NEW YORK (Jul. 17)
A crowd of nearly 1,000 persons staged a massive, five-and-a-half hour human rights rally last weekend to “celebrate the ethnic, racial and religious diversity of the Pacific northwest” in the Idaho resort town of Coeur d’Alene.
The rally, attended by state representatives of Washington, Idaho, Montana, and area clergy and Jewish representatives was staged to counter the two-day Aryan Nations conference at Hayden Lake, some 15 miles south of Coeur d’Alene, which drew some 165 Nazi sympathizers, white supremacists, anti-Semites and Ku Klux Klan members and their families.
The rally was an effort, according to Marshall Mend, a real estate developer in Coeur d’Alene and a member of the task force which sponsored the demonstration, to “dilute national attention of the Hayden Lake conference.” He said local residents in the resort community “basically find (the Aryan Nations) disgusting.”
‘PEOPLE HERE FIND IT DISGUSTING’
“When I say people, I’m talking about 99 percent of the people here find it disgusting and would rather have them go somewhere else,” Mend, who is Jewish, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an interview.
Mend’s view is shared by others contacted by the JTA in the aftermath of the conference of the Aryan Nations, the first such gathering of the right wing racist group since last year’s conviction in Seattle of 10 members of The Order, an extremist group whose leader died in a 1984 fire that began in a gun battle with police.
The Aryan Nations, according to the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, is an Idaho-based group that disseminates racist and anti-Semitic propaganda and which seeks to establish a “nationalist racist state.” In fact, the conference in Hayden Lake last weekend issued a call for a white, male-dominated homeland in the Pacific northwest, according to media accounts of the conference. A spokesman for the Aryan Nations told the media that his group was seeking a homeland that would exclude Jews, Catholics and Blacks.
Despite widespread media reports about the racist gathering, a Jewish community leader in Seattle who has monitored the activities of extremist groups in the Pacific northwest region told the JTA that “from our point of view, they were few in number.”
TERMED A LAST HURRAH
Rabbi Anson Laytner, director of the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and director of the Washington Association of Jewish Communities, said in a telephone interview that with the arrest of members of the extremist group of The Order last year, the Aryan Nations conference “is seen as a last hurrah rather than a prelude to bigger and better” times for the racists in the region. “People feel secure,” he said, “because law enforcement agencies have done their job.”
Andy Friedman, the ADL’s assistant regional director of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, based in Seattle, told the JTA that he was at the Hayden Lake compound where the conference took place. Although he did not enter — he said credentials were carefully scrutinized — Friedman reported that a sign at the entrance to the property said, “Whites Only; welcome Aryan warriors.”
Friedman said young men wearing fatigues and carrying weapons walked around the perimeter of the 20-acre property, which is owned by the Rev. Richard Butler, a leader of the Aryan Nations movement. Butler is also a leader of the Aryan Nations’ religious arm, the Church of Jesus Christ Christian. The Aryan Nations and Butler’s Church in Hayden Lake follow the ideology of the Identity Movement, described recently as a “loose-knit association of Churches and sects that teaches that the Caucasian races are the true ‘chosen people’ of God and that the Jews are imposters who are the offspring of Satan through the line of Cain.”
According to Friedman, the task force which organized the demonstration and which has been active for a number of years in Coeur d’Alene “is doing a lot to offset the propaganda of the Aryan Nations and the impact on that part of the state. They are very worried that the Aryan Nations will affect the tourism economy in the area.”
“They have really been the ones, the residents of northern Idaho … that have been speaking out the loudest and the strongest,” Friedman said. “The most significant development last weekend (was) that the loudest voice heard was that of tolerance and democracy.”