James Stern (276547)

An African-American civil rights advocate has reportedly become the president of the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group based in Detroit, and he says he wants to effectively dismantle the organization, according to the Detroit Free Press.

James Stern, 54, filed incorporation records in January with the State of Michigan that show he is now the White supremacist group’s leader after the previous leader, Jeff Schoep, handed over the group to him amid concerns over a lawsuit filed against the group tied to violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. Stern told the Free Press on Monday that he took over legal ownership of the group “for the purposes of obliterating it, getting rid of it. … They are going to be destroyed.”

This is the second time that Stern has assumed leadership of a White supremacist group to dismantle it, reports the Southern Poverty Law Center. While serving time in prison, he once befriended Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Edgar Ray Killen, involved in racial killings in Mississippi that were depicted in the movie “Mississippi Burning,” and then dissolved the group Killen was in. Stern said he had been in conversations with Schoep since 2014 and that Schoep was trying to find a way to escape liability from the Charlottesville lawsuit.

Stern runs Racial Reconciliation Outreach Ministries, a group he said promotes dialogue and unity. Stern said he wanted to transform the group and its website into a platform against racism that teaches about the Holocaust, the history of slavery in the U.S. and the plight of Native Americans. But in spite of Stern’s plans, a leader with the neo-Nazi group told the Free Press on Monday that Stern is actually only the president of the organization on paper and that they intend to push the Black man out of the group.

“He has not taken over the group,” said Burt Colucci, who said he’s the new commander of the group and was its former chief of staff. “He’s a paper tiger. … He definitely needs to be removed from the organization.” Colucci said that Stern has no access to the group’s website, its assets, bank accounts or membership records. Colucci said the National Socialist Movement is a civil rights group for Whites and plans to continue its message. He said he intends to bring back the Nazi swastika as part of its logo, which had been replaced a few years ago.

There is no bigger enemy than Communism,” he said. State incorporation records lists the group’s address being in Detroit. Schoep told the Associated Press that Stern had basically tricked him by convincing the neo-Nazi leader to hand over the group as a way to avoid liability in the Charlottesville lawsuit. Schoep has led the National Socialist Movement since 1994, said the Southern Poverty Law Center. Colucci said that Schoep had named him to be his successor. Colucci said that Schoep “was apparently coerced into believing that he would not be liable in the lawsuit from Charlottesville if he signed the organization over to a Black civil rights leader, which is an incredible mistake to make.”