COEUR D’ALENE, IDAHO (AP) - The Aryan Nations has returned to northern Idaho with what it is calling a “world headquarters” and a recruitment campaign.
Coeur d’Alene resident Jerald O’Brien, who has a large swastika tattoo on his scalp, is one of the leaders of the white supremacist group and said he expects membership to grow because of the election of President Barack Obama.
He told The Spokesman-Review newspaper that the president is the “greatest recruiting tool ever.”
Residents of a Coeur d’Alene subdivision found recruitment fliers on their lawns Friday and O’Brien said more fliers will be distributed. He said the group has “several handfuls” of members in the city.
The fliers show a young girl asking her father “Why did those dark men take mommy away?”
But many in the region reject the group.
“I saw Aryan Nations and put it in the trash,” said Garvin Jones. “What’s wrong with these people? Give me a break. I bet if you went back in their family history, not one is 100 percent white.”
The newspaper reported that most people interviewed about the fliers declined to be identified for fear of retribution.
The Aryan Nations had a compound in northern Idaho until 2000, when the group lost a $6.3 million civil judgment in favor of two people who sued after being attacked by Aryan Nations’ members.
The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations has fought the Aryan Nations for decades and is offering its services to anyone threatened or harassed by the group.
“It’s bound to be a small group of people trying once again to bring hate into the community,” said Tony Stewart, a spokesman for the task force. “They don’t have anywhere to operate from except a post office box.”
O’Brien said he regularly flies two white supremacist flags outside his home on the east side of the city.
The newspaper reported that its files show O’Brien marching in a neo-Nazi parade in Coeur d’Alene in July 2004 and joining in a skinhead rally that drew eight people outside the Spokane County courthouse in Spokane, Wash., in June 2007.
O’Brien said he and Michael Lombard have taken over the group following longtime leader Richard Butler, who died in 2004.
The fliers are signed “Aryan Nations, Church of Jesus Christ Christian.” O’Brien and Lombard are listed on the group’s Web site as “pastors.”
At least two residents who received the fliers called the Coeur d’Alene Police Department. Sgt. Christie Wood said no investigation is planned because distribution of fliers is protected free speech.