Thursday, May 23, 2024

Cd'A mayor honored for standing up to extremism

Staff Writer | November 2, 2023 1:09 AM

COEUR d'ALENE — In a career that has spanned decades, Coeur d'Alene Mayor Jim Hammond has been honored many times, received numerous awards.

Being named a "Pillar of Idaho" tops the list.

"It’s kind of a pinnacle for me,” Hammond said Wednesday.

Idaho Leaders United, a coalition dedicated to confronting extremism and political violence, recently presented Hammond with the inaugural Pillar of Idaho award "in recognition of his exceptional leadership in the wake of an incident involving the arrest of 31 individuals with ties to a white nationalist hate group." 

"Despite immense external pressure, Mayor Hammond's swift response, close collaboration with law enforcement, and resolute stance against extremism have set powerful examples for leaders across the state," a press release said.

Bill Shawver, Idaho Leaders United board member, said that by addressing the situation head-on, Hammond "played a pivotal role in preventing what could have been a tragic day of violence. His continued commitment to the safety and unity of his community embodies Idaho Leaders United's mission and purpose."

It was in June 2022 when 31 members of Patriot Front were stopped in a U-Haul truck and arrested while reportedly en route to disrupt a Pride celebration at Coeur d'Alene City Park.

Since then, several members of the group have been convicted of conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanor, served a few days in jail and paid fines of $1,000. Some members accepted plea deals that included jail time and fines, while two entered admissions to failure to obtain a parade permit. At least one case was reportedly dismissed.

Hammond said he was pleased he wasn't being honored because he was the mayor on the day of the arrests, but because of his words and actions over time that reflected the importance of respect for all people.

Hammond said the city was proud to support the North Idaho Pride Alliance event and passed proclamations saying just that for this year's Pride in the Park, which celebrates diversity and inclusion.

He said regardless of race, religion or gender, all people must be treated well and treated equally.

“That's all that matters to me,” he said.

Hammond said while he received the Pillar of Idaho award, it also belonged to the Coeur d'Alene Police Department for its swift actions in stopping the U-Haul and arresting the men.

"They worked very hard," Hammond said. "I want them to share in that recognition. It's not just me."

He said the award speaks well of Coeur d'Alene and how the city handled the situation. He said a goal is to preserve the values of civility, civil disagreement, respect and support.

"When I talk to people all over the community, they tell me we have some interlopers who are trying to change our values," he said. "We don't want that."

Hammond said he was disappointed it wasn't just the "U-Haul Patriots" who opposed the Pride rally and gay lifestyle, but "some of our own."

“I really struggle with that,” he said.

Following the incident, Hammond was interviewed several times by national media. He used each as an opportunity to emphasize Coeur d'Alene was a welcoming place and where people are “truly neighbors” and more than just acquaintances.

Hammond said he was glad to have an organization like Idaho Leaders United combatting extremism on a  statewide level.

"Events like this are crucial because they bring together people who are willing to stand up to extremism and the vocal minority that resorts to violence to achieve their ends," Hammond said. "It is up to all of us, as proud Idahoans, to defend our fellow citizens from prejudice and political violence."

 The inaugural Idaho Leaders United reception in Boise on Monday brought together lawmakers, industry leaders, and Idahoans from across the state. 

"At Idaho Leaders United, we believe in the power of collaboration as the driving force behind a stronger and more unified Idaho," said Odette Bolano, ILU board member and Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center president and CEO. "By supporting our fellow Idahoans who believe in tolerance and inclusion, we stand together to defend Idaho's future and legacy for future generations."