This is an excerpt from a column I wrote on Monday for Deadline Detroit.
By Chad Selweski
As far-right figure Richard Spencer prepares to deliver a controversial speech at Michigan State University on Monday, his ultraconservative followers did not schedule events near East Lansing before or after the appearance.
Instead, they planned to congregate about 100 miles away in Macomb County — Warren and Sterling Heights.
What does that mean? After all, the Spencer-backed Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas has been labeled a hate group or neo-Nazi group by civil rights organizations. In numerous cities across the nation, Spencer and his allies have faced heated protests at college campuses, sometimes sparking violent opposition.
Over the weekend, both Macomb gathering places cancelled the two celebratory parties planned by the alt-right group after the owners of these sites were alerted by police and the public about their white supremacism.
Still, it’s worth asking, why did Spencer’s clan assume they’d be welcome Sunday night at the Carpathia Club in Sterling Heights, Metro Detroit’s largest German cultural organization, and at a Warren pub, Tipsy McStaggers, on Monday night?
Perhaps it’s because both cities have been associated with racist or xenophobic diatribes, expressed by the Warren mayor and a 2015 Sterling Heights mayoral candidate.
In Warren, a series of secret recordings that were leaked about a year ago found the mayor of Michigan’s third-largest city engaging in talk that could be described as nothing less than virulently racist.
“Blacks do look like chimpanzees,” Fouts remarked on one audio recording obtained by the media. “I was watching this black woman with her daughter and they looked like two chimps.”
On another tape, he used the word “nigger.” In reaction to the controversy, a former Fouts political consultant chimed in online: “He dropped a series of N-bombs in meetings I had with him regarding the Connor Creek charter school. (The) school was to be predominately African American. It’s tough to describe, but he actually stood up and did a monkey dance and mimed eating a banana.”
Could it be that Spencer’s fellow retrogrades saw the Fouts’ controversy, which has largely faded, as an indication that many Warren residents believe – wink, wink – in that point of view?
Neighboring Sterling Heights has also been tainted over the past few years by a series of events that portrayed the city as a bastion of bigotry.
A proposed mosque in a residential area generated a widespread distribution in 2015 of Islamophobic leaflets, followed by anti-Muslim protests and raucous city council meetings.
A leader of this incendiary opposition movement was right-wing mayoral candidate Paul Smith.
Continue reading here.