JOUAM Hall no more! A relic from the National Alliance days changes hands.
ELMWOOD PARK, NJ – For fifteen years, the National Alliance and the neo-Nazi groups that succeeded it, would hold regular meetings at a small clubhouse just off the 1-80 exit ramp. Every now and then, anti-racist groups would learn when they would hold meetings and have a demonstration against the gathering, but for its last four years those demos were becoming more frequent. When a Village Voice article put a spotlight on the activities at the small clubhouse, the owners finally said they had enough and closed its doors to the Nazi group.
Today however, the old hall for the now defunct Junior Order of United American Mechanics (JOUAM) has another purpose, serving as the Boshniak American Community Center, a Muslim-American organization.
It is quite the transformation the JOUAM Hall has had, from a place where well known hatemongers such as David Duke, the late National Alliance founder William Pierce and April Gaede would come to gather and speak with like-minded individuals to a place where the people they hated would use as a place to build their community. The National Vanguard, a breakoff group from the National Alliance lost this 100-year old hall that was once the meeting place of the anti-immigrant/anti-communist JOUAM, when that 2007 Village Voice article spotlighted a three-day event held by the group that centered around not only a trip to New York City, but the hall itself. That prompted State Junior Order leaders to tell William Dunkerley, a former Elmwood Park school board president and borough tax assessor who at the time was maintaining the hall for what was left of the JOUAM organization, to get the Nazis out. A few months after the publishing of the article, revoked the Junior Order membership of New Jersey National Vanguard leader Richard Lindstrom and five others and closed the hall doors to him and his group. Dunkerley also turned over the neo-Nazi materials that National Vanguard left behind to the police. Not much has been heard from Lindstrom since.
The Boshniak American Community Center moved in three years later, in 2010, curiously the same year anti-Muslim hate groups were attempting to prevent mosques from being built in the United States, most notably near the site of the World Trade Center in New York City. It made a few changes to the building, one being removing an old billboard from its JOUAM days displaying the Pledge of Allegiance. Often while the neo-Nazis had control of the building, that billboard would be defaced, once with graffiti alerting passers-by that the hall was a neo-Nazi meeting place. But other than the removal of the JOUAM name and a new paint job, everything else about the building remains the same. Two years after the BACC moved in William Dunkerley passed away at the age of 94.
Longtime Elmwood Park Mayor Richard Mola always maintained that the white supremacists who met at the hall were protected by the First Amendment, and the most the government could do was keep an eye on what was happening at the location. “You can’t close down a place because people are talking,” he said. Ironically, three years later, Mola would find himself in another free speech debate, this time in his attempt to get a deli shop owner in town to remove a mural honoring Trayvon Martin, the black teen murdered by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida in 2012.