Wednesday, June 19, 2024

EDITORIAL: One year, three very disturbing incidents

| June 5, 2024 1:00 AM

Did a handful of middle-aged white guys actually harass school children from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe in Coeur d'Alene’s McEuen Park on Friday, May 24?

Wrong question.

Who racially harassed the children?

Again, wrong question, but closer.

As a community — each and every one of us — are we doing our utmost to make expressions of hatred in any form patently unacceptable?

That’s the question.

According to the Tribe’s leader, Chief Allan, Coeur d’Alene Tribal School students on a field trip were walking in McEuen Park near the Third Street boat ramp at 11:45 a.m. on May 24 when a group of middle-aged white males began harassing the children. The men allegedly mocked the kids with gestures imitating feathers behind their heads, whooping, laughing and pointing.

“One of the harassers yelled ‘Go back to the f---ing reservation, you aren’t allowed here,’” a press release from the Tribe said.

Chief Allan was correct in connecting the deeply disturbing, highly publicized incidents of the past year in downtown Coeur d’Alene. 

One involved the Patriot Front’s foiled attempt to wreak havoc at last year’s Pride in the Park event, and the next national headline-maker occurred March 21. That’s when 18-year-old Post Falls resident Anthony Myers allegedly shouted racist remarks from a moving car directed at the University of Utah women’s basketball team as they and supporters were walking down Sherman Avenue.

And now this latest sickening incident at McEuen Park directed at children. And not just any children but descendants of the very people who inhabited this area long before the first White man ever set foot here.

To those who would shrug off the Patriot Front threat as an explosive dud that never went off, you’re missing the point. One alert citizen’s call to Coeur d’Alene Police prevented untold chaos from happening. 

And the racist shouts that police say Myers admitted to leveling at people of color? No crime was committed, some people say, and legal authorities agreed that even though the act was reprehensible, it was not criminal.

Yet a trend here is unmistakable. If the latest incident did happen in some form as reported by Tribal officials — police are investigating and the Tribe has put up $25,000 for information that leads to the perpetrators being punished criminally or civilly — the argument that citizens are merely asserting First Amendment rights must give way to acknowledging that the rank odor of a permissive attitude toward hatred is troublingly persistent. 

If that’s not who we are, we need to prove it by asking the right questions and being prepared for some difficult answers.

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Correction: North Idaho College trustee Todd Banducci was not in the field of candidates invited to the combined chambers' candidate forum in 2022. Banducci was in the middle of the four-year term he won in 2020. Sunday's editorial stated otherwise.