CANYON CITY - The Blue Mountain Eagle is bringing two civil rights advocates to town to talk with the local community about the white-supremacist group Aryan Nations.
The speakers are:
? Norman Gissel, a Coeur d'Alene attorney who was instrumental in the lawsuit that bankrupted the Aryan Nations under Richard Butler in 2000.
? Tony Stewart, professor, author and secretary of the Kootenai County Task Force on Civil Rights, which was founded in 1981 to combat racist hate activity in Northern Idaho.
The two will be in town Friday, Feb. 26, to meet with residents. The two were involved in the opposition to Richard Butler's Aryan Nations group, which was bankrupted in 2000.
Marissa Williams, Eagle publisher, said people can attend either of two sessions - from 9 to 11 a.m. or 6 to 8 p.m. - at the Canyon City Community Hall. Doors will open at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. for the two programs.
Seating is limited to 300, so residents are urged to pick just one session and give others a chance to participate. The Eagle will videotape the program so it will be available on MyEagleNews.com for residents who are unable to attend, and radio station KJDY plans to air the morning meeting live.
The two men are noted speakers about the history and tactics of the Aryan Nations, and the impact that neo-Nazi organizations can have on communities. They will discuss ways the community can be proactive and position itself to resist the establishment of hate groups here.
The meeting was scheduled to answer concerns sparked by last week's visit to John Day by Paul R. Mullet, identified as a national leader of the Aryan Nations group based in Athol, Idaho. Mullet told the Blue Mountain Eagle that the group wants to buy a building or property to establish a compound in the John Day area and hold a national "Congress" for the group in 2011.
While it is not known how firm those plans are, editor Scotta Callister said the experience of other communities shows that "the worst thing we can do is take a wait-and-see attitude."
"We don't want to see a neo-Nazi group to get established and use their racist messages to negate all that's positive about this area," she said. "We decided to set up the meeting to help prepare the community to respond to this threat in ways that are both legal and safe."
Friday's meetings are not intended as rallies, but as educational forums. Callister said people should come prepared to listen and learn, but she asks that they leave any signs or banners outside.
"We don't want anything to distract from the speakers' presentations. They are coming a long way to give us the benefit of their expertise," she said.
A citizen group has planned to do an informational picketing downtown between the two sessions, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., so there will be an opportunity for protest activities, she said.
Kootenai County's response included the formation of the task force, which went on to lobby for stronger laws regarding harassment and domestic terrorism, to provide victim support and to sponsor rallies in support of human rights.