Residents say they will make it clear supremacists not welcome

ST. REGIS (AP) — Members of a white supremacist group plan to gather near here this weekend, and local residents say they plan to make sure those attending know the community doesn’t support their beliefs.

“This gathering is contrary to everything our community stands for,” said resident Jeff Noonan. “So I suspect our community will have something to say about it.”

A group called the Church of the True Israel said it plans to gather about nine miles outside St. Regis Friday through Sunday for a meeting billed on the group’s Web site as the “Gathering of Christian Identity.”

Planned activities include a “survival scenario exercise” for children, as well as more than a dozen speakers from organizations such as the Christian Separatist Church Society, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the Militia of Montana.

The group’s Web site said “non-whites and the press will not be allowed to attend.” The Web site does not list any members or spokesmen, and no one with the group immediately responded to an e-mail request from The Associated Press Tuesday for comment.

Jim Elliott, a Democratic state legislator from nearby Trout Creek, said he was unsure why the Church of the True Israel chose St. Regis for its meeting, since there was nothing to indicate the group has a presence in the area.

“These kind of people don’t represent the values that we have here in Sanders and Mineral counties,” Elliott said. “And I don’t think they’re going to receive a very warm welcome.”

Ken Toole of the state Human Rights Network said his organization does not plan any organized opposition to the rally, largely because he is not very familiar with the group.

Toole and Rube Wrightsman, undersheriff in Sanders County, said the group appears to be a spinoff from the Aryan Nations group in Idaho. Toole said followers frustrated with the leadership of Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler have split away to form the Church of True Israel.

The Aryan Nations is holding its meeting in Idaho this weekend.

“These groups are always fighting and bickering and shooting off subgroups,” Toole said. “It will be very interesting to see how many people actually show up.”

Noonan, a third-generation St. Regis native, said local residents haven’t decided how to respond to the visitors, but “the overwhelming decision has been that we must do something.”

Whether that will be a rally or protest of some type remains unclear, he added.

“We don’t want these bigots spewing their hate in this town,” Noonan said. “This just isn’t the place for it.”

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