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 Nations and put it in the trash,” said Garvin Jones, who lives in the neighborhood southwest of Atlas Road and Prairie Avenue. “What’s wrong with these people? Give me a break. I bet if you went back in their family history, not one is 100 percent white.”
Jones and dozens of his neighbors found the fliers on their lawns, inside baggies that also held small rocks.
They depicted a girl asking her father what he did during the “revolution” and asking “Where have all the White people gone daddy?” and “Why did those dark men take mommy away?” The fliers were signed “Aryan Nations, Church of Jesus Christ Christian,” and listed a post office box and a Web site. The group’s address is listed as “Couer d’Alene, Idaho.”
The Aryan Nations Web site lists Jerald O’Brien and Michael Lombard as the “pastors” who have taken over after longtime leader Richard Butler’s death in September 2004.
O’Brien said area residents can expect the dissemination of “a lot more” fliers and said “like-minded individuals will respond and seek membership.” He said the election of President Barack Obama has served as the “greatest recruiting tool ever.” He said he had “several handfuls” of members in Coeur d’Alene.
The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations – which has fought the Aryan Nations for decades – condemned the flier distribution and offered its services to anyone who was threatened or harassed.
“It’s bound to be a small group of people trying once again to bring hate into the community. They don’t have anywhere to operate from except a post office box,” said Tony Stewart, a spokesman for the task force. People in the community, he added, “will reject it as they have in the past. Anyone who feels intimidated should take comfort in the fact that the people are here for them, and we are here for them.”
Several residents of the neighborhood that received the fliers were interviewed for this story, but most of them asked not to be named out of fear of retribution. All of those interviewed expressed shock, disgust or anger at the fliers. At least two called the police. One caller was a 22-year-old white woman who has a 4-year-old African-American son.
“My son’s black, so it’s not OK,” said the woman, who asked only to be identified as Chelsee B. She said she was afraid to let her son play outside. Coeur d’Alene Police Department Sgt. Christie Wood said no investigation would be conducted, because the distribution of fliers is protected as free speech under the First Amendment. She added, however, that targeting people for harassment based on race is a crime and should be reported.
Stewart said hate speech is protected, but hate crimes are not. He encouraged any member of the public with concerns about racial harassment to contact the task force at (208) 765-3932.
The Aryan Nations was effectively bankrupted on Sept. 7, 2000, when a Kootenai County jury returned a $6.3 million verdict against the organization, its founder, Butler, and three former members. The verdict in the civil trial found that Butler and his organization were guilty of gross negligence in appointing security guards who carried out an assault against two people driving past their property.
When Butler lost his 20-acre compound near Hayden Lake as a result of the outgrowth of a civil suit in 2000, millionaire racist Vincent Bertollini bought Butler a home in Hayden. It served as the Aryan Nations headquarters until Butler’s death in 2004.
A new Alabama location for the “Aryan Nations World Headquarters” was posted on the group’s Web site soon after Butler’s death. A splinter group set up shop in Pennsylvania.
O’Brien, however, said the “world headquarters” of the organization is now in Coeur d’Alene in a location that is “membership privileged information only.” He acknowledged that he lives in a home on the east side of downtown Coeur d’Alene that regularly flies two white supremacist flags.
Newspaper files show O’Brien marching in a neo-Nazi parade in Coeur d’Alene in July 2004 and joining in a skinhead rally that drew eight people outside the Spokane County courthouse in June 2007. O’Brien has a large swastika tattoo on his scalp.