that organization in the 1980s to form the White Aryan Resistance movement. He eventually was pushed into the shadows and financial ruin, however, for his organization's role in the 1988 beating death of Ethiopian college student Mulugeta Seraw in Portland, Oregon. Seraw's family won a $12.5 million judgment against Metzger, his organization and others in 1990 in a trial in which a recording was played of Metzger praising the Black man's killers for performing what he called their "civic duty." Metzger lost his home, his television repair business, and other assets.
Though penniless, Metzger continued to produce a racist newsletter and operate a racist hotline, taking calls himself. He posted on his organization's website until a few months ago, the site says. "He engaged in a wide range of hateful activities from spreading anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric to launching vigilante border patrols as a California Klansman to recruiting skinheads to the white supremacist cause," said the Anti-Defamation League. Seraw's killing left racial wounds in Portland that remain, said a former professor there: "We became known as Skinhead City. We had racist skinheads and anti-racist skinheads doing battle in the streets, which is sort of a precursor of antifa and the Proud Boys." Metzger appeared on TV shows, organized white supremacist demonstrations and cross burnings and promised a civil war that would result in "blood in the streets." A lawyer for the Seraw family said: "At the time, I looked at him as totally on the fringe. What we have unfortunately learned over the last 30 years is that there's a whole lot of people who share his views."
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