York, PA – A Wrightsville man who helped bring a white supremacist leader to York in 2002 — which sparked a riot outside Martin Library — is working to organize another rally at the library.
Michael Cook, 43, a state leader for the National Socialist American Labor Party, was also behind the recent distribution of fliers about his group that sparked at least one complaint. The group builds their ideology off the examples of Nazi Germany, Cook said.
In 2002, Cook helped organize a rally to bring Rev. Matt Hale with World Church of the Creator. The rally, which attracted about 50 people to Martin Library, led to a riot between the group and anti-racists who protested.
If another rally takes place, York City Police will consider providing security at the event, Chief Wes Kahley said Wednesday.
“Although we might not agree with what (Cook) says, he has that constitutional right,” Kahley said.
A 2003 rally — where just a few racists showed up — cost the city $12,000 in overtime for police officers.
Cook said he plans to provide his own security for any additional events, but Kahley said that wouldn’t influence the city’s decision to patrol the rally.
“Events like this bring up thoughts of what’s happened in York’s past,” Kahley said. “Above anything else, we have to make sure the citizens and city property are safe.”
This past weekend, local members of the National Socialist American Labor Party left fliers on cars and doorsteps in Springettsbury Township in an effort to increase membership, Cook said.
About 1,000 fliers were handed out in nearly three hours. Springettsbury Township Police Chief David Eshbach said one person complained.
Steve Whiteley, a township resident, said he found a flier on his car windshield and was “disappointed that there are still people like that.”
The flier, Whiteley said, was carefully written to avoid hateful language. The organization’s website, he said, clearly supports the white supremacist movement.
Contact information was listed for a Michael Van Koch — a name used by Cook, which he hopes to legally change his name to.
Whiteley said he was surprised more people didn’t call police about the fliers.
“It’s been a while since we’ve heard of them doing anything,” Whiteley said.
Eshbach said he filed a report with the Anti-Defamation League, but they had not heard of any other distribution.
“It was certainly disconcerting in nature,” Eshbach said. As long as Cook isn’t trespassing or destroying property, Eshbach said, he is allowed to distribute literature.
Cook would not say how many members belong to the local chapter. They meet on a regular basis in each other’s homes, he said.
He plans on handing out more literature in predominately white neighborhoods — avoiding York because the group doesn’t invite black or Hispanic people to participate.
Federal criminal case
Cook also faces a federal charge for illegally possessing body armor. An indictment for purchasing a ballistic vest was filed against Cook in November, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Previous convictions for terroristic threats and destroying property prohibit him from owning bodily armor, officials said. Cook said he’s received death threats before, and the vest was for his own protection. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, a November news release stated.
“The federal government is trying to silence the messenger,” Cook said. “I’ll just recruit in prison and continue when I get out.”
His trial is set for April 4 in Harrisburg.