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Friday, October 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Coeur d’Alene families see Confederate flags stuck in their lawns as escalation, threat

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 9, 2020

David and Corene Cohen’s yard was one of several staked with a Confederate flag around 4 a.m. Thursday, along with a letter claiming Democrats are racist.  (Shawn Keenan)
David and Corene Cohen’s yard was one of several staked with a Confederate flag around 4 a.m. Thursday, along with a letter claiming Democrats are racist. (Shawn Keenan)

Confederate flags popped up in several Coeur d’Alene yards between 3 and 4 a.m. Thursday – with them, an unsigned letter claiming Democrats are racist.

David Cohen and his wife, Corene, called police when they saw the flags around 5 a.m. Thursday, concerned that it was an escalation.

Someone had stolen the Biden-Harris campaign sign from their yard Saturday, along with a Black Lives Matter sign in their neighbor’s yard. Days later, seeing the Confederate flag felt like a threat, Cohen said.

“I’m being harassed; I’m being intimidated,” Cohen said. “I want the police to know in case something happens to me or my family. You know, I’ve lived here 51 years and lived through the Aryan stuff.”

He has a security camera up, and said police are reviewing an image of the vandals caught on another home’s security camera. Coeur d’Alene police could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Shawn Keenan, Kootenai County Democratic spokesman for the Idaho Democratic Party, said several families have reached out about finding the flags, and there could be more.

He said the flags don’t just represent the 19th-century political position that the South should maintain slavery. Today, he said, it more simply represents “hatred.”

Keenan doesn’t know who dropped off the flags, as the letters were unsigned and didn’t offer a website. To Keenan, it seems the flag planters targeted houses where Biden-Harris signs stood in the yard.

The letter pointed to Democrats as the leaders of cities like Chicago and Seattle, where there are “rioters and looters.”

To Keenan, the flags hearken not only to the Civil War and the South’s fight to maintain slavery, but to a more recent and still terrifying time.

Twenty years ago, Keenan’s aunt, a Native American woman, was severely beaten by Aryan Nations members in Coeur d’Alene, he said.

She was driving past the Aryan Nations compound north of Hayden when her car backfired. Men at the compound, perhaps thinking the noise had been gunfire, got in a pickup and shot AK-47-style rifles at her car as she drove, Keenan said.

With a tire blown, she pulled over to the side of the road, where the racists attempted to pull her out the car by her hair, struck her with their weapons and broke her teeth and ribs, as her son hid behind the console as best he could, Keenan said.

Keenan worries Coeur d’Alene could slip into being a racist place again.

“The majority of folks in this community don’t believe in hate symbolism, but those certain folks are emboldened at this time to display this overt racism, and there’s not a lot of pushback from our local leaders,” Keenan said.

He said he sees Confederate flags almost every day. He believes it impacts the economy, too. He said people think of racism when they think of Idaho.

“Imagine coming here as a tourist and seeing these flags everywhere. Are you going to want to return to this community? Not likely,” Keenan said. “We have to respect the First Amendment, but that doesn’t mean that we as a community can’t say that those types of images and symbolism aren’t welcome here.”

Cohen feels it’s almost certain racism will increase if the nation and community don’t take a stance to make it unacceptable.

Keenan, who has lived in Coeur d’Alene his entire life, worries that there’s not much hope.

“I’ve deemed this area the South of the North, and it’s making me feel like I don’t want to live here any longer,” he said.

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