Story highlights

League of the South says it is group that believes in Southern independence

Southern Poverty Law Center calls it a hate group and "neo-Confederate"

Anniston suspends officers while it investigates the situation

CNN  — 

Two Alabama police lieutenants were suspended after an article on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website alleged the two men belong to an organization the SPLC has long labeled a hate group.

Lt. Josh Doggrell and Lt. Wayne Brown were placed Wednesday on administrative leave, the city of Anniston said in a written statement. City officials are investigating the allegations the men are associated with the League of the South, which the SPLC calls a “neo-Confederate” group.

The city said it was investigating the relationship.

“Lt. Brown and Lt. Doggrell do not speak for the City of Anniston nor the Anniston Police Department,” the city said. “The City of Anniston has commenced an investigation into this matter and will work diligently to ensure the appropriate action is taken.”

The League of the South denies it is a hate group and says on its website that its goal is “to advance the cultural, social, economic, and political well-being and independence of the Southern people by all honourable means.”

It has bought billboards in several Southern states advocating secession from the United States.

‘Wonderful to be around sanity’

In its story, the Southern Poverty Law Center posted an edited video that included snippets of a speech it says Doggrell made at a League of the South national conference two years ago.

In it, the speaker says, “It’s wonderful to be around sanity.” Aziza Jackson, a spokeswoman for the city of Anniston, confirmed the speaker is Doggrell.

He refers to a wilderness where people think differently than he does.

“We’re working on getting more of those people around to our way of thinking,” he says.

Brown is not shown in the video embedded on the SPLC site but is referred to in a much longer recording on YouTube. Doggrell says Brown is in the audience and tells a story about how the two were on their way to a meeting when Brown had a question.

“He asked me, ‘What is the magic bean that would arouse our people to see exactly what was happening to them and how necessary the step of secession is?’ ” Doggrell says.

Doggrell tells the audience he considers that the “million dollar question.”

CNN called both police officers Wednesday but in each case the phone rang without anyone or an answering machine picking up.

Speech found online a week ago

The Southern Poverty Law Center found the speech online a week ago, said Heidi Beirich, the group’s intelligence project director. The SPLC contacted the Police Department on Monday.

Beirich said Anniston City Manager Brian Johnson told them they had investigated Doggrell in the past for his connection to the League of the South.

The lieutenant makes reference to the investigation in his speech, saying he was cleared of any impropriety.

The League of the South is led by Michael Hill, a retired professor. One of his recent columns was about why “A race war in America would be a bad idea for negroes.”

He wrote: “Negroes are more impulsive than whites. … Tenacity and organization are not the negroes strong suits. If the war could be won by ferocity alone, he might have a chance. But like the adrenaline rush that sparks it, ferocity is short lived. And it can be countered by cool discipline, an historic white trait, and all that stems from it.”

Hill ended his column saying his group doesn’t want violence.

“We Southern nationalists want to live in peace with all men, as far as that is possible,” he wrote.