The FBI and local police are monitoring possible renewed activity by a white supremacist group, an FBI official said.
“We’re very concerned about the presence of these groups in the area and it’s a priority,” said Don Robinson, supervisory agent for the FBI’s Coeur d’Alene office. “These remaining factions are trying to establish relevance.”
On Thursday, four men in their 20s started shouting Aryan Nations slogans during Tony Stewart’s speech at the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene. His speech was about the Nazi movement in North Idaho and how it was defeated.
“I didn’t actually hear what they were saying,” said Stewart, a North Idaho College instructor and local civil rights leader. “It’s not proper for anyone to interrupt like that. We have to have civility and we’ve always had a period for questions and answers.”
North Idaho has a history of hate groups. Beginning in 1981, many from throughout the United States and Canada gathered every July at the Aryan Nations compound near Hayden Lake for the three-day Aryan World Congress.
The group’s leader, Richard Butler, lost the compound after he was hit with a $6.3 million civil judgment in 2000. Two members of a family who had been attacked by Aryan Nations members in 1998 won the judgment in a lawsuit, and Butler was forced to sell the property following bankruptcy.
Despite Butler’s 2004 death, there have been other incidents, including a cross burning in Spirit Lake last summer.
Robinson said remnants of the Aryan Nations remain in North Idaho, though it is now based in Lexington, S.C. The group’s motto is “Violence solves everything,” and it now operates as a decentralized, leaderless entity with “autonomous cells.”
These cells, according to the group, are waiting for a signal to begin a war to create a white homeland.
But Robinson doubted the group had the ability to carry out such a plan with sleeper cells.
“Typically, sleeper cells don’t go on a Web site and advertise,” Robinson said.
Still, Thursday’s incident brought back memories.
“Compared to the old days when they were armed and tried to kill people, this wasn’t as bad,” said Norm Gissel, who attended the human rights event. “It’s been four years since we’ve had a group protest and that was a group of Klansmen from Pennsylvania.”
In another incident in southwestern Idaho, police are investigating the appearance of swastika-emblazoned stickers promoting a neo-Nazi group called Combat 18. The stickers were plastered on the Islamic Center of Boise on Saturday.
Combat 18 is a loosely organized neo-Nazi group that likely originated in Britain.