Several hundred protesters arrived in the tiny North Dakota village of Leith—with a population of fewer than two dozen people—on Sunday to confront what felt like a throwback to the 1980s heyday of the American hate movement: an attempt by key figures in domestic neo-Nazi and supremacist groups to create an all-white “homeland,” much to the disgust of their new neighbors.
The demonstration was organized by a group called UnityND, which came together after reports surfaced earlier this month that Craig Cobb, a white supremacist, had been buying up property in Leith with plans to set up homesteads for other white supremacists. In an effort to get to know their new neighbors, Cobb and a handful of fellow white supremacists scheduled a public meeting Sunday at the Leith village hall, in front of which they flew a swastika-decorated flag.
The welcome wagon was a little frosty, according to The Bismarck Tribune, based about 70 miles northeast of Leith.
In the hour before the town hall meeting called by Jeff Schoep of Detroit, commander of the white supremacist group National Socialist Movement, the racially diverse and colorful crowd of protesters staged a rally in a small park across from Cobb’s house.
Chants of “No hate in our state!” and “Go home!” were background to emotional speeches from protest organizers, a veteran, Plains Indians and others.
Someone held a kettle of smoking fragrant sage, which wafted over the scene, peopled by a supremacist bagpiper from Oregon and 14 black-suited state Highway Patrol troopers, with a flutter of racial flags flying in front of Cobb’s house. …
Scott Garman of Fargo, took a megaphone to holler, “This is not a one-time, one-day thing.
“We will be here again and again until you are gone. This is where we stop them. This is where it ends, in that crappy white house across the street,” Garman said, pointing to Cobb’s house where he lives without running water or a flush toilet.
The hate movement has a history of establishing compounds for itself, including the Aryan Nations site in Hayden Lake, Idaho, which was turned over to an Idaho woman and her son in 2001 to settle a lawsuit after they were fired upon by enclave guards when their car backfired. An acolyte of the Aryan Nations founder, Richard Girnt Butler, has since opened a new enclave in remote northern Idaho, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks the movement and filed the lawsuit that shuttered the original compound.
Cobb and his backers said they plan to populate the village with fellow hate-movement followers, and once they had enough, they would take over the village government. Reuters reported that one of the leaders described the plan as a trial run that, if successful, the movement would seek to replicate in other small villages.
Area residents were part of Sunday’s protest, with the majority, Reuters noted, Native Americans from the nearby Standing Rock Reservation. Village officials were contemplating options to avoid losing control of their government.
Leith Mayor Ryan Schock said city officials were discussing the possibility of unincorporating the city and turning it back over to the county to scuttle the hate group’s plans.
“This is a small, quiet town,” Schock said. “Families live around here, and it’s a very close-knit community. I really wish it hadn’t gotten to this point.”
—Posted by Scott Martelle.
John Kittelsrud (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)