Saturday’s event in Idaho will be a ‘dying swan’
SPOKANE — The annual Aryan Nations gathering and parade in northern Idaho this weekend will be largely ignored by human rights groups.
Five years ago, hundreds of people converged on downtown Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to heckle Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler and a handful of neo-Nazi supporters as they marched through the resort town.
But no large demonstrations are planned during Saturday’s scheduled parade because human rights groups contend they’ve already won the war against the hate group.
“We think this is a non-event this time,” said Tony Stewart, a leader of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations. “This is kind of like the dying swan in a sense.”
Coeur d’Alene officials confirmed the Aryan Nations has a parade permit for Saturday.
The group once welcomed as many as 200 supporters to Butler’s compound north of Hayden Lake, Idaho, where they would burn crosses and listen to anti-Semitic, white supremacist speeches. A lawsuit bankrupted the group in 2000, and the compound was sold to satisfy the court judgment.
As they have in recent years, the Aryan Nations leaders once again have rented a group campsite for this weekend’s Aryan World Congress, which starts Friday.
The group’s profile is so low these days that the owner of the Kahnderosa Campground near Cataldo, Idaho, where the group has reserved space for about 20 tents, was unaware he would be host to the group until a reporter called.
The Aryan Nations registered under its formal name, Church of Jesus Christ Christian.
The Aryan Nations is the political wing of the church, which follows the white supremacist Christian Identity movement.
Campground owner Wade Kahn said the group could keep its spot as long as campers followed the rules of the campground. The group told him a church picnic was planned, as well as baptisms for 20 to 40 people, Kahn said.
“As long as they do what they were representing themselves to be doing, they can stay,” Kahn said.
Butler did not return numerous telephone calls to his Hayden home yesterday.
In 2000, two area residents who contended they were shot at by Aryan Nations security guards during the annual gathering filed a lawsuit. The case was taken on by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and resulted in a $6 million judgment against the Aryan Nations and Butler.