08/07/2012 03:30 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Sikh Temple Shooter's Time in White-Supremacist Underworld

More details have come to light about the man who shot dead six worshippers and critically wounded three others at the Oak Creek Sikh temple in Wisconsin before he was killed by police.

The gunman, Wade Michael Page, was a white, 40-year-old U.S. Army veteran with links to white-supremacist groups and membership in skinhead rock bands. The Southern Poverty Law Center revealed it had been tracking Page for his views, calling him a "frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band." In the Army, Page worked in psychological operations and was stationed at Fort Bliss and Fort Bragg from 1992 until he was given a general discharge in 1998.

Democracy Now! speaks with Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center about the life of Page, and Don Walker, reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who has been covering the Sikh temple shooting.

Potok says Page entered the white-supremacist scene in 2000, playing in a few white-power rock bands, until he formed his own band, End Apathy, in 2005. He says white-power music is a primary source of income for white-supremacist groups, and that it is the most effective recruiting tool for bringing young people into the movement.

"The music is terribly important to the white supremacist scene in a couple of ways. First of all, it's the No. 1 earner. These groups have very few ways of bringing money in and are typically, essentially, destitute," Potok says.

In 2000, one of the most influential neo-nazi groups, the National Alliance, brought in $600,000, $700,000 annually through its music, Potok says.

Discussing Page's time at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Walker says, "There was a great deal of white supremacist activity both on the base and off. We don't know that he was directly connected to it, but we do know he was certainly exposed to it."

Refusing To Live In Fear

Simran Jeet Singh, community activist and Columbia University doctoral candidate, discusses the attack and the impact it has had on the Sikh community.

Singh says the shootings "call attention to a longstanding culture of fear."

"If you look in our last century of history, American culture has been riddled with fear, whether it's Japanese Americans, African Americans, Communist Americans," Singh says.

Singh says he has experienced moments of prejudice because of his appearance with long hair and turban since attending elementary school in Texas, where he grew up.

In response to Sunday's shooting, he posted a commentary called, "As A Sikh-American I Refuse To Live In Fear And Negativity." Singh writes:

"Although it will be important to understand what motivated the violence, this should not color the inspiration behind our own reactions. We should draw from our American and Sikh traditions by continuing to respond with love and compassion. Let us stand up together and turn the tragedy in Wisconsin into a turning point for our nation."

Singh says he hopes that there will be a positive response from Americans in the aftermath of the shootings. "There's a lot of support and a lot of reason to see this as a possible turning point for American society where we all come together and say let's stop allowing ourselves to participate in this culture of fear, and that's what I'm looking forward to in the future."

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