Many residents of a north Coeur d’Alene subdivision awoke Friday to find racist fliers on their lawns, distributed as recruitment letters by the white supremacist group, the Aryan Nations.
“I saw Aryan Nations and put it in the trash,” said Garvin Jones, who lives in the neighborhood southwest of Atlas Road and Prairie Avenue. “What’s wrong with these people? Give me a break. I bet if you went back in their family history, not one is 100 percent white.”
Jones and dozens of his neighbors found the Xeroxed fliers on their lawns, encased in baggies that also held small rocks. They depict a young girl asking her father what he did during the “revolution” and asking “Where have all the White (sic) people gone daddy?” and “Why did those dark men take mommy away?” The flier is signed “Aryan Nations, Church of Jesus Christ Christian,” along with a post office box and a Web site. The city address is listed as “Couer (sic) d’Alene, Idaho.”
The Aryan Nations Web site lists Jerald O’Brien and Michael Lombard as the “pastors” who have taken over following longtime leader Richard Butler’s death in September 2004.
O’Brien said people in this area can expect the dissemination of “a lot more” fliers and said “likeminded individuals will respond and seek membership.” He said the election of President Barack Obama has served as the “greatest recruiting tool ever.” He said he had “several handfuls” of members in Coeur d’Alene.
The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations — which has fought the Aryan Nations for decades — quickly condemned the flier distribution and offered its services to anyone threatened or harassed.
“It’s bound to be a small group of people trying once again to bring hate into the community. They don’t have anywhere to operate from except a post office box,” said Tony Stewart, a spokesman for the task force. The people of this community, he added, “will reject it as they have in the past. Anyone who feels intimidated should take comfort in the fact that the people are here for them, and we are here for them.”
Several residents of the neighborhood that received the fliers were interviewed for this story. However, most of them asked not to be named out of fear of retribution. All of those interviewed expressed shock, disgust or anger at the fliers and at least two called the police. One caller was a 22-year-old white woman who has a 4-year-old African-American son.
“My son’s black, so it’s not okay,” said the woman who asked only to be identified as Chelsee B. She added that she was fearful of her son playing outside. Coeur d’Alene Police Department Sgt. Christie Wood said no investigation would be conducted because distribution of fliers is public speech, protected under the First Amendment. She said, however, that targeting people for harassment based on race is a crime and should be reported.
Stewart said hate speech is protected, but hate crimes are not. He encouraged any member of the public with concerns about racial harassment to contact the task force at (208) 765-3932.
The Aryan Nations was effectively bankrupted on Sept. 7, 2000, when a Kootenai County jury returned a $6.3 million verdict against the organization, its founder, Richard Butler, and three former members. The verdict in the civil trial found that Butler and his organization were guilty of gross negligence in appointing security guards who carried out an assault against two people driving by their property.
O’Brien, however, said the “world headquarters” of the organization is now in Coeur d’Alene in a location that is “membership privileged information only.” He did admit that he lives in a home on the east side of downtown Coeur d’Alene that regularly flies two white supremacist flags.
Newspaper files show O’Brien marching in a neo-Nazi parade in Coeur d’Alene in July 2004 and joining in a skinhead rally that drew eight people outside the Spokane County courthouse in June 2007. O’Brien has a large swastika tattoo on his scalp.
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