Is Idaho a safe haven for extremists?

According to the Idaho 97 Project, the state’s recent population influx has exacerbated Idaho’s existing issues with extremism
Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 3:36 PM MDT
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COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — In light of Saturday’s incident in Coeur d’Alene, officials with one state anti-extremism organization note there have long been extremist groups in Idaho; but, they said the dynamics have recently changed.

According to the Idaho 97 Project, the state’s recent population influx has exacerbated Idaho’s existing issues with extremism.

“We’ve always had extremism in Idaho on some level, going back to Richard Butler and some of those groups in Coeur d’Alene,” said The Idaho 97 Project Executive Director Mike Satz.

They said, historically, Idaho has been home to a “live and let live” style of conservatism; but, recently, there has been more activism among groups associated with White Nationalism and Christian Nationalism. Oftentimes, these demonstrations include individuals who are not native Idahoans.

“We also have a lot of people who are just moving into the state who are coming here because they see Idaho as a conservative bastion,” Satz said. “The problem is they’re bringing a different kind of conservatism with them.”

Satz added Ammon Bundy is an example of someone who is not from Idaho but has used the state to further his political aspirations. Bundy and his family were involved in an armed standoff with federal officials at an Oregon national wildlife refuge in 2016. Bundy is running as an independent candidate in Idaho’s gubernatorial race.

It is because of past experiences with extremism in North Idaho that Pride in the Park organizer Alicia Abbott said extra precautions were taken in order to protect attendees at Saturday’s event.

Among the safety measures taken was enacting a buddy system for those attending and adding visual barriers between buildings and any areas where attendees may congregate.

How a visual barrier was enacted in Coeur d'Alene
How a visual barrier was enacted in Coeur d'Alene(KMVT/KSVT)

Ultimately, Abbott said attendees of the event were able to celebrate together and feel represented thanks in part to community members who showed up to protect those celebrating, as well as, law enforcement’s willingness to act.

“Our community was aware, more aware than they’ve ever been for an event when it comes to anticipating violence and it was a bad day for supremacy because of it, I think,” said Abbott, who serves as the Project Outreach Coordinator for The Idaho 97 Project.

Abbott additionally praised the Coeur d’Alene Police Department and said they have become more of an outward community partner in recent years.

“They were proactively identifying agitators and dealing with it,” added Abbott. “This was different than it’s ever been before.”

She said the way to prevent similar future events is by being aware of supremacist activity, which she admits in Idaho can be a challenge.

“They don’t operate in being outwardly and overtly racist and discriminatory,” said Abbott. “They use a lot of dog whistles and unfortunately, that makes it very hard for Idahoans to recognize supremacy.”

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