Asked about the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, Gov. Butch Otter on Tuesday recalled Idaho’s own experience with neo-Nazi white supremacists when the Aryan Nations was headquartered in North Idaho.
“We’re not new to that. We’ve had those problems in Idaho before,” Otter said. “Fortunately, for the most part, I think we dealt with it in the right way. They weren’t welcome here. They went beyond the line.”
After members of the Aryan Nations attacked a motorist who was driving past their compound, the group was taken to court and “they lost all their assets,” Otter said.
The lawsuit bankrupted the group, which lost not only its compound, but even the right to its name. Humanitarian Greg Carr purchased the compound and then donated it to North Idaho College for a natural peace park.
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“Both as a population and as a government, I think we made a very firm statement that we’re not going to tolerate that in Idaho,” Otter said.
Otter praised Sen. Mike Crapo and 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson for their strong, prompt statements on social media on Sunday condemning racist violence and white supremacy.
Sen. Jim Risch followed with a similar statement on Monday.
First District Rep. Raul Labrador had not responded to repeated inquiries from Idaho reporters about his thoughts on the events as of Tuesday afternoon, but then Labrador finally issued a statement, saying, “I detest white supremacy as much as I detest black nationalism and other forms of identity politics.”
Prior to that, speaking of Labrador, Gov. Otter had said: “I’m sure, in my heart of hearts, I don’t think he likes it any more than anyone else. What the rest of the delegation has done, I think it makes a strong statement for Idaho. As a congressman, I believe he should make a statement.”
Labrador represents Idaho’s 1st District, which includes the site of the former Aryan Nations compound.
Labrador is leaving Congress to run for governor in 2018.Lt. Gov. Brad Little, a close friend of Otter’s, and Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist also are vying for the post.
The Statesman contributed.