Fast, vigorous response is key to stopping hate groups

Bozeman must respond quickly, vigorously and persistently to the arrival of National Alliance representative Kevin McGuire, say those who’ve dealt with white supremacists in other communities.

The National Alliance on its Web site lists among its goals creation of a “white living space” free of the “sickness of multiculturalism,” and a society based on Aryan values. It says it is working for “a thorough rooting out of Semitic and other non-Aryan values everywhere.”

The Anti-Defamation League has linked the National Alliance to violent acts and has called it “the most dangerous organized hate group in the country.”

Alliance members have distributed leaflets in several areas of Bozeman and McGuire has filed for a seat on the Bozeman School Board.

Tony Stewart, a political science professor at North Idaho College, helped form a human rights task force in Coeur d’Alene, in response to threats by such groups in the 1980s.

The National Alliance is “testing your community,” Stewart said, probing to see what level of support they might find.

“You need all segments of your community coming together,” Stewart said. That means not just a human rights group and clergy, but business people, educators, law enforcement — everybody.

There is always debate about whether fighting such groups publicly helps defeat them or merely gives them free publicity, said Marshall Mend, a long-time real estate agent in Coeur d’Alene. He had several business people tell him he should quiet down.

Mend has no doubt which side he falls on: let them know they’re not welcome.

“The louder it is, the better it is,” Mend said. “I’ve been trained in sales, and one of the things I’ve learned is silence gives consent.”

Human rights activists in Bozeman organized a rally on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which drew more than 1,000 supporters, an action that drew praise from Robert Jacobs, Pacific Northwest regional director for the Anti-Defamation League.

That sort of visible community reaction is important, Jacobs said. “Otherwise it’s been somewhat of a slippery slope. It starts with leafletting, then graffiti and property damage and then if there’s no community response saying, ‘We don’t want you in our community,’ we have seen in at least three cities in my region, which is five states, actual violence.”

That’s why any level of racist activity requires a response, Mend said. “If you let them hang around, that’s what’s going to happen.”

Rigorous law enforcement also is key to success, said Norm Gissel, a Coeur d’Alene attorney and human rights activist.

Every misdemeanor infraction, every felony offense should be prosecuted, the Idaho contingent said. In Coeur d’Alene, officials were able to put one Aryan Nations member in prison for welfare fraud.

Communities dealing with racist groups should form a human rights task force if one doesn’t already exist.

One thing Gissel learned is that the media is always looking for someone to speak “for the other side.”

“If the national media comes, you want an educated ‘other side.'” Gissel said. “A task force serves the purpose of explaining the reality of a racist event. You can’t always rely on the sheriff or the prosecutor.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Bozeman Daily Chronicle, USA
Apr. 3, 2005
Ron Tschida, Chronicle Staff Writer

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday April 4, 2005.
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