The arrival of white supremacist Richard Butler in the 1970s opened a dark chapter of North Idaho history. Amid the intimidation and overt racism his Aryan Nations exercised, Coeur d’Alene human rights leaders founded a task force that became a model for community response to racism. It’s a model that remains relevant as signs of hate creep back into the region today.
Four years after moving to rural Kootenai County from California in 1973, Butler, a former aeronautical engineer, started a compound on Rimrock Road. The 20-acre site north of Hayden Lake would become a racist encampment perhaps like no other in the nation.
Butler used savings to build the Church of Jesus Christ Christian at the compound. An adjoining shop printed racist and anti-Semitic pamphlets, books and fliers. The group held parades in downtown Coeur d’Alene and annual summits at the compound. By the 1990s, the Aryan Nations had one of the first hate Web sites.
Butler faced rivalry from other racists, and his compound was bombed in 1981. That same year, anti-Semitic grafitti targeting a Jewish restaurant owner attracted the attention of human rights activists, and the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations was born. Founders Tony Stewart, Norm Gissel and Marshall Mend became community voices against hate.
The Aryan Nations compound and its contents were burned and bulldozed into a peace park after a lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center bankrupted the group in 2000. Butler died four years later.
On Sept. 7, 2010, community leaders marked the 10-year anniversary of the verdict that bankrupted the Aryan Nations. Nonetheless, hate crimes, racist vandalism, racist fliers and a power struggle between men claiming to lead a rejuvenated Aryan Nations recently have cropped in the region, affirming that the fight against hate is not finished.
On Jan. 22, 2011, a leader of the Aryan Nations issued a statement denying involvement with a bomb left at Spokane’s Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March. Morris Gullett, a longtime racist identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as the leader of the Aryan Nations, said, “We absolutely do not condone this type of activity, but emphatically do condemn the use of force and terror such as the sort that is being implied was committed by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Aryan Nations, in Spokane.”
Summary written by Andrew Zahler.
By content type
Latest updates in this topic
North Idaho attorney charged in murder-for-hire plot
Ore. community comes together against supremacists
February 26, 2010 in City, Idaho, Region A community hall in Eastern Oregon couldn’t hold all of the local residents who showed up Friday to voice concern that a swastika-wearing white supremacist might move himself and his … 3
Aryans seek new city
February 25, 2010 in City on Page A1 An Aryan Nations member from Athol visited John Day, Ore., last week, making clear his plan to set up a headquarters compound in that rural town. “They just came by … 1
Bigotry’s embers need constant monitoring
Scourge of Hatred
February 7, 2010 in City, Idaho on Page A1 In a small house in Coeur d’Alene, 89-year-old Sid Rosen lives out his sunset years going through his life’s mementos. ■ Tucked away in a box, the World War II … 24
Task force joins hate crime probe
February 4, 2010 in City on Page A5 The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations is offering up to $1,000 for tips leading to the solution of any of the hate crimes that have plagued the Inland …
Reward offered for tips in North Idaho hate crimes
Youth urges peers to try to help others
January 16, 2010 in Idaho on Page B3 At the tender age of 12, Zach Bonner is a seasoned activist. The Florida sixth-grader has raised thousands of dollars for homeless children, organized drives that sent backpacks filled with …
Prosecutors drop littering charges in racist fliers case
December 11, 2009 in City on Page A5 No criminal charges will be pursued against three Aryan Nations members cited for littering after Coeur d’Alene residents found fliers advertising the racist group in their yards this summer. The …
At 12, boy’s walked an activist’s path
December 8, 2009 in City on Page A5 In 2004, when Hurricane Charley devastated parts of Florida, 6-year-old Zach Bonner decided to try to help his neighbors who had no water. Going from door to door, pulling his …
Swastika pasted on CdA human rights center
Rights educator finds noose on porch of Spokane home
September 24, 2009 in City on Page A1 A black woman who directs educational programs for Coeur d’Alene’s Human Rights Education Institute awoke Sunday morning to find a noose on the doorstep of her north Spokane home. It …
Officials promise ‘boldness’ against Aryans
August 21, 2009 in City, Idaho on Page B1 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 … 7
Doug Clark: Neo-Nutzies give residents a bad name
North Idaho men cited for distributing racist fliers
Face Time: Tony Stewart
June 29, 2009 in City on Page A5 White-supremacist fliers have been distributed in several Coeur d’Alene-area neighborhoods over the past three months. The Aryan Nations, which was bankrupted in 2000 by a $6.3 million court verdict, has …
Hayden man: Suspected museum gunman angry, violent
June 11, 2009 in City, Idaho, Nation/World The suspected gunman in today’s shootout at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. used to live in North Idaho. James W. von Brunn, 89, a white supremacist who chronicled his … 6
Judge who oversaw Aryans trial to retire
June 2, 2009 in City on Page A7 The Idaho judge who presided over the Kootenai County civil trial that bankrupted the Aryan Nations in 2000 is retiring. Charles W. Hosack, 62, will step down at the end …
Dachau liberator ensures we never forget
April 21, 2009 in City on Page A5 The day’s bright sunshine was hiding behind a high overcast sky by the time Dee Eberhart arrived at Adolf Hitler’s oldest death factory. Eberhart, a battle-toughened GI from the Yakima … 1
Racist group leaves fliers on lawns
April 18, 2009 in City on Page A1 Residents of a north Coeur d’Alene subdivision awoke Friday to find racist fliers on their lawns, distributed as recruitment letters by Aryan Nations, a white supremacist group.q “I saw Aryan …