LYNNWOOD, Wash. -- A racially charged brawl at a Lynnwood tavern has left many in the Puget Sound region wondering why a group of self-proclaimed neo-Nazis from across the country chose a suburban neighborhood bar as the site of their alleged hate crime.
Seven white men and one white woman are accused of spewing racial slurs as they attacked a black DJ and an Asian bar employee who intervened at the Rec Room Bar and Grill in Lynnwood over the weekend. The FBI has stepped up to help local detectives with the investigation.
Although Washington state is known for its left-leaning politics, it has a long history as a magnet for white supremacists.
The eight suspects in the attack -- who hail from Everett, Tacoma, Oregon, Illinois and North Carolina -- were in the area to commemorate "Martyr's Day" on December 8. That's the anniversary of the death of Robert Jay Mathews, a neo-Nazi terrorist who was killed by the FBI in 1984 in a shootout at his Whidbey Island home.
Every year since, neo-Nazis and white supremacists from across America gather on or near Whidbey Island to commemorate Mathews' death.
This year, Martyr's Day happened to fall on the day after a jury convicted James Alex Fields of first-degree murder for plowing his car into a crowd amid the Charlottesville riots last year.
Lecia Brooks, outreach director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Q13 that Washington's mostly white population has made the state attractive to white supremacist groups who see it as an ideal spot for an all-white "ethnostate."
And Whidbey Island isn't the only place in the Puget Sound that has served as an epicenter of white supremacist activity.
Harold Covington founded Northwest Front in Bremerton and served as the head of that white nationalist organization until his death in July. His work is said to have inspired Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who shot and killed nine people at an African-American church in South Carolina.
So, why did the neo-Nazis choose the Rec Room in Lynnwood? The bar is a few minutes away from the ferry to Whidbey Island, which is where investigators believe the crew had been before the attack.