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Editorial: Bomb arrest underscores importance of vigilance

The Inland Northwest can be thankful that an arrest has been made in the case of the backpack bomb placed near the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade route. It’s unsurprising that the suspect has ties to a white supremacist movement, but it’s still distressing given the region’s history with racist activity and the sickening religious belief called Christian Identity.

Kevin William Harpham, 36, was arrested Wednesday morning near his Addy, Wash., home. The Southern Poverty Law Center confirms that he was a member of the National Alliance, which was founded by the author of “The Turner Diaries,” which depicts an all-out race war.

The book is said to have inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and The Order, which was made up of neo-Nazi terrorists, many of whom came from Richard Butler’s Aryan Nations church in Hayden Lake. They murdered a Jewish talk show host in Denver and robbed banks. It was Christian Identity adherents who bombed Spokane City Hall, a Spokane Valley Planned Parenthood site and a Spokane Valley branch office of The Spokesman-Review.

Though we don’t enjoy reliving that legacy, it was surely a factor in how swiftly and seriously law enforcement moved when the backpack bomb was discovered on Jan. 17 at the northeast corner of Washington Street and Main Avenue. The positioning of the device suggests that marchers along the MLK Day parade route were the targets.

The lesson of that day was that vigilance pays off because three workers for the Spokane Public Facilities District saw the backpack and alerted police in time to divert the march. Confirmation that this was a hate-based attack will underscore the community’s need to remain vigilant.

A variety of law enforcement agencies have worked on this case. The FBI says that it has been a top priority from the beginning. Though the details of how the suspect was discovered aren’t being disclosed, it would appear that collaboration, professionalism and determination played a role in unearthing and pursuing the clues.

The arrest is national news and will no doubt trigger another round of knee-jerk judgments about this region’s attitudes on race. But closer to home, we can point with pride to the no-nonsense approach that’s been taken from the beginning.

This story is one of intolerance: We simply will not put up with this toxic blend of bigotry and violence.

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