Former Hate Group Member Speaks at SBHS

Tom Martinez is a former member of the hate group The Order, and
has spent the last 23 years traveling the country telling high
school students about his experiences with white supremacist
organizations, why he feels he joined the groups, and what kinds of
racist propaganda the groups he escaped still continue to pass off
to unsuspecting students.

Martinez visited Santa Barbara High School Wednesday, February 7
as part of the school’s Diversity Week. He said that he goes around
the country and tells students that hate groups, such as The Order
are not the way to go in life. He said that he doesn’t go to
schools to speak about “wearing sheets and hating blacks.” However
he did not speak out against racism itself.

This is not the first time Martinez has visited an area high
school. He was at Dos Pueblos six years ago and San Marcos three
years ago. Santa Barbara High School psychologist Christina
Aguirre-Kolb was contacted by the tri-counties’ chapter of the
Anti-Defamation League, who
sponsors Tom Martinez, to have him speak. Santa Barbara is also an
ADL-certified school, and Martinez’s lecture was one of three
activities last week that qualified the school, according to Ms.
Aguirre-Kolb. ADL has brought Martinez to not only countless other
schools in the country, but has also featured him in presentations
made to Casa Pacifica, local law enforcement agencies, and other
juvenile facilities.

The largely silent assembly held in the J.R. Richards gymnasium
was attended by several hundred of the school’s students. Martinez
opened his 45-minute speech with an explanation of his life in a
suburb outside of Philadelphia, which became incredibly
impoverished as he grew to adolescence. He attributed much of his
anger and frustration in his teenage years to an abusive father,
and being one of few, if not the only white student in a high
school that was predominately Black or Hispanic. Recalling one
particular instance, an African-American gang of 12 boys barged
into his class one day and threatened to kill him. Martinez
recalled his teacher doing nothing because even he was afraid. At
that point, he could have no more, and at age 16 dropped out of
high school. Later, he hinted that to this day he has not settled
his anger towards other races, but did not directly address the
audience about his current feelings on different races or
religions.

With no education, and after a stint in the armed forces,
Martinez returned home to a low-paying job at Dunkin’ Donuts and a
forthcoming child. While watching TV late one night, he was
introduced to the leader of The Order, Robert Matthews. Martinez,
taken by the words of this man, personally wrote him a letter. He
was more surprised when the man sent him a written response and
invited them to one of their meetings. That is where Tom Martinez
acquired the stories he has been telling students for the past two
decades.

Martinez did not hold back the gory details of crimes that had
been committed by The Order across the country. He told of how in
late 1984 he became an informant for the FBI to arrest people for
the crimes that had been committed, but when the group’s leader
discovered Martinez’s involvement in his attempted arrest, he hired
a hit man (who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent) to kill
him. Martinez’s death was faked, and the man arrested. In his story
to the students however, Tom Martinez was not content with telling
just about his experiences. He continued by detailing his arrest in
1985 for counterfeiting money for the group, and how he essentially
has to lie low. He added how these white power groups are staunchly
against homosexuality, and told the tale of men who held up an
adult bookstore and shot five customers and one employee in the
back of the head execution-style, and how despite that one of the
two survivors of the event testified against the group, the men
charged for the crime were acquitted by an all-white jury.

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