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Beleaguered neo-Nazi group leaflets homes

Returning to her Montano Avenue home from Mass on Sunday, Florence Piatt discovered a flier _ rolled into a cylinder and put in a plastic sleeve _ that had been left on her lawn.

The flier, which had been dropped at homes all along Montano, showed a radiant, bare-shouldered blond woman in profile, gazing upward.

Above the image was printed "LOVE YOUR RACE" in block letters, and below was contact information for the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group.

"I think I was in shock," said the 68-year-old retiree. "I was very disturbed."

Montano Avenue is a predominantly white neighborhood but is also home to black and Hispanic families.

Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, which tracks hate groups and is based in Montgomery, Ala., said the West Virginia-based National Alliance has weakened since the 2002 death of its founder, William Pierce.

Membership has dropped from 1,400 to less than 800, Potok said, and local chapters throughout the country now struggle because the group's national leadership has been riven by infighting.

"It's really gone downhill from the good old days when a real Nazi ran the thing," Potok said.

Unlike some neo-Nazi groups that favor military garb, Potok said National Alliance members tend to dress in dark suits and shades.

They view themselves, he said, as an elite brigade that will lead the mass of vulgar, ignorant whites out of jeopardy and into a racially pure future.

After Pierce's death, Potok said, the National Alliance increased its leafleting across the country, from Alaska to Florida.

In September of 2003, the group left fliers in several St. Petersburg neighborhoods, apparently to commemorate Pierce's birthday.

Pierce was the author of a book called The Turner Diaries, which was an inspiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

In 1998, members of another white supremacist group, World Church of the Creator based in Peoria, Ill., dropped fliers in Spring Hill.

The leaflet that so upset Piatt had a Tampa post office box and a telephone number with a 727 area code. According to Potok, the National Alliance has a Tampa branch.

Callers get a taped message that describes the National Alliance as "America's foremost organization working for the long-term interests of men and women of European descent."

It goes on to claim that nonwhite immigrants are imperiling civilization and that Jews control the media.

In closing, the speaker says, "We favor a free, strong, proud, white America" and asks those interested in the group to leave a message so that a local National Alliance member can contact them.

A message left by a St. Petersburg Times reporter was not immediately returned.

Will Van Sant can be reached at (352) 754-6127 or Information from Times files was used in this report.