Militia Leaders, Survivalists Gather in Shadow of Oklahoma City Bombing
Jun. 09, 1995
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ White supremacists, survivalists, militia members and others gathered here Friday to share their political beliefs and stock up on survival gear in one of the largest such gatherings since the Oklahoma City bombing.
Most of the browsers and exhibitors at Preparedness Expo '95 said they are doing what they've always done and haven't changed their ways since the April 19 blast that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.
``No, we're not here to do anything different, call for an uprising or anything,'' said Oliver Smith, 58, who drove here from Atlanta with his wife. ``We like the amazing variety of things to learn about _ how to prepare your family for the future, whatever it might bring.''
The consumer show and conference is expected to draw more than 4,000 people over the weekend to the Orange County Convention Center, said organizer Dan Chittock of Salt Lake City, who puts on a half dozen such shows a year.
No firearms were for for sale, except for a few collectibles. One booth featuring a pamphlet on ``Back to Basics: Herbs'' was selling a book titled ``How to Make Blasting Caps.''
This was Chittock's first show since the Oklahoma City bombing, which aroused interest in right-wing militias and survivalist groups when it was learned that bombing suspects Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols held similar, fiercely anti-government views. McVeigh and Nichols, the only two suspects charged in the bombing, are being held in connection with the bombing in a federal prison in El Reno, Okla.
Chittock said that despite the media attention to the kind of anti-government groups and militias that his shows typically attract, no exhibitors backed out and the crowds didn't seem any smaller than in previous years.
``We're not about hate. It's an open forum,'' Chittock said. ``There's enough stuff here to satisfy everyone, although some people may find something that's out of their own comfort zone.''
Among the headliners were Mark Koernke of the Michigan Militia, retired U.S. Army Green Beret James ``Bo'' Gritz and Libertarian leader Nancy Lord.
Koernke, whose group has been investigated for possible ties to the bombing, is scheduled to speak Saturday night and Sunday on the topic, ``Keeping the New World Order at Bay.''
``Oklahoma City put a tremendous negative stigma on all militias,'' said Dan Daniels, field commander for the National Association for the Advancement of White People. ``But this expo is necessary because these people have to prepare for the future. They are survivalists.''
Jim Bodaly, who was selling a variety of military and survival-training books and manuals at a Christian Patriots' Center for Action booth, blamed the media for ``trying to demonize what we're doing since the Oklahoma bombing.''
Boday said he is doing ``what I've always done for years.''
The majority of the visitors who paid the $6 admission fee were middle-aged or elderly couples, many of them apparently interested in stocking up on food supplies for disasters and other emergencies.
Glenda James, who was placing an order for a 12-month supply of grains and legumes in sealed 6-gallon containers for $299.95, said she enjoyed the camaraderie of the shows.
``I'm not into hate groups or constitutional issues,'' she said.