Latest from The Spokesman-Review
By KRISTI EATON,Associated Press
Vern Traversie, a 69-year-old Lakota man living on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, filed a federal lawsuit last month against Rapid City Regional Hospital, its board of directors, several physicians and others. He claims he was left with scars on his abdomen in the shape of the three letters following heart surgery last year.
YouTube videos featuring Traversie went viral in Native American communities earlier this year. In them, Traversie talks about being mistreated at the hospital and shows his abdomen. Although he is blind, Traversie said he was told by others that the scars form the letters.
A May rally in support of Traversie drew hundreds of people, many of whom said his story exemplifies the racism that Native Americans experience in Rapid City. But others said they couldn't make out the letters, including police who investigated his allegations. No criminal charges were filed.
The defendants in the lawsuit said there is no medical evidence to suggest that anyone burned or cut letters into Traversie.
“Every mark on Plaintiff's abdomen is explained by the medical procedures that he underwent to save his life,” Jeffrey Hurd, one of the defendant's lawyers, wrote in response to the lawsuit. “Indeed, the allegations of a 'KKK' scar were apparently created by a group of unqualified people in Plaintiff's home town, who simply discussed why Plaintiff had certain surgical scars.”
The lawyer noted that the people who told Traversie about his scars considered several possibilities, including a single “K,” a bite mark, the word “oink,” or four “K''s, before settling on the three-letter acronym.
“After reaching this decision through speculation and conjecture, and with no attempt to consult with Plaintiff's healthcare providers … they told Plaintiff that he had been victimized,” Hurd wrote.
The hospital also refutes claims that Traversie was denied pain medication, and noted that he was told to have a home health nurse inspect and care for the incisional wounds after he got home.
Reached by phone at his home Wednesday, Traversie said he could not comment on the case and referred questions to his pastor, Ben Farrar, who is acting as his spokesman. Farrar said he wasn't aware of Wednesday's filing but that he expected the hospital to deny the claims.
Farrar said heart surgery patients can expect to be left with a vertical scar down the sternum and a few horizontal scars where drainage tubes would be inserted — as can be seen in photos of Traversie.
“What we cannot expect is haphazard slashes all over the abdomen as well as some cuts that seem to form letters of the alphabet. This is not what can be considered normal,” Farrar said, adding that Traversie and his attorney will decide what action to take next.
It's unlikely that any other Bonner County sheriff candidate spent their Friday night like Shaun Winkler. At his compound just outside Priest River, Winkler and other family members of the northern Idaho Ku Klux Klan lavern held a get-together that included a nighttime cross lighting. Winkler, 33, is also tied to the Aryan Nations and Church of Jesus Christ-Christian. He has participated in racially-charged Kootenai County protests. According to Winkler, cross lighting, more commonly known as cross burning, often provokes strong reactions from most people. Given that fact, the ceremony is generally conducted in private within the compound once a month or so. “Generally, for a cross lighting, it's extremely rare we'd let any media there at all,” he said. However, after discussing the matter with his family and associates, the group agreed to allow outside observation for the ceremony. Winkler said the evening was meant to express both camaraderie and religious devotion/Cameron Rasmusson, Bonner County Bee. More here. (SR 2004 file photo of Shaun Winkler, center)
Tongue firmly cheeked, columnist Argus Hamilton of the Ardmoreite.com Web site writes about a North Idaho neo-Nazi's problem with running for office: “Idaho Ku Klux Klan leader Shaun Winkler announced he will run for Bonner County sheriff in May. His timing was bad. Right now everyone thinks that anyone who wears a hood is protesting racial profiling in Florida, so he'll have trouble getting his message out.”
Question: Do you think that sheriff's race in Bonner County might be getting the wrong kind of national attention?
He has been an Aryan Nations member and Ku Klux Klan leader, and now Shaun Winkler wants to be the sheriff in a rural Idaho county near the Canadian border. The white power activist is running as a Republican in the May 15 Bonner County primary to become the top law enforcement officer. Winkler said despite the white supremacist beliefs he holds as a KKK imperial wizard, his brand of justice would be color blind. “In the event I was elected sheriff, I would not act on racial profiling,” Winkler said. “Being in the white power movement, I know how it feels to be profiled by law enforcement.” Rather, Winkler is running on a platform that includes coming down hard on sex offenders and meth manufacturers, and reducing the impact of federal law enforcement at the county level/Nicholas K. Geranios, AP. More here.
Question: Is it worth getting worked up about Winkler's candidacy since he has little chance to win in Tea Party-influenced Bonner County?
Montana state legislators this week received a newsletter from a white supremacist group tied to the Ku Klux Klan that wants to turn the Northwest into “the future homeland of the white race from people all over the world.” The newsletter came from the Northwest Knights, whose national headquarters is based in Harrison, Ark., and whose website, www.KKK.com, is that of the Ku Klux Klan. It mentions that the Montana First Committee was formed in 2011 as an umbrella group for “white racialists in Montana, who want to create a white homeland in the Northwest.” The Northwest Knights, the newsletter said, is a “fraternal organization that is dedicated towards white civil rights in the Northwest”/Charles S. Johnson, Missoulian State Bureau. More here. (AP photo of late Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler during 1999 rally in Coeur d'Alene)
Question: Sound familiar?
Protesting members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church were met with an unlikely group of counterprotesters Monday at Arlington Cemetery. Hours before President Barack Obama led the nation's Memorial Day observances at the Tomb of the Unknowns, three members of the Westboro Baptist Church were challenged by others who disagreed with them — including members claiming to be from the Ku Klux Klan. The Kansas-based church has attracted nationwide attention for its angry, anti-gay protests at the funerals of U.S. military members. Among those counter-protesting at the cemetery's main entrance: About 10 members of a group that claims to be a branch of the Ku Klux Klan from Virginia called the Knights of the Southern Cross/CNN. More here. (AP file photo: Westboro Baptist protesters)
Question: In a cemetery showdown between Westboro Baptist Church and the Ku Klux Klan, which side would you be rooting for?
FERRIDAY, La. (AP) — Arthur Leonard Spencer says sure, he made some mistakes back when he was a “snot-nose kid,” like joining the Ku Klux Klan. But murder?
No, the 71-year-old Spencer says, a small-town weekly paper got it wrong when it reported recently that he may have been involved in burning down a black man's shoe repair shop in 1964 with the owner inside.
“I feel sorry for his family, but I didn't have nothing to do with it,” said Spencer, pictured last August.
No law enforcement agency has named Spencer as a suspect. But for the dead man's family, still praying for justice 46 years later, it's a welcome if not entirely solid lead.
The allegations were reported by the Concordia Sentinel of Ferriday, whose editor, Stanley Nelson, has dedicated the past four years of his life to an all-consuming investigation of the blaze that killed 51-year-old Frank Morris. (Morris is pictured above, fourth from right wearing a visor, in front of his shoe repair shop in the 1950s.)
Nelson (right) has written more than 100 stories about the case, culminating in an article that quoted Spencer's estranged son, his ex-wife and her brother as saying the former Klansman confessed to taking part in the crime.
Morris' slaying is one of more than 100 unsolved cases from the civil rights era that the FBI reopened in recent years. But for Nelson, the Morris case was unique, because it happened in his town. He has pledged to solve the crime once and for all.
The motive for the attack is not clear.
By most accounts Morris was well liked around town by both his black and white customers. He was separated or divorced and lived alone in a back room at his shop.
He was not known to be actively involved in the civil rights movement, which made black men targets in those days. And FBI documents indicate at least one witness debunked rumors that Morris had courted white women — a virtual death sentence in that era. Still, just being a successful black businessman with a white clientele and having contact with white women was enough to enrage many people back then.
Others have speculated that Morris may have been targeted for refusing to do shoe repairs for a corrupt sheriff's deputy, who wanted the services for free.
Whatever the case, heavily censored FBI files from the time paint a chilling picture of Morris' death.
Read the rest of the story by Associated Press writer Holbrook Mohr by clicking the link below.