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.
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The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations Board announced today the keynote speaker and other details of the upcoming 16th annual human rights banquet to be held in cooperation with the Human Rights Education Institute on Monday, April 22 at the Best Western Coeur d’Alene Inn. Gregory H. Stanton (pictured), president of the international “Genocide Watch”, will deliver the banquet keynote titled: “Ending Genocide: Local Action is the Best Way to Prevent Atrocities”. During his speech, Dr. Stanton will present examples of how local movements successfully defeated the Aryan Nations in the Inland Northwest, dictators Milosevic in Yugoslavia and Charles Taylor in Liberia and caused the fall of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party/Tony Stewart, Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations. More here.
Question: Have you ever attended the annual Human Rights Banquet?
Shaun Patrick Winkler waves to Mark Eliseuson while entering his compound on the evening of a cross burning ceremony near Priest River. You can see more of Matt's photos of Winkler and the compound he's attempting to build here. (Photo credit 2012: Matt McKnight)
There’s a new effort to build a white supremacist compound in the Northwest. The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported that a man in remote north Idaho has been developing property to revive the Neo-Nazi presence there. Shaun Winkler’s beliefs are no secret in north Idaho. The 34-year-old was a protégé of Richard Butler, the former leader of the Aryan Nations, once headquartered here. More recently, Winkler has picketed Mexican restaurants and a Martin Luther King Day event in Coeur d’Alene. So when Winkler announced he was running for county sheriff, photojournalist Matt McKnight asked to meet with him. “It was pretty obvious to me that what he’s after is building a compound, having that compound for people to live on,” says McKnight. McKnight met with Winkler four times at his property in the Hoodoo Mountains of north Idaho last spring/Jessica Robinson, Northwest News Network (NPR). More here.
DFO: I'm running this because it's the story behind the story that was triggered by Bill Morlin's story for the Southern Poverty Law Center re: the possibility of a new Aryan Nations compound in Bonner County's Hoodoo Mountains.
Photographer Matt McKnight shot this photo of a cross-burning on Shaun Winkler's property in Bonner County's Hoodoo Mountains earlier this year, during Winkler's unsuccessful campaign for county sheriff. McKnight was invited by Winkler to photograph the activities of his group and him. You can see 18 more photos of Winkler & Co. by Matt McKnight here.
A neo-Nazi protégé of Aryan Nations founder Richard G. Butler is building a new compound in North Idaho where he hosts Ku Klux Klan cross burnings and anti-Semitic Christian Identity church services. Shaun Patrick Winkler — who studied the Christian Identity message of hate under Butler until the iconic racist leader’s death in 2004 — purchased 17.3 acres of timbered property last year in the Hoodoo Mountains of Bonner County, Idaho, not far from the former site of the Aryan Nations “world headquarters” in adjoining Kootenai County. He reportedly plans to open it up for families affiliated with the Klan or Aryan Nations to move in and build residences. Construction of the new Aryan-style compound is sending shivers down the spines of area human rights activists who applauded when Butler’s 20-acre hate compound was turned into a cow pasture more than a decade ago/Bill Morlin, Southern Poverty Law Center. More here.
Question: Do you expect to see a revival of the Aryan Nations in North Idaho?
Tom Metzger — a wily, iconic racist ideologue who has for years espoused “lone-wolf” terrorism — could soon find himself facing criminal charges filed by the federal government he’s excoriated for decades. Federal investigators, fresh off a related mail-bombing conviction in Arizona, may be pressing for what could develop into a major Justice Department criminal case against “Terrible Tommy” Metzger, as he likes to call himself. Court records filed in three states show the investigators strongly suspect Metzger provided the Arizona bomber with explosive-making instructions, knowing they would be used in the commission of a crime of violence. At 74, Metzger, who now lives in Warsaw, Ind., has “celebrity status” as the founder of White Aryan Resistance (WAR), court documents say, and is a dean of white supremacists/Bill Morlin, Hate Watch (Southern Poverty Law Center). More here. (Photo courtesy Southern Poverty Law Center)
DFO: Metzger was a close confidante of the late Aryan Nation leader Richard Butler who came to several of the Aryan Nation Congresses above Hayden Lake and attended at least one Coeur d'Alene neo-Nazi parade.
Question: Am I the only one in Hucks Nation who witnessed an Aryan Nations parade in downtown Coeur d'Alene?
The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations’ Board of Directors announced today their full support of Idaho SB 1358 known as the anti-bullying bill to protect Idaho’s school children. The Board indicated that although it is already against Idaho law to bully another student in Idaho schools, this bill both expands and covers areas presently not addressed in the current legislation. Senate Bill 1358 requires every school district to have its own anti-bullying policy, provides for teacher training, makes sure teachers and school staff know that they are expected to intervene and keep kids safe when they see bullying occur, and very importantly the bill sets penalties for cyberbullying. More here. (2009 SR file photo of task force leaders Christie Wood & Tony Stewart at a human-rights event)
Question: Can you think of any legislator who would oppose this common-sense bill?
Thank you so much for using the comments by Christie and me in today’s Huckleberries. It is greatly appreciated. Please allow me to take this opportunity to make a few observations about the media’s coverage for more than 30 years of the human rights movement to counter the activities of hate activities and hate crimes in the Pacific Northwest. As I have said on numerous occasions, there is no doubt in my mind that the two journalists in the entire United States with the most extensive knowledge and expertise on this subject are Dave Oliveria and Bill Morlin. Between these two excellent journalists, they have a combined history of more than 60 years. I have often referred reporters from such newspapers as the “New York Times” to Dave or Bill for background information. We are fortunate that you both have chosen to stay in the Inland Northwest during your successful journalism career. And the Southern Poverty Law Center was very wise to recently bring Bill on board as part of their blog reporting/Tony Stewart, Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations. More here.
DFO: 'Tis nice to be lumped in the same sentence as Bill by someone is revered in this community as Tony.
Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations members weren’t happy with Huckleberries’ description of the venerable group last Sunday – as one that “prefers to accentuate the positive and focus on education.” Tony Stewart and Coeur d’Alene police Sgt. Christie Wood emailed my HucksOnline blog that the highlighted activities are but a “partial description of who we are.” Huckleberries had spotlighted how Rachel Dolezal, formerly of the Human Rights Education Institute, faced down KKKers during their protest of the task force-backed MLK Day event for fifth-graders at North Idaho College Jan. 13. In their email, Stewart and Wood listed hate-crime victims the task force has helped, dating back to attacks against Hayden restaurant owner Sid Rosen and Coeur d’Alene mother Connie Fort in the early 1980s. The group, they said, was instrumental in the 1998 case of Victoria and Jason Keenan that ultimately bankrupted the Aryan Nations. The 1986 bombing of the late Bill Wassmuth’s home is an example of serious threats task force members have endured, they said, adding: “We are not just a feel good organization”/DFO, SR Sunday Huckleberries. More here.
- 'Family feel' marked Stewart's hardware store/Doug Clark
- The Slice: When all else fails, blame Steve/Paul Turner
- How about WSU sharing NCAA wealth?/Shawn Vestal
- Smart Bombs? Why handcuff worker tools/Gary Crooks
- Provodnikov KOs Torres in 'Friday Night Fights/John Blanchette
- Deadline too tight for health insurance exchange/Betsy Russell
Question: Have you ever been involved with the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations?
Re: Rachel Dolezal's protest/DFO, Sunday Huckleberries (2nd item)
In the “Spokesman Review” Huckleberries column on Sunday, January 22, 2012, it was suggested that the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations prefers to accentuate the positive and focus on education with regard to confronting bigotry, prejudice and hate. This is only a partial description of who we are. For 31 years, the work and activities of the KCTFHR have included supporting the victims of hate crimes going back as far as the Sid Rosen and Connie Fort cases in the early 1980’s, the Victoria and Jason Keenan case in 1998 and the more recent 2011 Marlon Baker case. Let us not forget that members of our board have experienced serious threats on their lives such as the bombing of the late Father Bill Wassmuth’s home. We are not just a feel good organization/Christie Wood & Tony Stewart, Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations. More here. (2009 SR file photo: Tony Stewart, right, and Sgt. Christie Wood speaks to media about racist literature)
Question: Have you ever participated in an event staged by the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations?
It ain’t easy jettisoning public art devoted to tolerance. But the Bonner County commissioners are trying. Artist David Kraisler’s “Tolerance” – a 10-foot steel-and-wood piece – has “graced” the courthouse lawn in Sandpoint for 11 years, since its creation in response to a planned 2001 Aryan Nations parade that didn’t happen. The city of Sandpoint got first shot at hosting “Tolerance,” but passed on it, claiming at the time that lack of a policy for public art was the problem. Trouble is, the sculpture resembles two giant stick figures coupling. “Tolerance” has many detractors. An arsonist once tried to burn it down. The Bonner County Daily Bee reports on the balancing act performed by commissioners. They support the idea behind “Tolerance,” but not necessarily the offbeat sculpture. Besides, the wood is rotting. And courthouse expansion plans could crowd “Tolerance” off the lawn. Maybe it’s time to check back with Sandpoint city leaders to see if they have finally adopted a public arts policy/DFO, SR Huckleberries. Complete Sunday column here.
Other SR weekend columns:
- Daugherty's Cougars approach next hurdle/John Blanchette
- No better time to imagine a warm day on lake/Paul Turner
- Idaho grocers seek to ease food stamp rush/Betsy Russell
- Mary, Mary, you've become quite contrary/Doug Clark
- Smart Bombs: Not by soot alone/Gary Crooks
- Little Spokane River watershed preserved/Rich Landers
Question: What do you do when public art is too weird or ugly?
Middle school students in Coeur d'Alene are viewing film footage of their own community this morning, as part of a classroom lesson on racism. The Idaho Public Television special, “The Color of Conscience,” is being shown to Lakes Magnet Middle School students. Following the showing of the film, students in all the school's advisory classes will participate in teacher-led followup discussions on racism. Produced by Idaho Public Television host, Marcia Franklin, “The Color of Conscience” first aired in May. The documentary examines the past 30 years of the modern human rights movement in Idaho, and chronicles the efforts of local human rights activists who in 1981 founded the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations/Coeur d'Alene Press. More here. (Tony Stewart, of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, holds up a 1988 Oregonian story re: the Aryan Nations)
Question: Should local schools offer classes on a local history of racism involving the Aryan Nations and the response by the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations?
“I always thought I'd like to end my career with one big case involving real government tyranny and genuine wrong-doing that you can point to and people would be marching in the streets,” Steele said. “Lo and behold — ironically — I've almost got the case and its mine.” Steele made a name for himself ten years ago, representing those on the fringe. He represented the McGuckins, a North Idaho family whose children held government agents at bay with guns and guard dogs for days on end. He also represented the Aryan Nations in a civil case that bankrupt the movement. You can't talk to Steele without hearing his views on race.”People live in North Idaho and they're here for the weather, they're here for the lack of population, they're here for the good shopping, they're here for the transportation,” he explained. “Those are acronyms, code words, for living apart from other races. I don't use those code words. I just say I prefer to have my family live somewhere that is not riddled with the crime that comes with Mexicans and blacks living all around you”/Melissa Luck, KXLY. More here.
Question: Do you feel sorry for Edgar Steele?
Sgt. Christie Wood responds to an allegation made by Jeff Ward in his Reagan Republicans newsletter: “In your newsletter to your supporters you made a blatantly false statement accusing me with the following:
“This May, with the aid of his cohort, city police spokeswoman Kristy Wood and their nattering anonymous henchmen at HBO blog, he launched a scurrilous attack, on Tom Hamilton, Terri Seymour, Citizens for Better Education and the Reagan Republicans slandering us by attempting to link us with Aryan Nazis”. You clearly have me confused with someone else, and have done sloppy research (let alone exaggerated what I recall reading on HBO about this topic) before posting your newsletter. I do not appreciate your fabrication, or your clear intention to link my professional life and title to your political blog. My expectation is that you have the integrity to correct your false statement.
- You can read about the post office box dust-up re: Citizens for Better Education and the old Coeur d'Alene post office box number here.
A Coeur d'Alene man and reputed racist faces five years to life in prison if convicted of a hate crime under Idaho's repeat offender law.
Joel Townsend Diekhoff, 29, an associate of local Aryan Nations member Jerald O'Brien, remains in the Kootenai County Jail on $50,000 bond for malicious harassment.
Diekhoff was arrested Saturday after Demetrius K. Lee, 39, said a white man with several Aryan tattoos yelled slurs and threatened him for walking in front of his house near South 19th Street and East Mullan Avenue
Lee said the man, whom police identified as Diekhoff after interviewing witnesses, came out of the house with three other men to “beat him up.”
Lee returned to the area with a baseball bat and had a heated conversation with Diekhoff before calling police.
Diekhoff has previous convictions for felon in possession of a firearm in Washington state in 2005 and theft in Georgia in 2000, according to court documents filed this week in Kootenai County District Court. Idaho law calls for criminals to serve five years to life in prison for felony crimes if convicted of two previous felonies.
A Coeur d'Alene man and reputed racist remains in jail on $50,000 after appearing in court on a hate-crime charge Monday.
Joel Townsend Diekhoff, 29, an associate of local Aryan Nations member Jerald O'Brien, was arrested Saturday after Demetrius K. Lee, 39, said a white man with several Aryan tattoos yelled slurs and threatened him for walking in front of his house near South 19th Street and East Mullan Avenue. Lee said he was on his morning walk to Sanders Beach and has lived in the area for six years.
Lee said the man, who police identified as Diekhoff after interviewing witnesses, came out of the house with three other men to “beat him up.”
Lee ran to his friend's house and got a baseball bat, police said, then returned to the area and had a heated conversation with Diekhoff. He then left and called the police.
Diekhoff was holding his baby daughter in his arms when he confronted Lee, police say.
Coeur d'Alene police Sgt. Christie Wood said Diekhoff was a suspect in a battery investigation last November that never led to charges after police heard reports that he beat a man who refused to chase after a black man with him and O'Brien.
The alleged victim, William Moore, said he was staying with O'Brien because of his Aryan ties when the men were outside O'Brien's house on Thanksgiving Day and yelled “White Power” at two men who were walking by. One of the men said he was black, and Diekhoff ran after him as O'Brien followed, according to a police report.
When they returned, they attacked Moore and struck him several times in the head, saying he was angry Moore hadn't backed them up. Moore tried to superglue his head wound but went to the hospital the next day.
O'Brien told police he'd kicked Moore out of his home because “he couldn't be a true Aryan if he would associate with members of the other churches,” according to the police report.
“He called members of other churches 'the enemy' and said there was only one true church.' He then almost immediately calmed down,” according to the report.
LastDemoInIdaho: We sure remember this place (Great American Restaurant). My wife and daughter just loved it because it got them out of the house and the wife didn’t have to cook that night! The pasta was OK, I guess, but we are not professional pasta critics. One evening we looked across the room and saw where we were breaking bread with the Aryan “King” Butler, in uniform no less We were not happy, but just finished our meal and left. Decided then that if there was a next time we would leave and let the management know why. Seems like that was 100 years ago.
Question: I once ran into Aryan Nations leader Butler while dining at Charlie Nipp's old restaurant, Mr. Steak, on Lincoln Way. Did you ever had a dining encounter with Butler & his goose-steppers?
A white supremacist who ran for the Hayden City Council in 2003 has been convicted of a racially motivated attack on a black man in southwestern Washington.
Zachary Loren Beck, 32, (pictured in 2003) was convicted Wednesday of conspiracy to violate civil rights after a bench trial in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. Beck, Kory Boyd and Lawrence Silk attacked the man in January 2010, shouting racial epithets.
Boyd was sentenced to 34 months in prison after pleading guilty to interference with a federally protected right. Silk pleaded guilty to malicious harassment in state court and was sentenced to 24 months. Beck is to be sentenced Sept. 2.
The men were at a bar in Vancouver when Beck told a bartender that the victim should leave “or there would be a problem,” according to court documents. The man didn't leave, so Beck met with Silk and Boyd to plan the attack. Beck reportedly told the man that she should not be “kissing our girls,” documents say.
The three assailants are described as “self-avowed white supremacists” by federal prosecutors.
Beck was a member of the Aryan Nations in North Idaho and was arrested for malicious harassment while a city council candidate.
He also was accused in 2004 of shooting at a police officer during a standoff in Longview, Wash.
The latest dose of accommodation comes from the Coeur d’Alene Press, which is owned by grandiosity magnate Duane Hagadone. The Press published an editorial last week glibly dismissing the work of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations as yesterday’s news. The editorial – which has drawn outraged responses from task force stalwarts Tony Stewart and Norm Gissel – dealt with the departure of Human Rights Education Institute honcho Dan LePow, who raised less money than was hoped. The unsigned editorial assures readers that “We are ardent supporters of human rights causes in general and HREI in particular.” But the Press’s ardor for human rights runs aground on the shoals of not really wanting to get all specific about local racism. It’s such a bummer. Makes it hard to raise money from the wine-sipping cheese eaters who like their human rights more along the lines of “children’s safety” and “international peace”/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.
Question: What do you say to people who don't think the region still has a problem with racism?
The Task Force has listened to Neville Chamberlain style assertions for all the years of its existence. In fact the comment “If you don’t say anything about the Nazis, they will simply go away” is by far the most common criticism the Task Force hears. The opposite is true and will always be true. The Nazis themselves regard community silence as a cultural affirmation of their atrocious actions and beliefs. The victims of the Nazis also regard community silence as a community’s affirmation of the actions that harm them. In this context, both the Nazis and their victims are right. To our knowledge the editors of the Press have never argued that we should be silent around child abuse and child abusers, rape and rapists, theft and thieves, murder and murderers, arson and arsonists, etc, etc, etc. But we should be silent around Racists and their criminal activities when they occur? No. No not now and no not ever/Norm Gissel, Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations. More here. (SR file photo of Norm Gissel with Tony Stewart in background)
Question: Do you think the work of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations is almost finished?
Over the weekend, Editor Mike Patrick of the Coeur d'Alene Press chided the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations for “living in the past.” Quoth: “(Human Rights Education Institute) is trying to grow into a broad-based human rights education organization, while the task force seems stuck on racism and its glory days of bringing down Richard Butler and his band of Aryan misfits. Ignoring history may guarantee that it's repeated, but living in the past assures one never progresses. In our view, there is too much emphasis from the task force on what was, and not enough on what is or what can be. Constantly reliving the rise and fall of Butler's pathetic little empire does more than keep the past alive and give it ever greater significance in the annals of North Idaho; it reopens wounds among a compassionate populace. And it provides parasitic modern-day racists with the attention they must have to survive.” Full editorial here. (SR photo/Kathy Plonka: Human rights leader Tony Stewart holding up a 1988 edition of the Oregonian.)
Question: Is the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations living in the past? Or is the Coeur d'Alene Press trying to sweep bigotry under the rug?
The Hate Watch Blog of the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that former Sandpoint racist Vincent Bertollini has resurfaced: “Recently released after several years in federal prison, Richard Vincent Bertollini has moved across the country and changed his name in order to make “a fresh start.” But the energetic propagandist of yesteryear is still peddling his same brand of vitriolic hatred directed at Jews and the U.S. government. Bertollini — an ordained minister of the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations, formerly based in northern Idaho — now calls himself “Vince Bert,” Hatewatch has learned. The would-be stealth racist, aiming to shed his North Idaho reputation and remain under the radar, recently moved to Albuquerque from Santa Fe, N.M., where he maintains a post office box.” More here. (Photo: Hate Watch blog)
Question: Do you remember Bertollini and the 11th Hour Remnant Messenger?