Racism Has a Seat at the Anne Arundel County Council

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Michael Peroutka addressing the League of the South, a white supremacy group.

Michael Peroutka is an Anne Arundel County Councilman. That is a disgrace.

I have lived in Anne Arundel County for almost three years.  For much of that time, I was unaware of county politics. The election of Donald Trump, however, spurred me to take part in our local resistance movement and learn about county politics.

Some of what I’ve learned is disturbing.  For example, on November 4, 2014, District 5 of Anne Arundel County elected Michael Peroutka as their representative to the Anne Arundel County Council, with 52.8% of the vote.  Up until late Summer 2014, Peroutka was a member of the League of the South.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “the League of the South is a neo-Confederate group that advocates for a second Southern secession and a society dominated by ‘European Americans.’ The league believes the ‘godly’ nation it wants to form should be run by an ‘Anglo-Celtic’ (read: white) elite.”

Michael Peroutka sings “Dixie” and calls it the National Anthum at a League of the South event in 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFSbHEAOHsI

While it shames me that Peroutka’s affiliation with the League of the South came to my attention only recently, it is not news to many Anne Arundel County residents who vigorously fought his nomination and election.

Plagued by accusations of racism during his candidacy for County Council, Peroutka held a press conference on July 30, 2014 to defend himself.  He described the League as a “Christian free market group.”  Peroutka said the Southern Poverty Law Center “unfairly labeled” the League of the South a “hate group,” noting that the Southern Poverty Law Center routinely does this to groups when it “simply doesn’t like their politics.”  Furthermore, Peroutka claimed “I have spoken out against racism. I’ve gone out of my way to repudiate racism, and if there are any racists in the League of the South, I repudiate them, and I pray for them.”

Peroutka quit the League of the South shortly after that press conference. According to an October 17, 2014 Baltimore Sun article: “Peroutka, a Millersville Republican, said he left the group prior to Labor Day because he discovered statements members made on the subject of being opposed to interracial marriage were ‘contrary to my beliefs.’”  Peroutka added, “I didn’t do it to bring up any political points. I don’t have any problem with the organization.”

Peroutka’s characterization of the League of the South, his insistence that he is not a racist, and his reasons for leaving the League lack any credibility.

According to the League of the South’s own website, “the League of the South was formed in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in June 1994, to organise the Southern people so that they might effectively pursue independence and self-government.”

Interestingly, although Peroutka described the League of the South as a “free market” group, a search of the League’s website using the key words “free market” yielded no results.  And while the League may have addressed the issue of free markets or market regulation in general, it is clear from scanning the League’s writings and speeches that free markets are not among the League’s major concerns.

The League of the South makes it very clear that the “Southern people” are white: “The Anglo-Celtic peoples settled the South and gave it its dominate [sic] culture and civilisation. We believe that the advancement of Anglo-Celtic culture and civilisation is vital in order to preserve our region as we know it. Should this core be destroyed or displaced the South would be made over in an alien image – unfamiliar and inhospitable to our children and grandchildren. We, as Anglo-Celtic Southerners, have a duty to protect that which our ancestors bequeathed to us. If we do not promote our interests then no one will do it for us.”

Michael Hill, Founder and President of the League of the South, and Peroutka clearly know each other well.  Peroutka sent Hill an email to report his nomination as the Republican candidate for Anne Arundel County Councilman, ending with “I am grateful for our friendship and for the work of the League of the South.  Please accept my thanks for your hospitality in Alabama. I will be in touch.”  Hill, in turn, described Peroutka’s nomination as “a political victory for us in Maryland!”

A prodigious writer and speaker, Hill has made his stands on race clear.  In a videotaped speech to the League of the South’s Virginia Chapter in 2004, Hill stated, “The truth is that for at least the past 400 years, Western Christian, that is European-American civilization, alone, alone, has enjoyed the fruits of ordered liberty and abundant prosperity.  Elsewhere in the world, despotism, sloth, and poverty have been the order of the day.”

In a 2002 videotaped speech, Hill says, “In the Southern states we’re going to close every mosque.  We’re going to send every Muslim out of here.”  His feelings about African-Americans are equally distasteful.  Hill wrote, “We reject completely the idea of equality.  It is a flawed idea with no basis in history or biology.  If blacks were ‘equal’ to whites, then we would see evidence of it in the great African civilization that would rival those of Europe.”  He added, “Where do you find the basis for calling slavery ‘an abomination?’ Certainly not in the Bible.  It is regulated there, which means it is an institution approved by God in a fallen world.”

In his 2011 speech “What Would It Take to Get You to Fight,” Hill lays out his case for the use of force to achieve the League’s goals.  Moreover, the League’s logo features a man in army fatigues carrying a machine gun, signaling that the League is prepared to use force to achieve “independence of the Southern people.”

I could not find when Peroutka joined the League of the South, but there is YouTube video of him addressing the League as early as 2004, so his affiliation with the League appears to have spanned at least ten years.  Given the stated mission of the League of the South and the statements of Peroutka’s friend Michael Hill, the League’s Founder and President, it is not possible that in 2014 Peroutka got his first hint the League might be racist when he claims to have discovered some members were “opposed to interracial marriage.”

Peroutka is not a stupid man.  I’ve read many of his writings, and I’ve heard him speak quite articulately at County Council meetings and via videotaped speeches.  He knew all along that the League of the South was and is racist: the League and its leader have never made a secret of that.  I have reviewed many videos and photos of the League’s events.  I’ve yet to see one non-white face at any event.  Did Peroutka not notice?  Did he never wonder why only white people showed up for League events?

People who are not racists do not join the League of the South.  Peroutka’s explanation for his membership in the League is akin to someone saying they joined the Nazi party because the Nazis had a good plan to revitalize industry.  It makes no sense.  You join the Nazi party because you are a Nazi.  You join the League of the South because you are a racist.

While Peroutka claims to have gone out of his way to “repudiate racism,” the simple fact that he joined the League of the South makes that assertion absurd.  In addition, there is 2012 video of Peroutka asking League of the South members to stand for the National Anthem and then leading them in singing Dixie.  In another video from a 2004 League of the South meeting, Peroutka jokes with the all-white audience that there should have been more of them in 1861.  Or, in his own video series, you can listen to Peroutka rail against multiculturalism.

Many people have denounced Peroutka, including Governor Larry Hogan.   Others accepted Peroutka’s explanations.  In a July 25, 2014 Baltimore Sun article, Steve Schuh, then a Maryland General Assembly Delegate and now Anne Arundel County Executive, said “[Peroutka] assured me that he is not a racist and that he believes in equality of all members of the human family. He has also assured me that he does not believe in secession.”  Did Schuh never question why a person who says he’s not a racist would join a blatantly racist organization?

Shockingly, we here in Anne Arundel County elected Peroutka.  I suspect there were some voters who blindly voted for the Republican candidate as I have often blindly voted for Democratic candidates at the local level, not knowing a thing about them.  There were probably other voters who had heard of Peroutka’s membership in the League of the South but did not truly understand the mission of the League.  I have to assume, though, that there were some people in our county who voted for Peroutka with a full understanding of the League of the South’s mission.  That bothers me greatly.

What is most frightening is that Peroutka has the power to make law in our county.  This man who has never acknowledged nor apologized for his long-term affiliation with a blatantly racist organization drafts legislation and votes on bills that become law in this county.

As recently as the April 3, 2017 Anne Arundel County Council Meeting, Peroutka introduced a resolution to “Oppose House Bill 1362 and Senate Bill 835 (the ‘Maryland Community Trust Act’.”  The Maryland Trust Act, as it is commonly known, is a bill designed to build trust between Maryland’s immigrant population and Maryland law enforcement, enabling immigrants to report crimes and participate in criminal investigations without fear.  It passed the Maryland House of Delegates with a 83 to 55 margin on March 20, 2017; however, it later floundered in the Maryland Senate and failed to come up for a vote.

Peroutka’s resolution against the Maryland Trust Act made unsubstantiated claims about “human trafficking, violent crimes, and other negative effects of illegal immigration.”  It passed the Anne Arundel County Council with a 4 to 3 margin, supported by Councilman Jerry Walker, John J. Grasso, and Derek FinkAccording to Peroutka, “I submitted a resolution urging members of the Maryland General Assembly not to vote for a piece of legislation designed, in effect, to establish illegal immigrants as a special, protected class.”

Council Chair John Grasso, D-2
Jerry Walker, Councilman D-7
Congressman Grasso, Walker and Fink all got on board to vote for Peroutka’s resolution against the Maryland Trust Act.

The Maryland Trust Act, in fact, does not establish illegal immigrants as “a special, protected class.”  Moreover, given Peroutka’s long-term affiliation with the League of the South, one cannot help but believe he introduced this bill simply because he doesn’t like non-white people.  Although the resolution did not have the effect of law, it did send a clear statement that our county was intolerant, unwelcoming to immigrants, and supportive of Trump’s draconian measures to punish and deport immigrants.

At that same April 3, 2017 Anne Arundel County Council meeting, more than 20 county residents testified against Peroutka’s resolution.  One county resident, Peter Cane began to introduce testimony tying Peroutka’s resolution to his affiliation with the League of the South.  However, he was not permitted to complete his testimony.  Councilman Grasso, Chairman of the County Council, silenced Cane, stating Cane’s testimony was harassment, and it would not be tolerated.  Based on my reading of the Anne Arundel County Code, I don’t believe Councilman Grasso had the right to silence Cane.

In fact, we should not be silent.  We should not tolerate an unapologetic, unrepentant racist making laws for our county.  Peroutka must be replaced on the Anne Arundel County Council in the 2018 elections.  I urge everyone to speak out so that all county residents understand who this man is and why his presence on the County Council poses a danger to everyone.

Final Notes: I emailed Peroutka to let him know I was writing this article.  I asked him to explain why he joined the League of the South and why he left.  He did not respond.  This article focuses on Peroutka’s affiliation with the League of the South; however, there is more to know.  For anyone interested in learning more, I recommend “GOP’s Neo-Confederate Theocrat Wins Council Seat in One of Richest U.S. Counties,” published in The American Prospect.

Eric Graber is a semi-retired marketing communications professional from Anne Arundel County who has reluctantly been drawn into the resistance movement. He dedicates as much time as possible to painting, exploring various movements in modern art.

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