Rights Group Under Attack Human Rights Task Force Criticized For Exposing Ex-Kkk Leader
A Bonner County fringe group has attacked the Human Rights Task Force here, calling it a bigoted group with a secret agenda.
The Idaho Citizens Awareness Network is angry at the task force for exposing Louis Beam and for insinuating the citizens network has racist ties.
Beam, a former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon, is moving to Sandpoint and has attended citizens network meetings.
The task force has planned a June 16 human rights rally to denounce Beam and efforts to bring together groups here that advocate racism.
“This is our chance to stand up … and show that the citizens of this area will not allow the forces of hatred and bigotry to take over,” said task force President Brenda Hammond.
The meeting is planned at 7 p.m. at Sandpoint Middle School. The main speaker will be Bill Wassmuth, director of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment.
Bill Smyth, president of the citizens network, said his group is being unfairly tagged as racist because Beam came to a meeting.
“The task force has some folks who are misleading the community and being prejudiced and bigoted toward individuals and our organization,” Smyth charged.
“There are some who want to give us a black eye because we stick up for minority rights, and Mr. Beam is a minority because of his beliefs. We all have skeletons in our closet, just not as flaming and bright as Mr. Beam’s. But he has not done anything to break the laws here.”
The Human Rights Task Force never has said anything publicly against the citizens network or labeled the group, Hammond said.
The negative publicity is being generated by the group itself and its staunch defense of Beam’s arrival, she said.
The citizens network passed out fliers this week that basically support Beam and call for a meeting including Beam, the citizens network and the task force.
“We are not the ones promoting hate. We are only calling attention to what Mr. Beam has said and done in the past,” Hammond said.
Beam’s work includes writing for a white supremacist tabloid called Jubilee and being an ambassador at large for the Aryan Nations.
“People need to know what Beam is all about. We are concerned about him coming here and concerned that people are not fully aware of the agendas some of these groups have.”
Smyth’s group was co-founded by David Barley, pastor of an anti-Semitic ministry in Sandpoint.
Yet, Smyth insists his group was formed only to defend the U.S. Constitution and now hopes to mediate the racist rhetoric.
“We would urge all concerned, fair-minded citizens not to be misled by those who would cry for human rights and chill others’ First Amendment rights,” he said.