The hubbub caused by white supremacist plans to march in Whitefish, Montana, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day reminds this columnist of the 1999 parade led by racist Richard Butler in Coeur d’Alene. It was the second of three consecutive annual Aryan Nations parades in downtown Coeur d’Alene before Butler was sued into bankruptcy.
On July 10, 1999, the Aryan Nations founder was 82 and still spewing hate when he led about 20 marchers down Sherman Avenue, including a baby in a stroller and her 6-year-old sister. The streets were lined with anti-fascists, many from out-of-town, who ridiculed the Dirty Two Dozen Minus Four – and beseeched the 6-year-old girl to leave her Aryan parents.
It was nuts.
As Butler and his small band of goose-steppers approached the Fourth Street intersection, waving Nazi, Aryan Nations and Confederate flags, I was talking to a friend, half of a block farther west. At that point, a group of about 16 protesters, one decked out in angel wings, broke from the south side of the block, opposite us, and sat on the street, arms locked.
The potential was ripe for confrontation and violence. The man with me bolted, muttering: “I promised my wife I’d leave if there was trouble.”
Fortunately, Coeur d’Alene police were up to the task. They turned the Butler bunch south down Fourth Street, and around the block, past the Coeur d’Alene Resort to City Park. That prompted a scuffle between protesters and local police. But there were only four arrests. Butler and his motley crew left City Park quickly. The protesters regrouped at the park, made speeches and vamoosed.
Now, it’s Whitefish’s turn. White nationalists are harassing the Montana town’s Jewish residents. Their parade honoring MLK Jr. assassin James Earl Ray was canceled. But the racists are considering one in February. Déjà vu? You bet. Coeur d’Alene learned that you can never be silent in the face of hatred. Now it’s Whitefish’s turn to stand against hate.
Elephants on parade
Betty Richardson, former U.S. attorney for Idaho, tells of a conversation that she had with a friend. Her bud thought it would be a swell idea if Ringling Bros., which announced plans this week to fold the big tent for good, would conduct a final performance in Boise. After all, Betty’s friend explained, Boise has more than enough (capital-R) elephants to replace the ones the circus recently retired. “She has a point,” Richardson said, “but the circus now playing at the Statehouse is one too many.” Also, it has too many clowns in it.
Why did House Republican leadership come down so hard on state Rep. Heather Scott for her wild claim that female legislators in Idaho gain power by “spreading their legs”? Opinion Editor Marty Trillhaase of the Lewiston Tribune theorizes that Scott also insulted the male leaders. As they say, it takes two to tango … My HucksOnline (www.spokesman.com) blog commenters offered many suggestions re: what Scott can do with her free time, now that she has lost her committee assignments, including: Switch to decaf. And: Make jewelry from spent cartridge shells. And: Get her Confederate flag dry-cleaned. Badabump, onward … First Sign of Spring: Shannon Forbes of Coeur d’Alene spotted Easter candy at the local Shopko.
Poll: Two-thirds of my HucksOnline blog readers say that protesters misfired when they shouted down speaker/Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers at the Martin Luther King Jr. event in Spokane. Wrong event for this type of behavior. Bingo.