Nazis raising money for human rights?
That may happen if the Aryan Nations holds a parade in Coeur d’Alene in April celebrating Adolf Hitler’s birthday.
Taking an idea from a town in Pennsylvania, area human rights advocates are asking for pledges based on the duration of the Aryan parade.
For example, donors would give a dollar for every minute the Aryans march. Proceeds collected locally would be split between the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations and the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment.
Human rights groups across the country will be encouraged to use the Coeur d’Alene parade to raise money for their local groups.
That leaves the Aryan Nations with three options, said Tony Stewart of the human relations task force. “They can cancel the parade. They can march really fast to save money. Or they can walk really slow, which we recommend,” Stewart said.
The Hayden Lake-based Aryan Nations applied for a permit recently to hold a parade April 18 celebrating Hitler’s birthday. Aryan leader Richard Butler has called for at least 100 people to attend his “100-man flag parade.”
Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Judy has the final say on a permit. Judy says he still is exploring legal options for dealing with the permit request. Butler said he attempted to talk with the Coeur d’Alene mayor about the Aryan Nations parade permit application.
“He won’t talk to me,” Butler said Thursday at his Church of Jesus Christ Christian. “His secretary said, ‘He won’t see you.”’
Task force members assume Judy will have to approve the permit, said Doug Cresswell, the group’s president. The task force “acknowledges the constitutional right of all groups to free speech even when that assembly and speech is abhorrent to the basic principles of human dignity, respect and justice for all.”
Rather than confront the Aryan marchers, “we believe the best approach is to promote human rights,” Cresswell said.
The plan to combat the Aryan parade is not deterring threats of a counterprotest from the Los Angeles-based Jewish Defense League. The group will still organize its own march in the Lake City on April 18, promised Irv Rubin, national chairman of the Jewish Defense League.
“There are times for love and times for hate,” Rubin said. “I think it’s a shame people up there can’t show hate to the Aryans.
Rubin’s vision is a crowd so large and threatening that police have to rescue the Nazis from an outraged crowd of anti-Nazi protesters, he said.
“What happened today (Thursday) in Nevada is indicative of one fact: symbolic protest is not adequate,” Rubin said. He referred to the arrest of two suspected terrorists - one of them a former Aryan Nations member - who were charged in Nevada of possessing suspected biological weapons.
Butler says the fund-raising proposal won’t stop the parade.
“That’s fine, let them do it … that’s their god - the dollar bill,” Butler said. “We’re going ahead with it.”
Butler estimated the parade will take an hour followed by an hour-long rally in City Park.
The human relations task force is asking people to sign donation petitions, including a pledge that reads: “Yes, I believe that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust and that millions of others were killed as well by Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. Yes, I believe in the right of free speech, but I abhor the message of white supremacy and hatred that the Aryan Nations are proclaiming as they exercise their right of free speech by marching through Coeur d’Alene.”
Turning a white supremacist event into a human rights fund-raiser has been done in several towns, including Boyertown, Pa. About a year ago, the Boyertown Area Unity Coalition started collecting donations for every minute the Ku Klux Klan stood on a street corner and handed out racist pamphlets.
The move provides “a productive, non-violent channel for everybody to get involved,” according to a similar group in North Carolina using the fund-raising tactic.
The Pennsylvania coalition has raised more than $4,000 from five Klan events. The National Penn Bank, the business nearest the corner where the Klan passes out its literature, matches employee contributions.
The Unity Coalition recently gave $500 to the local library for books and videos promoting racial harmony. It also has donated some of the proceeds to national groups, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center - a Klan-watchdog group.
The Kootenai County task force’s fund-raiser is one of several in a series of events slated for the week of April 13-19. Instead of joining a counter march April 18, the task force is organizing a car caravan to Spokane for a civil rights march.
It won’t stop the media from giving the Aryan parade any coverage, but “we hope to focus the attention on the car caravan,” Cresswell said.
As the task force prepares its human rights campaign, Butler’s preparing to fight City Hall.
“If he (the mayor) comes out and says he’s not going to sign it, then we’ll file suit,” Butler said.
He said he has had preliminary discussions with the American Civil Liberties Union about legal representation if the permit is denied.
Several years ago, the ACLU represented a Ku Klux Klan organization that wanted to march through a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Skokie, Ill.
That KKK march was permitted under freedom of assembly guarantees in the U.S. Constitution.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Ken Olsen Staff writer Staff writer Bill Morlin contributed to this report.
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