On a dead-end street along Detroit's fringe, the leader of America's largest neo-Nazi group is scheming to exploit the region's economic unease.
Jeff Schoep, commander of the National Socialist Movement, said he's undeterred by the area's large African-American and Jewish populations since moving his group to the area in December. In fact, he said, the diversity and distress of metro Detroit makes it ripe for recruitment.
"Detroit's a big city, and the economy is not real good," he said. "Anywhere the economy is bad, people are looking for answers. And I think we provide some."
Jack Kay, a University of Michigan-Flint professor who has studied racist groups, said, "These people can be incredibly savvy" in spreading their message.
But first, Schoep -- whose group uses a Detroit post office box -- must secure his position as the area's preeminent führer. In another part of metro Detroit, a rival is trashing his group.
"We at the ANP never had anything to do with them, and we never will," Paul Kozak, chief security officer of Westland-based American Nazi Party, wrote in an e-mail.
Kozak's group, which arrived in the late 1990s, dismisses the National Socialist Movement as outside the mainstream of neo-Nazis. Kozak said his group, by contrast, wants "to be like the Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Libertarians, and so on."
The National Socialist Movement, or NSM, is best known in these parts for its 2005 march in a racially mixed neighborhood in Toledo that ended in rioting, and a provocative 2006 rally in Lansing.
With a few hundred members, it's the largest Nazi organization in the United States, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.
Schoep, 33, arrived from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. He has been monitored by the law center since at least 2004, when the center, which tracks extremists, tabbed him as one of "40 hate-mongers to watch."
But Schoep is far too busy to engage his critics. He lives in a Macomb County home he shares with a girlfriend; he spoke on condition that the town not be mentioned.
He had been preparing for an anti-immigration rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Three arrests, all counterprotesters, made the event held on the weekend of Adolf Hitler's birthday -- he was born April 20, 1889 -- a resounding success for Schoep's group, which thrives on the confrontation that a band of neo-Nazis waving red swastika flags and chanting tends to provoke.
Schoep rejects the label of a hateful agitator reveling in the dogma of a murderous regime, saying, "We're 100% legal. ...We do things by the book."
In Washington, he noted, his group marched with a legal permit, while counterdemonstrators were arrested for fighting with police.
Philosophically, he concedes, "We do like Hitler and the way he ran the government," but it's "a misconception that we are bigoted."
He said he's after "warrior archetypes," like the men of the Alamo and Valley Forge, men he said will fight for white workers and oppose immigration, Communists and Jews.
He said his group "continues to grow all the time."
That remains to be seen.
In the late 1970s, Detroit police had to stand guard around a Nazi-oriented bookstore that opened on West Vernor. The operation was evicted as several hundred protesters chanted to throw the Nazis out.
Rabbi Charles Rosenzveig, of the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, said publicity draws neo-Nazis to metro Detroit: "They think being in Detroit will give them more exposure."
He said skinheads have visited the center, only to have some members chastened and transformed by what they see.
But Mark Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that even if the movement is only a couple of hundred people strong, it can't be easily dismissed. "All these groups are relatively tiny, but the reality is that a very few people can cause enormous harm," he said.
T. Jean Overton, whose Toledo neighborhood is still rebuilding from the riots, agreed.
"We fought World War II to defeat the Nazis and their philosophy," said Overton, 79.
"Life is too short to create hatred," she added. "In the end, it will destroy him and others."