MOOSIC – The man who organized a picnic for a "white people's rights group" doesn't buy a borough official's reasons behind rescinding permission to use the borough park pavilion on Saturday for the event.
Steve Smith, director of the local chapter of the European American Action Coalition, said the coalition has had its annual picnic at the park for the last two years without incident.
But after borough officials read a newspaper story about the event and its organizer and discovering that Smith resided in Pittston, Council Chairman John Mercatili said the borough secretary called Smith and requested proof of his residency in the borough. When Smith confirmed that he lived in Pittston, she informed him permission to use the pavilion was revoked.
Mercatili said borough policy limits reserved use of the pavilion to borough residents, who may, of course, invite non-borough residents to events. He said permission to use the pavilion was revoked because Smith lied about his residency. He also said Smith screamed and cursed at the secretary on the phone.
Smith on Thursday said he raised his voice at the secretary but did not curse. He said he has used the Moosic address of his girlfriend's friend when reserving the pavilion just as he had for the previous two years. The friend did not make the reservation herself because she didn't want her name in the paper.
Smith said he doesn't believe Mercatili's reason for rescinding permission because when he asked the secretary if his friend, who lives in Moosic, could reserve the pavilion, "she said ‘No. We don't want fascists in our town anyway.' That's when I found the real reason."
Smith, 41, said he is not a fascist, a racist or a white supremacist, despite his past affiliation with the Keystone State Skinheads, a past ethnic intimidation conviction and the beliefs of the guest speaker who had been scheduled for the picnic.
Merlin Miller, a filmmaker and presidential candidate for the American Third Position Party, was to be the special guest speaker. The Southern Poverty Law Center says the American Third Position is "a political party initially established by racist Southern California skinheads that aims to deport immigrants and return the United States to white rule."
Smith said he is no longer affiliated with the skinheads group and he doesn't condone his drunken behavior when he threatened a man whom he described as a drug dealer, which led to the intimidation conviction in 2003. He also said the coalition is not a hate group or white supremacist group.
"It's an advocacy group for white people, just like the NAACP is an advocacy group for black people and La Raza is an advocacy group for Hispanics," Smith said.
Smith, a truck driver, said he plans on "looking into" legal action against the borough. He believes rescinding use of the park was ultimately a violation of his First Amendment rights.