Editor's note: This story contains strong language.
The name, Church of Creativity, doesn’t sound threatening, but its creation is rooted in what was once the largest neo-Nazi movement in the United States. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies it as a hate group. Pittsburgh has its very own branch, and Squirrel Hill native Hardy Lloyd is the ‘reverend.’
Lloyd is a white supremacist with a violent background. In 2004, he stood trial for fatally shooting a woman named Lori Hahn, whom he met on a dating website. He was acquitted when a jury could not decide if he shot her in self-defense or not.
In the past 15 years, Lloyd has been incarcerated on charges of possessing illegal weapons, threatening police officers, online harassment, distributing racist propaganda and contacting white supremacist leader Matt Hale, who was in prison at the time for conspiracy to kill a federal judge. Lloyd did all of that while on probation. Upon release from prison last summer, 39-year-old Lloyd continued to spread his anti-feminist, anti-Semitic, anti-black views.
He used to leave white power messages on playgrounds and hold ‘church’ services in Schenley Park to recruit college students. The most recent incarnation of his bigotry has involved targeting white women who are, in Lloyd’s opinion, race traitors or anti-white bigots. Women in multiracial families, women who are vocal about their love of diversity and desire for racial justice, women who are the antithesis to his message.
In September 2017, I along with my black children became a target of Lloyd’s hatred. Federal marshals arrested him a few weeks later on parole violations. For a time, fear kept me silent, but I believe being transparent about hatred is one of our best tools to fight it. What follows is my story, and the stories of three other local white women who found themselves in the scope of Lloyd’s hate.
I began speaking up about race when my black twins (a boy and girl) were nine months old. When Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri, it felt to me as if the country was erupting in latent racial tensions. Now I realize they were never latent; they just had not affected me personally or anyone I loved. Prior to that, I would not say I was unaware of racism. I had worked in social services and had seen systemic issues in many communities. I was aware, just not vocal.
After that August 2014 day, speaking up was one of the few things I could do when I stared at my black infant son and felt helpless to keep him safe. I had uncomfortable conversations as I learned — sometimes ungracefully — to navigate advocating for my black children.
I did not expect to gain a bit of a social media following, but it did happen. I was just saying the same things that black folks have been saying for generations. I sometimes became nervous about hateful private messages I got, or when alt-right trolls attacked my family on Twitter after we were featured in an adoption article on PublicSource. Obviously speaking out against white supremacy would make white supremacists mad, right?
In September 2017, on the eve of my twins starting preschool, I got a message from my friend Kate that her child’s picture and some hateful words were posted on a white supremacist website with a significant local following. I knew my family would be on there. She confirmed in a few minutes that I was also listed, and my eyes clouded with tears when I read the words about my family. It was posted under the screen name of Lloyd’s wife. Lloyd is technically, by rules of probation, no longer allowed to post.
“This n***** loving scum lives in Pgh, PA:
Meg St-Esprit McKivigan
She has 3 kids, two are half-koons. Doesn't like our message.
Pics of her to follow once the upload is fixed.”
I wasn’t sure how to react. These were my sweet children, the little babies that had been placed into my arms. The toddlers I chased around our home. The preschoolers asleep in their beds excited to begin school in the morning.
My initial reaction was to go around and re-check all the door locks and security system. Then I called our local police department to secure my family’s safety.
An officer came out the next evening while my children were sleeping. He took my concerns seriously and reached out to neighboring law enforcement to ensure our safety. We were connected with a city detective who works on Lloyd’s case on the domestic terrorism joint task force between the FBI and the city police force. Extra patrols passed our house regularly, and I was instructed to call 911 immediately if anything made me uncomfortable. Later, when sharing this with a good friend, a black woman, she chuckled at the irony of the police response to our situation. She has been battling racism, both overt and covert, throughout her life and has never gotten this type of law enforcement support. This caused me to pause and examine things: If we had not been a white couple, what would the response of the officers have been?
I began the arduous task of alerting those in our children’s lives to be aware. I talked with the school principal, and my son’s teacher changed pickup procedure to ensure that my kindergartener was safe. She made sure he was delivered directly to me instead of allowed to run out the school door like the rest of his carefree friends.
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Some told me I had “asked for this” by being vocal about racism. I refuse to believe it. I refuse to let myself be scared into silence. For me, this was just a small sliver of what my children will experience in their lives, and what my friends of color have been battling daily. They’ve been brave for a lot longer than I’ve even been aware of these issues.
Four years ago, Kara and Pat Manion became parents to a baby boy through adoption. They became parents to a black child, and their entire worldview began to shift. While the couple had held progressive views on many topics, Kara shares that race was not something they thought about that much. She says she feels shame now, looking back, that she was so blind to the racism that is blatant and prevalent in our city. Parenting their first son, and the biracial brother that followed him three years later, made Kara grow in many ways. She knows that while she can never fully understand the experiences of people of color, including her sons, she is compelled to use her privilege to speak up for injustice when she is able.
The couple often takes their children to political events and have always felt safe doing so. On August 14, 2017, two days after the white supremacists’ march in Charlottesville, their family stood outside Rep. Tim Murphy’s office in Mount Lebanon with friends and fellow residents for “Mondays with Murphy.” The agenda for the week was to hold him accountable to making a strong statement denouncing what happened in Charlottesville.
Kara stood in the crowd, her toddler on her back in a carrier, her preschooler in a stroller, when suddenly a man in fatigues with Nazi insignia came to the front of the crowd, yelled “White power!” and did a Nazi salute before the crowd. It was Lloyd.
“I was surrounded by white people with signs on a busy street … they were all mad but our reaction was different,” Kara said. Lloyd’s display knocked the wind out of her. All she could think about was her two little boys she loves so much. “I really want to know how he can have so much hate for two little people I would give my life for.”
Kara always imagined she would scream back and stand up for her kids in a moment like this. But in that moment of fearing for the safety and well-being of her children, she froze.
Kara is thankful her children, ages 1 and 4, were oblivious to the hateful words directed toward people who look like them. However, she knows that will not always be the case as they grow older.
Michelena Wolf, 46, remembers being aware of racism as a young person and thinking it was wrong. “I’d say I sympathized with black people and recognized their contributions to this country when quite young. Sadly, I didn’t learn about the role of whiteness and the responsibility of white people to address white supremacy until I was 40 years old. But now that I know, I feel an intense sense of responsibility. I don’t like being part of the problem when that problem is causing death and destruction to so many people.”
Michelena’s North Hills home has sported a Black Lives Matter sign for awhile now, but the current sign is the sixth one she has displayed. The previous five were stolen, vandalized and spray-painted. People regularly yell obscenities toward her home while driving by. In fall 2016, someone left a pumpkin with KKK carved into it at her house. Michelena contacted the police; she said police did not treat it as a crime or racially motivated and took no action.
When Michelena was told that Meg and Kate had been found on Lloyd’s website, she searched and found her picture and name listed. A range of feelings rose up as she saw her face among the racially charged text, with the poster signing off, “Rahowa!” — the Church of Creativity’s abbreviation for racial holy war.
“I was annoyed and also a bit amused. Slightly concerned for my family’s security, especially because our house has been targeted before...Why would I even come to his attention? Am I bothering the local white supremacists? Job well done.”
Michelena has no plans to stop advocating for the marginalized in Pittsburgh.
Kate O’Brien grew up surrounded by neo-Nazis in Southern California. She was not a part of their movement, but watched hatred swallow several of her friends.
When Kate moved to Pittsburgh four years ago, she was blown away by the overt racism she witnessed. As she sought out new friendships, she heard stories about how white parents moved their kids away from diversity, how they feared it and how they judged anyone who was different than them. “I am not any kind of activist or anything, I just feel really betrayed, because I was taught growing up that this had all been taken care of, and it totally hasn’t. I believed people were equal, and it hurts on a childlike innocence level that they aren’t considered equal. I was pretty stupid.”
Kate lives with her 7-year-old son and partner north of Downtown. Local activists alerted Kate in early September that her son’s picture was listed on the Church of Creativity website. The site listed her neighborhood and included a photo with the label “anti-white bigot” above it.
Different sections of the thread referenced fighting back against anti-white bigots, but because it was not paired directly with the photo, Kate said the police told her it was not a threat. Her 7-year-old son’s face on the Internet, surrounded by so much bigotry and hatred, shook Kate. She took steps with Pittsburgh Public Schools to improve her son’s safety and worked with city detectives to take action against Lloyd. Despite a minor’s picture being used, the post could not be removed. Posting her child’s picture violates no law.
“I get that they don’t like me, I’m pretty vocal. But it’s my kid. It’s my kid. He is involved in this now.”
Two weeks after we first learned we were on Lloyd’s radar, we received word from detectives that he had been arrested at his Dormont home on parole violations. Weapons in the home, googling how to chloroform women, and illegally accessing public computers were just some of the reasons his parole was revoked.
We did not breathe a sigh of relief when federal marshals took him to jail. There was a sense of justice, for a moment, but everyone targeted by his hate is also aware that there are followers, members of his ‘church’ who remain active on his website while he is jailed. In processing these events together, we felt the heavy realization that this feels so shocking to us because we have mostly moved through life unaffected personally by racism. Lloyd targeted us because we strive to be anti-racist white people, but his true hatred is directed at people of color, not at us.
At a hearing on Dec. 12, U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Schwab sentenced Lloyd to 13 months in federal prison. Schwab found that Lloyd violated three terms of his July release; he violated computer restriction, provided false statements to his probation officer, and knowingly possessed prohibited weapons. Once released, Lloyd will be supervised for an additional nine months either at a transitional facility or a mental health facility. Lloyd’s attorney reportedly submitted a request that he be permitted to move to Dallas at the conclusion of his supervision.
Correction, posted Jan. 30: The previous version of the story incorrectly stated the charges brought against Lloyd. Matt Hale, the former leader of the Church of Creativity, was the one charged with trying to hire someone to murder a federal judge, not Lloyd. Part of the 2016 revocation of Lloyd’s probation was contacting the imprisoned Hale. We regret the error.
This story was fact-checked by Matt Petras.