Criminal citations and civil lawsuits are options. But the recent surge in racist activity is best dealt with by a unified community dedicated to rejecting discrimination and hate, leaders from across the Inland Northwest said Friday.
“We have been vested with the authority and the power to take action and I assure you I will use that power and authority to take a stronger stance of boldness,” said Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick. “People who are hateful are bold. But stand by to stand by, because we are more bold than they are.”
City leaders and law enforcement from around the region gathered with the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations to respond to racist fliers that have been distributed since April.
A man with extensive ties to hate groups, Paul R. Mullet, moved to Athol from Ohio about five months ago and has promised to resurrect the Aryan Nations. The group moved its headquarters from Hayden Lake after the death of its founder, Richard Butler, in 2004.
Mullet and Kevin B. McGuire were ticketed for littering and Todd Weston for aiding a misdemeanor Aug. 8 after neighbors in Coeur d’Alene complained about the fliers to police.
“We will not be known as places that allow hatred to dwell,” said Spokane Mayor Mary Verner.
The Kootenai County task force is credited with dismantling Butler’s Hayden Lake compound with a successful civil suit that bankrupted the Aryan Nations in 2000. The land is now a peace park.
But racist activity has lived quietly in the region since. In 2007, a man claiming Aryan Nations ties interrupted a talk by task force founders Tony Stewart and Norm Gissel at the Human Rights Institute. Three others stood outside the building handing out pro-Aryan literature. That summer, two men reportedly screamed racial slurs and neo-Nazi mantras at Hayden Lake, and Silverwood Theme Park near Athol ordered a group of men with swastika tattoos to cover the markings or leave. The men left.
Then in April, Coeur d’Alene residents awoke to fliers advertising the Aryan Nations in their yards. Residents in Spirit Lake have gotten them, too. Earlier this month, Coeur d’Alene police ticketed Mullet, McGurre and Weston after a neighbor said they’d thrown the fliers to children playing in a yard. Less than two weeks later, Spokane Valley yards were littered with the same fliers, police said.
Spokane Valley Mayor Richard Munson encouraged citizens to reject Mullet and his “type of vitriolic nonsense.”
Officials from Rathdrum, Spokane Valley, Dalton Gardens, Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene, Liberty Lake, Spokane, Sandpoint and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe attended the press conference, which was held near the state line.
“We believe that where there’s hate speech, good speech is essential and it wins out in the end,” said Stewart, task force secretary. “… I think it comforts the people in the neighborhoods. They know we are speaking out.”
Two assaults have been reported in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene in the past month that police think may be racially motivated, but detectives say they have no reason to suspect members of the Aryan Nations. Idaho’s hate crime law makes it a felony to “intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin.”
Washington’s malicious harassment law can be used to prosecute racial intimidation.
Mullet condemned the press conference in a prepared statement and said his organization will not violate the law.
“For far to long ALL other groups have been able to spread there messages unchallenged and nay encouraged to have free speech but one group the WHITE RACE!” the statement reads, verbatim. “The media blitz this morning is nothing more than them stirring up a population of people to do nothing more than attack us for having the willingness to speak truth, granted to us under the constitution of the United States!”
Mullet has promised to fight the littering citation filed this month. His next court date is set for Sept. 30.