This behavior later escalated into intimidation outside private homes.
There was at least an effort to push back against that. Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, who was targeted outside his home by protesters who hung him in effigy for his children to see, teamed up with Rep. Brooke Green, D-Boise, in an attempt to ban picketing outside private homes. Again, the Legislature failed to act.
The current trend is frightening. Neiwert, who has watched the evolution of the far-right from the John Birch Society in the Idaho Falls of his youth to the rise of the Aryan Nations and The Order in North Idaho, has never seen a more dangerous time than today.
When the Aryan Nations first moved to Hayden Lake, preaching the notion of turning Idaho into a homeland for the white race, where extremists could form the majority, Neiwert laughed it off. He was then an editor at a North Idaho newspaper, and he and his publisher decided not to cover Richard Butler and his rag-tag group of neo-Nazis.
Don’t give them oxygen, and they’ll fade away, they thought. Neiwert said it wasn’t long at all before they realized that was impossible. But as visible as the Aryan Nations were, they were shunned.
When Neiwert looks at Idaho today, the picture he sees is even more disturbing than it was in the ’70s and ’80s.
“Back then, it was a fringe thing, and I don’t think we really anticipated that Butler’s vision would ever come true,” he said. “But it’s coming true.”
It’s up to us to stop it. And stopping it means working to impose accountability, something Idaho government has not yet even tried to do.
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