By John K. Wiley
COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — Reflecting how far the Aryan Nations has fallen since losing a $6.3 million civil rights lawsuit, only a small number of people marched in an annual parade Saturday through the streets of this lakeside resort town.
Thirty supporters of Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler walked in near silence — watched by fewer than 100 curious spectators behind yellow police tape.
More people played on a nearby city beach on Lake Coeur d’Alene than watched the slow procession of neo-Nazis. There were no human rights counterdemonstrators present.
Butler, 82, held the hands of two small girls as he shuffled down Sherman Avenue behind banners denouncing Morris Dees — the Southern Poverty Law Center founder who helped force Butler and Aryan Nations into bankruptcy — and the judge who presided over last year’s civil trial.
Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Judy said the city could not deny the Aryans a parade permit, but urged residents to stay away from downtown during the one hour allowed for the march.
"We don’t like it, but it’s their constitutional right," Wolfinger said. "The crowd was curious about it; kind of like a circus side show."
This year’s march was in stark contrast to last year’s event, when hundreds of human rights demonstrators shouted down fewer than 100 Aryan Nations supporters.
The parade is part of the annual Aryan World Congress that Butler formerly hosted at his 20-acre compound 15 miles north of the city near Hayden Lake.
Butler lost the property as part of a $6.3 million award to Victoria and Jason Keenan after they were assaulted by Aryan Nations security guards.
As many as 400 racists, neo-Nazis and anti-Semites from across the country were attracted to 25 previous congresses. This year, only about three dozen supporters camped at Farragut State Park on Lake Pend Oreille, where U.S. Navy sailors had trained to fight Nazis during World War II.
Scores of FBI agents and other law enforcement officers camped at a nearby site to keep an eye on the Aryans.
The Carr Foundation, a Boston, Mass., philanthropic organization, now owns the former Aryan Nations property. Most of the buildings have been burned by a local fire district during training exercises.
Butler’s former home and the church that served as the neo-Nazi sect’s home are to be burned July 15.
A squad of riot police shadowed the march on a parallel street, and police searched each marcher before they were allowed to board a yellow school bus that would take them to the parade starting area.
Former Aryan security chief Michael Teague was arrested prior to the parade on two warrants charging contempt of court for failing to pay fines, Kootenai County Sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger said.
Teague was booked into Kootenai County Jail in lieu of $550 cash-only bond, Wolfinger said. Teague had been among four defendants named by the Keenans in their lawsuit against the Aryan Nations.
The Aryans were issued a state parks permit on June 14 to use the Nighthawk campground in Farragut from Thursday through noon today. The state had no legal reason to deny the permit to the controversial group, park officials said.
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