October 10, 1996 in Nation/World

It All Sounds So Familiar

By The Spokesman-Review

It all sounds so familiar.

Hordes of federal agents follow a trail of anti-government extremists. Bombs have exploded. Banks are robbed. The suspects are linked to a militant brand of white supremacy that percolates in pockets of the Inland Northwest.

The investigation stretches across Washington and into Oregon. But it settles in the quiet, rugged hills of North Idaho.

Tuesday’s arrests of three Sandpoint-area men - suspects in the April 1 and July 12 bombings and bank robberies in the Spokane Valley - fill a new page in the region’s ugly history of violence associated with white supremacy and anti-government fervor.

The scope of the brazen bombings and robberies places them among the most frightening crimes attributed to the radical right.

Not since the 1992 siege at Randy Weaver’s cabin on Ruby Ridge have so many law officers swarmed North Idaho’s back roads in pursuit of those who rail against the government.

And not since 1984, when a racist gang called The Order robbed and bombed its way across the West, has home-grown terrorism spread such fear in our region.

Many people trace the origin of this movement to the Aryan Nations church, started in Hayden Lake, Idaho, in the late 1970s by Richard Butler.

The Order was a splinter of the Aryan Nations. Its reign of terror in the name of the white race has been replicated by several groups over the years.

The three men arrested Tuesday attended a Christian Identity church in Sandpoint that shares the Aryan Nations belief that whites are the true children of God.

Arrest details are still unfolding. But they serve as an unwelcome reminder of this region’s prominence in the violent side of the nation’s anti-government and white supremacy movements.

, DataTimes

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