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White supremacist group eyes Hayden Lake

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | February 11, 2022 1:07 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — A white supremacist group has scheduled a March 12 “gathering” at Hayden Lake.

The Aryan Freedom Network’s website, white-power.org., uses the words “Keep Idaho White” and depicts a swastika inside a map of Idaho in promoting the event.

“Knowing this is coming, we will prepare some kind of counter awareness to this type of presence,” Jeanette Laster, executive director of the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene, said Thursday.

Laster became aware of the planned rally a few days ago. While such events often fall through or involve a small number of people, she said it's not something to be ignored.

“We obviously do not want white supremacy groups or ideology back in our community,” Laster said.

North Idaho had a reputation as a haven for white supremacy groups attributed primarily to the Aryan Nations, which once had a compound at Hayden Lake dating back to the 1970s.

It was demolished in 2000 following an Idaho First Judicial District jury’s verdict that awarded $6.3 million to Victoria and Jason Keenan against the Aryan Nations and their security guards. The judgment bankrupted the neo-Nazi group.

The compound was torn down and the property is today a pasture and privately owned.

The AFN could not be reached for comment.

According to its website, which states, "Hail Victory and White Power," its mission includes:

• Support the creation of an autonomous White Aryan European homeland in North America.

• To act by legal political means to lobby for the interests of the White working class in various nations where Aryan Freedom Network has a presence.

• To oppose the growing oppression of Whites and the working class by both national and international governmental agencies.

It also states it stands up for the cultural values, security and ideals of white people.

"We are faced with reverse discrimination in government, churches, schools, jobs, promotions and scholarships," the website states.

The AFN is also planning a Midwest gathering on April 23 and a “White Unity Conference” in Dallas on Oct. 22.

There will be speakers, a raffle, food and drinks at the "family friendly" Midwest event, according to the website.

“This will be a private event for white racialist only and not open to the public,” it says.

Its website offers no further information on the Hayden Lake gathering and where exactly it would be held.

The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office said if the AFN meets at Hayden Lake next month, it could be monitored and some patrols could be assigned to the area.

Tony Stewart, a founder of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, said he was not familiar with the AFN, but could not dismiss its plans to visit North Idaho.

“We never take anything lightly,” said Stewart, who was a key player in the winning fight against the Aryan Nations and its ideology.

He said the AFN does not own property in Hayden Lake and does not represent the same challenge as the Aryan Nations, which was led by Richard Butler, who purchased the land in the 1970s. The site was host to rallies, conferences and even an “Aryan World Congress” starting in the 1980s.

“It’s nothing like when the Aryan Nations had their compound,” Stewart said.

But signs of racism still show up in North Idaho.

In November 2020, someone placed a sign on an overpass over Interstate 90 that read, “NO WHITE GUILT!”

Laster then said the language behind the sign could be traced to a San Antonio-based individual known as “The Hammer,” someone Laster told The Press pushes a neo-Nazi movement.

She said Thursday she still has concerns that white supremacy literature occasionally makes its way to North Idaho.

“In some ways we have struggled and moved a bit backwards in our efforts because we’re seeing an uprising in similar events across the country,” Laster said.

She said the AFN coming to Hayden Lake “could entice other groups to come out and participate.”

“Which is not what we want,” she added.

North Idaho worked for decades to defeat its reputation as a haven for racists, she said, and will continue to be vigilant and raise awareness of racism.

“We will do everything educationally to counter any type of messaging that is brought forth,” she said.