The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations extends its appreciation and gratitude to the Coeur d’Alene Police Department under the able leadership of Chief Lee White, the City of Coeur d’Alene Prosecutor’s Office and the legal system including the jury decision for once again upholding the rule of law in protecting the safety of our community. At the end of the recent court trial, the six-person jury found five members of the Patriot Front guilty of the misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to riot by disturbing the public peace.

Idaho, like other communities and states across America, has long faced the challenges of how to effectively confront the many forms of prejudice, bigotry, and hate. Historically we have witnessed many tragic outcomes due to some individuals’ and groups’ refusal to accept those who are perceived to be different or not members of “European descent.”

The history of mankind is riddled with many horrendous acts of violence and death based on a victim’s race, color, religion, ethnicity, creed, gender, age, disability, or sexual orientation.

Although some current leaders are attempting to rewrite history to block out these horrendous acts, it does not change the fact that these egregious acts happened and have been rooted in deep historical prejudices and hatred for those who are different.

We must not forget the evils of a long history of slavery, the slaughter of many American Natives, internment camps of Japanese Americans during World War II, the death of millions of Jews and other targeted groups during World War II and the lynching in the South of Black men even as late as the 1950s. These are painful reminders of what humans can do to their fellow human beings.

Let us not forget some of the most recent examples of horrendous crimes based on hatred.

On June 17, 2015, a white supremacist entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., where men and women were worshiping God during a Bible study and shot dead nine innocent Americans and injured one. This senseless act came out of hatred for people of color.

On Oct. 27, 2018, as dedicated and kind members of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh had gathered to celebrate Shabbat, a middle-aged man entered the synagogue, killed 11 and wounded 11 others, targeted for who they were.

All of these tragedies can be traced to the fact that prejudice, bigotry, and hatred were the driving force behind the perpetrators’ actions.

For recent arrivals to our community, let us explain how the KCTFFHR came to be over 42 years ago. In 1973, the leader and members of the Aryan Nations moved to Kootenai County from Southern California. In December 1980, members of the neo-Nazi group targeted the Jewish owner of a Hayden restaurant with hateful antisemitic messages on his building. Not long after that incident, one of the Aryan Nations associates threatened a Coeur d’Alene biracial family if they did not leave the state — thus the birth of our organization to support victims of hate.

For over four decades, we have supported and represented victims of hate crimes including working with law enforcement, prosecutors and the legal system to counter the forces that would do harm to individuals and minorities who face these illegal acts by the perpetrators.

During our annual human rights banquet in recent years, we have awarded our civil rights award to the Coeur d’Alene Police Department and Chief Lee White as well as former Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh and former Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich for their dedication to seeking justice for the victims of hate.

Since we successfully assisted our first victims of a hate crime in a 1983 criminal trial, Kootenai County juries have been consistent in issuing guilty verdicts in cases that involved malicious harassment and hate crimes.

As Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White has said, the record is clear that Kootenai County is no place to bring threats of violence toward any of our residents. We are a people that embrace and celebrate our differences while rejecting hate.

The KCTFHR is steadfast and unbending in our mission of more than four decades: promoting human rights and serving as a counter to harmful acts directed at peaceful abiding individuals simply because the perpetrators wish to harm them for who they are.

Christie Wood, president; Jody Hiltenbrand, vice president; Scott Kennedy, treasurer; and Tony Stewart, secretary for the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations.

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