Did you work on cases involving hate groups such as the KKK or neo-Nazi groups?


Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Describe a typical kind of case. You said, "The kind of thing I was getting involved in." What was that thing?

Answer:
Let me answer you with this. In 1981, it was virtually all mediation, fishing rights issues and other Indian relation issues. But one day in November of 1981, I received a phone call from the NAACP president in Spokane, and she said, "There's a picture in today's newspaper of a big cross being burned with a bunch of men in uniforms and hoods all around the cross. It says it's the Old Hinge Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. It says, Aryan Nations. What's that?" I said, "Aryan what?" And I didn't know. So I go over and meet with her, and then I realize that I'm going to Coeur d'Alene to meet the undersheriff for the first time. He's looking for somebody like me, and I was looking for somebody like him. We worked very closely together. After a number of contacts, I realized that there needed to be an entity to countervail the influence of the Aryan Nations. They weren't interested in sitting down with a Jewish person, or a black person, or anything like that. But I began the process of identification, and I realized that the Spokane area had a minority community that was concerned about these activities. And the Jewish community was concerned about these activities. But there was no minority community, to speak of, in Coeur d'Alene, or in Northern Idaho. And so whatever was worked out would need to be worked out on the joint basis for both geographies. So I pulled together NAACP representatives from Spokane, and the one Jewish Rabbi serving that whole area, as well as the representative from the school superintendent's office, the prosecuting attorney, the US attorney, the police chief, and the sheriff of Spokane County. Also, we had the Methodist district superintendent and businessmen and the secretary of the bar association. And on the other side, that undersheriff in Northern Idaho, and the representatives from the police departments over there. There was one Jewish resident, but I couldn't find a black person at that point who lived in Coeur d'Alene. I found out later that there were several, but I couldn't find them. Oh, and the state's Human Rights Commission had an office there, so that director joined us and a United Church of Christ minister over in Coeur d'Alene. And we pulled them together, after a lot of discussion, I was the common link between all of them. They didn't know each other, even in Spokane. I was the convener. It was important that we stay together long enough to formulate a program and for me to get out of that role as quickly as possible. Because if anything's going to evolve here, the last thing that should be done is that this group was formed by the US Department of Justice on one hand, and secondly, somebody from Seattle. Those are the bad people. I mean, Seattle is in competition with Spokane. Seattleites don't understand people east of the mountains. But, in essence, what we did was form an ad-hoc organization, sponsor the first conference on hate groups and hate activity in the Northwest. TAPE CHANGE; QUESTION UNKNOWN

Answer:
Not directly. I had contact with Reverend Butler, the head of it. But he really wasn't interested in dealing with me in anyway over that. And that was it. And I don't think that there would be anybody in these organizations that would have any interest in meeting with him either. There was a two day seminar, it was statewide, Northern Idaho with the state of Washington. And at the end of my plan, we had already drawn up a constitution, by-laws for the Interstate Task Force on Human Rights. And that conference gave it legitimacy and we went from there to do a number of things in supporting each other in both areas.

Question:
So I gather you did a lot more of this sort of thing afterwards.

Answer:
Yeah, out of that model came the Interstate Task Force on Human rights that we eventually formed. Hate group activity began to manifest itself, cross-burning incidents, harassment, and organized activity, and this was before skinheads surfaced. We had Klan activity and Aryan activity and your Christian patriots and various assorted organizations that had not been present before, or known to be present. We became aware of the territorial imperative of these groups, they were organizing to form a state within a state. The Northwest Aryan Empire.

Question:
So what did these groups do to try to counter that?

Answer:
Well, every year, the World Aryan Congress met at Coeur d'Alene, out at Aryan Headquarters, seven miles North of Coeur d'Alene. You had up to three or four hundred people coming there. The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Rights, broke off from the Interstate Task Force, so you had two different groups, after a couple of years. They formed Human Rights Observances in the City Park downtown, with several thousand people in attendance, and greetings from the governors of Oregon and Washington. That was my job, to generate these. It was to say, the media was coming to cover the Aryans, that was news. So this was to say, in effect, that there are other people besides them, and we stand for human rights, fairness, and say yes to equity, and so on. But they took on a lot of different projects and programs. Then there were incidents in Coeur d'Alene, Pocatello, Boise, Portland, Seattle, and it was just cropping up all over the place. I pulled together about fourteen people from over in Spokane to sit down and consult together, these would be the NAACP regional president, Human Rights Commission Representative, and LULAC, and so on. But after we had this initial meeting, we then decided there was a need for more input. So we held a series of consultations over a year. First in Spokane, and then in Seattle, then in Portland, then in Coeur d'Alene, and then at the end of a year, formed the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment. And that has now expanded to include Colorado. Surely you know this, or do you?

Question:
I don't.

Answer:
Oh. Well it's ten years old now, the Northwest Coalition. But it has representatives from the Governors' offices from each of the five original states that we had involved, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. It's a mix of officials and community leadership. The NAACP regional offices, and somebody from an Urban League, Latino organizations, one representative from a police organization in each state, a representative of the Governor's office in each state, a Human Rights Commission representative from each state, general local coalition organizational representatives from each state. This is on the Board of Directors. And we've held a full-time staff of five people. A foundation support of 265 organizations of different kinds, ranging from the police department to state departments of education, and Diocese. The local Methodist Church on Mercer Island, was the first church. That's where I lived. The annual Methodist conference, and even the Northwest Kite-Flyers organization. You don't have to be a civil rights organization to be concerned about these things. It is 265 organizations. But it's educational programs, conferences, and there's a big annual conference held in each of the three states annually. And then smaller conferences are supported. When an incident occurs, a team will be formed to go there and respond to the problem. I was the chair of the monitoring committee, which is the main role we had, and that was to document incidents. If we could document incidents, and show by compilation of credible data, that this number of incidents had occurred in this community. Or then over to the Northwest, so many homicides, kidnapping, all of the different forms of violence. We could persuade officials and public opinion that we have a problem. And that's what we did. We were doing bias-crime data collection on a five-state basis, way before the FBI started.

Question:
We, being CRS?

Answer:
No. No. The Northwest Coalition was involved in urging National Data Collection for some time before it became mandated by Congress. In fact, I'd done that kind of work in Alabama in the 1950's, state-wide.

Question:
Did you ever mediate a case between a known hate group and a minority group?

Answer:
I offered. If anyone wants to meet with the Aryans, or feel like it's useful for your purposes to meet with them, to communicate, to discuss anything with them, let me know and I'll see if I can arrange such. And nobody has ever requested a desire to do that.

Question:
I ask that question, because getting to the next question I wanted to ask you, when you're dealing with hate groups, how are you able to maintain your impartiality and objectivity at that particular point?

Answer:
Oh, with difficulty and with skepticism on the part of the hate groups.

Question:
And what did you do?

Answer:
Well, on Whitby Island, that is the site whereby the leader of the most violent terrorist group ever to form in the U.S., an off-shoot of the Aryan Nations, formed in Northeast Washington. There were about 22 people, primarily men, who assassinated Allenberg here in Denver, and other individuals. Some of the victims were their own members, who were thought to be informers. They tried to bomb the house of the head of the Northwest Coalition at one point, in Coeur d'Alene. The FBI, in 1984, was able to track that group down, and the leaders were tracked to Whitby Island. But they had several safe houses up there, right on the edge of the water. They were surrounded by several hundred law enforcement, and the leader of the group was killed. Now the Aryans and neo-Nazis go to the State park, which is almost adjacent to this site of his Martyrdom, as they put it. They hold services. Then, anti-neo-Nazi groups from Seattle and other places come to the site to protest their presence. A confrontation then develops and law enforcement's caught in the middle. From the beginning, I was involved in getting the State Park's people to arrange to meet with law enforcement and the leaders of the protest groups to meet and sort out ground rules. We discussed what could be expected from each, and that sort of thing. That doesn't really involve the neo-Nazis. But the neo-Nazis have a campsite that they usually camped in and people such as newspaper reporters, were filtering down into the campsite. So I went down and they were chasing them out. I recommended, "What we're trying to do is avoid violence in this case. This would play into their hands." But we urged them to talk with the leadership of the group there, who is an old time neo-Nazi. We urged him, "Why don't you go up there and set up a perimeter at this gate up here, at the top of the road, a hundred yards from where the campsite is and have somebody up there to meet whatever medial representatives come there and make a determination as to whether you want them down here in your campsite. The interview could be done up there, or just to decide whether or not you want to talk with them at all. " But, not to leave it wide open where conflicts were developing. A lot of confrontations were developing along that road. They thought that was a good idea, and followed that suggestion. In subsequent years, I would meet with the first arrivals at the campsite, and just establish rapport, as tenuous as it was. I was there in the event that some problems did arise, outside of demonstrations that were orderly and in the area, but not at their campsite. Things generally worked out very well.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
That reminds me of something you talked about with the university case which we veered away from and never got back to. You said the KKK was handing out leaflets. Did you ever work with them?

Answer:
I did. I made contact with them, but not in that situation because they had come in to the community from somewhere else and just passed out leaflets. They weren't in the community. The only time we worked directly with them, and it usually was as a team, was when there was going to be a KKK rally. We would help organize it so that it was peaceful. We would work with the community and the KKK. We would make sure it was marshaled and make sure everybody knew what to do and all that technical kind of stuff. Other then that, it was just a monitoring factor. I would make contact with them though. If there was a situation in a community in which they were involved, I would usually try to find out who was there and make contact with them. I never had an occasion where they became a party, other than a demonstration.

Question:
So they never sat at the table?

Answer:
No. I never had a situation where there were the direct perpetrators. I suspect they were KKK members at the table, but they were probably members of other organizations.

Question:
My impression, this is just from the media, is that the KKK wants to create violent situations at their rallies. Is that incorrect?

Answer:
The ones that I was at were very small, very few people, so we could keep the community from reacting to them. Usually it was a non-issue, a non-event. They got publicity by creating disruption. But if you could keep things safe and let them demonstrate, then it became a non-issue. It was sad to me to see the inauguration of their own children because that's who usually was there. Four of five adults and their kids. Perpetuation of hate and those kids don't know any better.

Question:
Were they interested in having your assistance with preventing violence?

Answer:
Yeah, they were always cooperative with us in terms of creating safety. Safety in terms of working with the city to make sure they get their permits. Sometimes the city would say, "We're not going to give them a permit." "Well, you know, it might be better if you do, go ahead and manage it, do it the right way. Don't have them off at the edge of town and you not having any influence over it." So it was that kind of a negotiated deal.






Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

did you ever have a problem with maintaining your own objectivity, impartiality? I'm thinking in terms of if you were ever involved in cases with hate groups, KKK, something like that? Were there times when it was difficult for you to be involved?

Answer:
Yeah, the very nature of who we are, a majority of our staff are minorities and we hire them for that and we all come with a baggage. Baggage because we held offices with certain organizations, or we've been ministers in some cases, and teachers.

Question:
I'm sure there were cases where you weren't able to pull in other people to assist you all the time. So what types of things did you do? What techniques did you use to maintain your impartiality when you weren't able to just bring someone in and have them take over?

Answer:
I think the general route that we would take is that we would begin to withdraw as quickly and honorably as we could. There comes a time when a light goes up and it says I can no longer be of service, and we will begin to identify other people that can serve that dispute.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Was the KKK involved in this process?

Answer:
Yeah, they were. They came to some of the meetings.

Question:
Was that the sympathizers or the KKK?

Answer:
The KKK itself did come. They weren't wearing their robes while they were at the meetings.

Question:
What was their dialogue? what were they saying?

Answer:
First of all, that the Vietnamese were fishing illegally but the government wasn't doing anything about it, they weren't enforcing the laws. And because they weren't enforcing the laws, the Vietnamese were taking advantage of the locals' situation and the government was giving them all this money so it's an unfair advantage and so the Klan was out there to help the locals fight that. They were protecting the local community and its way of life.

Question:
Did you ever find out how they became involved?

Answer:
Any situation like this brings them out. Later on in another setting, when thousands of persons were coming across the border illegally, the Klan said they were going to help the border patrol because the border patrol could not keep all these aliens out. The border patrol said, "Hey, we don't need your help." Then I found out a vigilante Mexican American group was going to go out there to confront the Klan if they ever showed up, but they didn't. There's not that many of them. Through cross burning and rhetoric the Klan can cause a lot of concern. The minority community would say some law enforcement people are sympathizers. That they may not be wearing their robes but they certainly share the same feelings. We don't find guilt or innocence, we're trying to find out what they can do together. Also, we don't make any decisions. In essence in this whole process we sell ourselves. It's always a personal interaction. I have to sell myself to you. Once I do that, then I sell the mediation process.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

You were talking about the KKK, and how you approached them, and you said you approached them by seeing how you could be helpful. How were you helpful to the KKK?

Answer:
Well, their concern was retaliation, or possible violent repercussions for what they're doing. They were concerned with their safety. I have to help all sides. So in situations where they need coordination with police we set those meetings up and the police can provide security. Just like police provide security for everybody else. They cannot be excluded and that's helpful to them. I remember it's ironic, but they had issues back in '80, '81. We had set up an understanding between them and the Vietnamese fishermen and it kind of wasn't going the way it was planned. I had to come up with plan B which was I'll asked the leader of the Vietnamese shrimpers and the Grand Dragon if they wanted to meet one on one. With just me present and my colleague I had at the time. Each side said, "Yeah, we're not afraid of them." So I said, "Let's meet." We met in my hotel room. During the meeting the Dragon asked that I not take any notes. The Vietnamese brought two or three of his people but they stayed in the lobby and the Grand Dragon had somebody calling him like every fifteen minutes. But I did take notes.




Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Later on, the Klan surrounded the hotel room, but that's another story. The Klan surrounded the place, and we were in the room, and we moved in the room together. Fred said, "What do we do now, Ozell?" I said, "Well, I don't know Fred, we gotta do something." He said, "Well, we could call the police." I said, "Oh no, they're Klan too." You're just opening the door to the Klan by calling the police. He says, "We could call the F.B.I." I says, "They're Klan sympathizers down here, so they may not come and get us. The trouble is, anybody we call we got to go through switchboard, and that gives us another problem." I came up with an idea: I called the Department of Justice and I got our secretary. There were no high ranking blacks in the Department of Justice at that time. I said, "Lady, what I need to talk about, I'm not ready to talk about it to you. Furthermore, you can't help me. I want you to look outside the window somewhere, and find a black janitor or a handyman somewhere, preferably middle-aged. Don't ask me to explain all of this, just do it for me." And she did, she found a janitor, he was forty or fifty years old. When he came and said, "Hello," I said, "Ooday ooyay eekspay iglatinpay?" He answered me in pig-Latin! I told him in pig-Latin where I was. I said, "I want you to leave this phone and get on a private phone. I want you to call Roger Wilkins, and I want you to tell him what our situation is. Make sure that nobody hears you when you make the call and just leave it there. He'll take care of it." So he did. He went and he called Roger, and in about thirty minutes, U.S. Marshals came over and escorted us out of the hotel. So don't tell me I don't speak a foreign language, I speak the ghetto language. I want you to know I spoke some beautiful pig-Latin that day.



Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I might be wrong, but I'm vaguely remembering a few years ago, the KKK came to one of the marches. Did you work with that? Were you working with the KKK at all?

Answer:
No, I didn't work with the KKK. We didn't work with the KKK and that's a good question. The KKK has never sought the help in that area of training and wanting to do something. They are always out on the fringes out there doing their own thing and violating the law.

Question:
Has CRS ever tried to get them involved in anything you've been doing?

Answer:
That wasn't part of our mandate, to seek out the Ku Klux Klan. That's just never been part of the mandate. I don't think it ever will be.






Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Shortly after the killing, the Klan got involved. They were very active in the community and might have had some sympathizers. Mainly, they were out-of- towners who would pass by and try to intimidate folks by burning a few crosses shortly after the Vietnamese killed that guy. There was some retaliation. Some Vietnamese boats were burned and some homes were firebombed. Local police increased security. That was including the police chief who told me he couldn't preserve the evidence from the crime scene because he was trying to help the man who was wounded. The crime evidence went out of the window. I think one weapon was recovered and then lost later. When the trials were coming months later, I worked with the community and the law enforcement to prepare a security plan to make sure that the Vietnamese population was protected. We gathered law enforcement from throughout the county, state, and local police agencies, plus the one police chief. The mayor was a young guy who got in my car and he had this big gun. I said, "Why do you have that?" He replied, "I gotta be ready for those S.O.B.'s." I said, "What about me?" He said, "You take care of yourself." At that time, the Klan was getting a lot of media coverage, and the rest of the community was concerned about that. They knew they didn't believe in what the Klan was saying, but there was no other voice. Also, they were afraid to go against the Klan, because they knew these people may be armed and dangerous. So they kind of just went along. What I tried to do is create a bigger voice through the community leadership. The clergy, the school people, the business community, they can make up a larger voice.



Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
What about the Nazis?

Answer:
No, that was not a problem. I never took them that seriously as a threat to anything. I tried to be empathic. I had no sympathy for them or what they were doing, but it never prevented me, I think, from doing my work objectively. That doesnít mean I didnít try to advocate a just resolution by helping to empower a racial minority group by, for example, helping it to prepare for a negotiation when they wanted that kind of counsel and if I thought it appropriate.

Question:
Would you work this hard to help the Nazis?







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