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The Color of Conscience

The arrest in Coeur d’Alene Saturday of 31 men affiliated with a white supremacist group highlights the continued attraction of that part of Idaho to such groups. The individuals were charged with conspiracy to riot, after materials found with them indicated that they aimed to create havoc during the annual Pride in the Park event in Coeur d’Alene.

The area has long been associated with white supremacist ideology, dating back to the late 1970s, when the late Richard Butler established the headquarters of his hate group, the Aryan Nations, in Hayden.

In 2011, I produced “The Color of Conscience,” a documentary about the efforts of Idaho human rights advocates to shut down that compound, which they succeeded doing in 2000 after a court case bankrupted the group. I was one of the few reporters allowed to visit the compound before its buildings were burnt to the ground in an effort to erase their presence and influence.

However, even after the 2000 verdict, Butler was undeterred. “This is nothing,” he told reporters. “We have planted seeds.”

“You can’t stop the message,” said his deputy, Michael Teague. “You can’t stop our hearts. You can’t stop our minds. It’s never going to happen.”

More than 20 years later, that seems to be the case. However, this time, an astute observer at a local hotel, watching what he or she termed as “a little army” get into a U-Haul, called law enforcement. We’ll learn more in the days to come, but that act potentially saved lives.

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