November 20, 2009 in City

Swastika affixed to door of human rights center

Act could amount to felony under Idaho’s malicious harassment law
By The Spokesman-Review
Kathy Plonka photo

A swastika was found on the front door of the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene on Thursday.
(Full-size photo)

Employees of the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene arrived at work Thursday morning to discover a swastika sticker on the front door.

Director of Operations Donna Cork took a photo of the 2-inch-by-3-inch decal, then called the Coeur d’Alene Police Department, which is investigating the matter under Idaho’s malicious harassment law. The 1983 law makes it a felony to intimidate another person based on race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin.

Intimidation, under the law, includes defacing property, defined in part as “the placing of any word or symbol commonly associated with racial, religious or ethnic terrorism on the property of another person without his or her permission.”

Police collected evidence Thursday morning at the institute, said Tony Stewart, of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, which has battled the white supremacy movement in North Idaho for 30 years.

“We could get lucky and get fingerprints,” he said. “…  We’ve had really good success over the years with the police and the prosecutors.”

The institute’s education director, Rachel Dolezal, locked up the building, 414 ½ Mullan Ave., around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Cork arrived around 8:30 a.m. Thursday to open the doors and saw the sticker.

“I thought, ‘Oh, that’s a great way to start my day,’ ” Cork said, adding “then you get the heart clench.”

Dolezal said the sticker conveys a threat. “It’s a psychological form of violence,” she said.

The institute will turn over to police any evidence gathered on its surveillance camera, which is aimed at the lobby and front door, Cork and Dolezal said.

“With the landscaping lights (outside), I would think there’s a possibility you could tell if it’s one or more people,” Dolezal said.

Sgt. Christie Wood, of the Coeur d’Alene Police Department, said officers will take fingerprints, search the premises for evidence and review the video surveillance.

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