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Wood: Task force will respond if necessary

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | March 3, 2022 1:06 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — The president of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations said if it becomes necessary, it will respond to a planned gathering in Hayden Lake of a white supremacist group this month.

“We honestly don’t know if a group will even come to Hayden,” Christie Wood said Tuesday. “If a group does come to Hayden, we would support that community. You can expect us to stand up and do so. But we have not responded because we don’t know that it’s actually going to occur.”

Coeur d’Alene resident Randy Neal spoke to the Coeur d’Alene City Council regarding his concerns with the Aryan Freedom Network’s plans for a March 12 event in Hayden Lake.

“That kind of group is not welcome in North Idaho,” he said. “Well, frankly it shouldn’t really be welcome anywhere.”

An AFN spokesman in Texas previously told The Press it would be an indoor event on private property, not a parade or rally. He said Hayden Lake has sentimental value to the AFN, as it used to be home to the now defunct Aryan Nations, a white supremacist group.

Neal expressed fears it could encourage others with similar views to come to North Idaho.

“I don’t want to see a resurgence of hate in our community,” Neal said.

He told the council when he was recently in Pocatello and people knew he was from Coeur d’Alene, their first question was: “Are you a racist?”

“Being from Coeur d’Alene automatically makes you a racist?” Neal said. “It’s absurd.”

He called on the community to continue to work to shake off that reputation, "throughout our own state and throughout the country.”

Wood, a member of the Coeur d’Alene City Council, said the KCTFHR has been around more than 40 years.

It was born and developed as a result of dealing with the Aryan Nations.

She said over the years, the task force has taken a “measured response” to any kind of activity that it believes would harm the community.

“I think the city of Coeur d’Alene has been a really strong supporter with the task force every step of the way,” Wood said. “The city has been very clear in their position on how they feel about discrimination or any sort of activity by hate groups."

She said the task force is not organizing a counter activity to the announced AFN gathering, as it might not even happen.

But she did say they are monitoring the situation and will be aware of any gathering that may mean the task force will “send a more positive message.”

“We follow the teaching of Dr. King. We don’t go to a Klan rally. What we do is our own meetings and messaging," she said.

“So, you will hear from us if necessary.”