October 21, 1960
Debre Tabor, Ethiopia
|Died||November 13, 1988
Portland, Oregon, United States
|Known for||Killed by members of East Side White Pride and White Aryan Resistance|
Mulugeta Seraw (October 21, 1960 – November 13, 1988) was an Ethiopian student who went to the United States to attend college. Seraw was killed in November 1988, at age 28, in Portland, Oregon by three white supremacists. His father and son successfully filed a civil lawsuit against the killers and an affiliated organization, holding them liable for the murder.
On the night of 12 November 1988, Ken "Death" Mieske, Kyle Brewster, and Steve Strasser, members of groups known as East Side White Pride and White Aryan Resistance (WAR), were driving around Portland with their girlfriends, headed home. The three confronted two black men, including Seraw, who had been dropped off in front of his apartment. Subsequently, Seraw was beaten to death with a baseball bat on Southeast 31st Avenue. The three perpetrators and their girlfriends left Seraw in a puddle of his own blood.
Seraw died in the early-morning hours of the following day. Mieske said he and the two others killed Mr. Seraw "because of his race." In response, hundreds of people turned out for rallies against racism. Meanwhile Tom Metzger, head of WAR, said the supremacists did a "civic duty" by killing Seraw.
After one week of investigation, Mieske, Brewster, and Strasser were arrested. Brewster and Strasser were convicted of manslaughter and assault. Brewster was released in November 2002, but in 2006 violated parole and was sent back to prison.
In 1990, Mieske was convicted of first-degree murder and was serving a life sentence when he died July 26, 2011 at the age of 45. At the time of his death, he was still being referred to as a "Prisoner of War" by white power groups.
In October 1990, Seraw's father and son, represented at no cost by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, won a civil case against White Aryan Resistance's operator Tom Metzger and his son John Metzger for a total of $12.5 million. The cost of trial, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars was absorbed by the SPLC and the ADL. Metzger being unable to cover the damages, the Seraws' lawyer decided to file legal documents in order to have his Fallbrook, California home and his assets seized. As a result, the house was transferred to Seraw's estate for a value of $121,500; Metzger was allowed to keep $45,000 under California's Homestead Act. Metzger was warned that any damage caused to the house would result in a lawsuit; he still left it "a mess" with cracked windows, but without serious damage. The Metzgers declared bankruptcy but WAR continued to operate. Metzger himself was forced to move into an apartment and collect welfare. He still makes payments to Seraw's family.
Reaction to Seraw's death
After the men were sentenced in 1990, white supremacists Tom Metzger and his son John Metzger were sued civilly on behalf of Seraw's family by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith.
In the same year, about 18 months after Seraw's death, 1,500 people attended a rally along the South Park Blocks. Among the participants were assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Brown, prosecuting deputy district attorney Norm Frink, Margaret Carter, Bud Clark, and several city commissioners, as well as at least five members of Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice. 150 police officers were on hand, as up to 300 skinheads were expected to oppose the rally; previously, the largest numbers of police officers needed for Portland events were for an Elvis Presley concert in 1957 (90 officers), and a Run-DMC concert in 1987. Bomb disposal squads, bomb-sniffing dogs, riot police, and a police helicopter were used, but the rally occurred without major incident.
Also in 1990, members of the Oregon chapter of the American Leadership Forum formed an "experiential" anti-discrimination youth camp in response to Seraw's death. Operating from 1990 to 2002, Camp Odyssey facilitated a week-long journey for teenagers in the Pacific Northwest, examining systems of oppression and fostering communication amongst a widely diverse group of participants. In early 2010, a small group of alumni formed a not-for-profit organization called The Piece, overseeing the revival of Camp Odyssey, which was projected to occur in the summer of 2011.
- "Three Are Charged in Attack Attributed to Neo-Nazi Gang". New York Times. November 21, 1988. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
- "Lawyer makes racists pay". McLean, Va: USA Today. 1990-10-24. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
- "Guilt Admitted in Racial Killing". New York Times. May 3, 1989. Retrieved 2007-11-18.
- Jeff, Baker (August 31, 2003). "Our home-grown Hitlers". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2007-09-29.
- "Making War on WAR". Time. October 22, 1990. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
- Herzog, Boaz, "Man in Infamous Hate-Crime Killing Arrested on Violation of Parole Terms", The Oregonian, May 20, 2006
- The jury divided the judgement against the defendants as follows: Kyle Brewster, $500,000; Ken Mieske, $500,000;, John Metzger, $1 million; WAR, $3 million; Tom Metzger, $5 million; in addition, the jury awarded $2.5 million for Mulugeta's unrealized future earnings and pain and suffering.
- London, Robb (October 26, 1990). "Sending a $12.5 Million Message to a Hate Group". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
- Morris Dees and Steve Fiffer. Hate on Trial: The Case Against America's Most Dangerous Neo-Nazi. Villard Books, 1993. page 116
- Morris Dees and Steve Fiffer. Hate on Trial: The Case Against America's Most Dangerous Neo-Nazi. Villard Books, 1993. page 277
- "Assets of White Supremacist Are Target of Legal Maneuver". New York Times. December 25, 1990. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
- "Metzger Leaves Former Home a Mess, but It's Undamaged". The Oregonian. Sep 19, 1991. page f3
- "Hate-crime case award will be hard to collect, experts say". The Press-Enterprise. 2008-10-08. Retrieved 2007-08-25.
- Rollins, Michael (October 6, 1990). "Police greet Sharp five, expect more skinheads". The Oregonian. pp. C02.
- Snell, John (October 8, 1990). "1,500 rally against prejudice". The Oregonian. p. A01.
- Rollins, Michael (October 4, 1990). "Police brace for turbulence at white supremacist trial". The Oregonian. p. D01.
- Manzano, Phil; Michael Rollins, Holley Gilbert (October 8, 1990). "People from melting pot that makes America rally against bigotry". The Oregonian. pp. A05.
- Morris Dees. Hate on Trial: The Case Against America's Most Dangerous Neo-Nazi. Villard, (February 23, 1993) ISBN 0-679-40614-X (280 pages)
- Berhanu v. Metzger case document of The Southern Poverty Law Center
- NPR-Storycorps An interview with Julie Sanders, one of the "girlfriends," who witnessed Seraw's murder. The interview was conducted with National Public Radio's Storycorps project.