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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Morris Dees, a lawyer and major foe of the Aryan Nations in the North Idaho hate group's heyday, said Tuesday at the University of Idaho that the work of fighting for equality continues on fronts such as U.S. immigration, health care and public education. "There are millions among us who find neither opportunity nor justice," Dees said, speaking to a full ballroom inside the Student Union Building on the university campus. Reflecting back on Martin Luther King Jr.'s success decades earlier, Dees said, "I don't think Dr. King intended for his dream to be a static thing." Dees said the "march for justice" continues on numerous issues/David Cole, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here. (Lewiston Tribune photo, of Morris Dees)
Question: Do you think the fight against discrimination is over in North Idaho?
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?
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 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?
Yes, this area remains largely monocultural, but at least we’re a slightly darker shade of pale. Here, about one person in 10 belongs to a racial minority. Nationally, more than a fourth of Americans do. Still, the degree of change deserves admiring mention. Spokane County and the state of Idaho achieved diversity growth at a slightly faster pace than the nation as a whole. That’s good, but Kootenai County’s figures showed a demographic shift four times as fast as the rest of the country. Kootenai County – the same Kootenai County where neo-Nazis, skinheads and other racist misfits burned crosses and paraded down Sherman Avenue – made diversity gains over the past 20 years that tower over other areas/Spokesman-Review Editorial Board. More here. (SR file photo: Jesse Tinsley)
Question: Do you notice more diversity in Kootenai County and North Idaho?
Baseball clubs retire numbers of famous players. Mebbe the U.S. Postal Service should retire P.O. box numbers of infamous customers. Take the Aryan Nations, for example. Please. Seems P.O. Box 1167 outlived racist Richard Butler’s Church of Jesus Christ Christian in Coeur d’Alene. Earlier this year, that number was bestowed on Citizens for Better Education, a group backing conservative candidates in the Coeur d’Alene school trustee elections Tuesday. The post office number created a brief hubbub in the local blogosphere Thursday as some wondered if there was a connection between the two organizations. No one knew for sure who was involved in Citizens for Better Education until activist Duncan Koler, of Hayden, came forward to tell Chelsea Bannach of this newspaper that his group “strongly opposes” anything to do with the Aryans. It’s time to deep-six P.O. Box 1167/DFO, Huckleberries Online. More here.
- Business: Debt fee law applies in civil case, court says/Bert Caldwell
- Olympia: Workers comp becoming a yellow brick road-block/Jim Camden
- Theater: World of 'Oz' sets up shop at INB/Jim Kershner
- Boise: Lawmakers ease day-care rules/Betsy Russell
- Spokane: No elections, you've sure got my vote/Doug Clark
- Smart Bombs: No patience for patients/Gary Crooks
- Sports: Shock may be forced to change their changes/Shawn Vestal
- CBE backer Duncan Koler says Aryan rumor false/Hucks Online (5:13 p.m. Thursday)
Local bloggers, social media users and callers to the Press newsroom spent time Thursday speculating and asking questions about a website promoting Zone 2 school trustee candidate, Tom Hamilton (shown in photo from his Facebook page), and Zone 3 candidate, Terri Seymour. They discovered that the site, idahoc4be.org, lists its mailing address as a Coeur d’Alene post office box number once assigned to the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, the white supremacist church once led by Richard Butler, the now deceased leader of the Aryan Nations. The website belongs to Citizens for Better Education, described as a “nonprofit association.” “I am not a CBE member, nor are they affiliated with the Aryan Nations,” Hamilton told the Press. “Phone numbers get recycled, post office boxes get recycled. It’s just a very unfortunate coincidence”/Maureen Dolan, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.
Question: Should the post office retire the P.O. Box number formerly held by Richard Butler's Church of Jesus Christ Christian?
The Kootenai County Democratic Club will host an address by Tony Stewart (pictured), a co-founder of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations more than 30 years ago, on Friday, May 13 at Noon. The luncheon will be held at the Iron Horse Restaurant in Coeur d’Alene. Stewart will address the topic “The 2010 United States Census Confirms the Failure of the Aryan Nations to Create an All-White Homeland in the Inland Northwest." … Stewart will discuss his findings with regard to the goal of the Aryan Nations and Richard Butler to make this region as well as the five Northwest states of Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana into an all-white homeland. More here.
Question: Are you aware that Richard Butler and the Aryan Nations sought to transform the Inland Northwest into a white homeland under their "territorial imperative" doctrine?
A Whitman County man who bragged online about being involved with racist taco-truck protests in Kootenai County pleaded not guilty to a federal gun charge today.
A bail hearing for Jeremiah Daniel “J.D.” Hop, 29, is set for Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno.
Hop, who is at the Spokane County Jail, was arrested Wednesday morning. He told Imbrogno he had "just a little stress, that's all," when she asked if he suffered from mental conditions that might prohibit his understanding of the court proceedings.
Hop, who was convicted in California of third-degree rape of a child in 2005, is not a member of the Aryan Nations but is involved in racist circles.
Under the name WhitePhoenix, a man who identified himself as Hop wrote on the racist website Stormfront about his work protesting taco stands in the Coeur d’Alene area.
It was said, half in jest, that Bill Wassmuth was selected as the chairman of the resurrected Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations because he was single. No one laughed about that after he and his home were targetted in a fall 1986 bombing by three individuals aligned with Richard Butler's Aryan Nations. Wassmuth was sitting in the living room 10 to 12 feet away when the pipebomb exploded outside his rear door shortly after midnight. I remember that he was still dazed by the event after sunup as he showed me the damage during a tour of his parsonage. This year is the 25th anniversary of that bombing and the bombing of the downtown area by racists.
Marshall Mend, of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, holds a picture of the first documented hate crime in Hayden — the cowardly attack on Sid Rosen's restaurant that stood at the corner of Government Way & Miles. The attack prompted the creation of the task force. Rosen, a respected chef who was targeted by local racists because he was Jewish, died on Monday at age 90. A graveside service was held for him today and then a memorial at Nosworthy's to commemorate a productive life that wasn't stopped by the hatemongers. You can read Sid's obituary here. And you can read the role that Rosen and his restaurant played in the local human rights movement here. You can also read an editorial that I wrote in February 2001 about the local human rights movement and the role Sid Rosen played in it in the drop-down box below.
Question: Have you attended an event sponsored by the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations?