Marshall Mend, of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, holds a picture of the first documented hate crime in Hayden -- the cowardly attack on Sid Rosen's restaurant that stood at the corner of Government Way & Miles. The attack prompted the creation of the task force. Rosen, a respected chef who was targeted by local racists because he was Jewish, died on Monday at age 90. A graveside service was held for him today and then a memorial at Nosworthy's to commemorate a productive life that wasn't stopped by the hatemongers. You can read Sid's obituary here. And you can read the role that Rosen and his restaurant played in the local human rights movement here. You can also read an editorial that I wrote in February 2001 about the local human rights movement and the role Sid Rosen played in it in the drop-down box below.
Question: Have you attended an event sponsored by the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations?
County's pride shows task force's strength
D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial
Publication Date: February 6, 2001 Page: B4 Section: THE HANDLE Edition: IDAHO Kootenai County is much different today than it was in December 1980 when Sid Rosen found racist graffiti sprayed on his Hayden restaurant.
Back then, victims of bigotry in Kootenai County had to live with the fear and sense of isolation that came with being singled out by immigrating racists. There was no place to turn for ready-made support. Some moved elsewhere, as a mixed-race family from Post Falls did in the early 1980s after being harassed by a racist. Today, targets of malicious harassment could bank on backing from a veteran core of human rights activists, tough Idaho laws against hate crimes, and a community that has had its fill of white supremacists and so-called Christian identity theology.
Over the next eight days, the Inland Northwest will celebrate two events tied to the cowardly attack on Rosen's restaurant: On Friday, the 20th anniversary of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations. And, next Tuesday, the auction of Richard Butler's former Aryan Nations compound, north of Hayden Lake.
It's hard to say what Kootenai County would be like today if the task force hadn't been here to resist Butler's neo-Nazi creed. Larry Broadbent, the late Kootenai County undersheriff and humanrights advocate, once said that, without the task force, there'd be hundreds and maybe thousands of racists in the county - instead of a handful. One thing's almost certain. Without the organized opposition provided by the task force, Butler's influence would have spread - and his Hayden Lake area hate campus probably would still be open for business.
The attack on Rosen's business begat a meeting of concerned citizens at Coeur d'Alene's First Christian Church. That begat the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations. And that later begat the five-state Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment. Under the wise, gutsy leadership of Bill Wassmuth, Tony Stewart and Norm Gissel, the task force countered every nasty move by local racists. It comforted hate-crime victims. When Butler staged a parade or an Aryan gathering, it countered with nonconfrontational human-rights activities. It helped write tough anti-bigotry laws. It spawned other North Idaho task forces.
Ultimately, Butler was snagged by Idaho's malicious harassment law. Last fall, a Kootenai County jury awarded a $6.3 million civil judgment against Butler and three former Aryan Nations members, for a 1998 attack on a mother and her son. The verdict bankrupted Butler and forced the sale of his 20-acre compound.
According to Stewart, nothing has done more to redeem Kootenai County's reputation than the Aryan Nations verdict. Although Butler's few remaining followers plan to meet at Farragut State Park and march again in Coeur d'Alene this July, they no longer have a campus to visit and learn about hate year round.
That alone makes Kootenai County a better place.