A couple of months ago, a newly formed militia reared its head in a familiar place -- the Panhandle of Northern Idaho. Sisyphus at 43rd State Blues had a full description:
Sporting a photoshopped image of the Statue of Liberty with the torch replaced by an assault rifle, as well as displaying the flag from the "Republic of Idaho", another newly formed Idaho militia crawls out from the wilderness to register their displeasure with the status quo yet offering no solutions other than vague grade school platitudes and a thinly veiled threat of revolution. As is their wont they invoke the civil war cry of state sovereignty. ...
But it's not just northern Idaho. It's occurring across a broad swath of the Northwest, mostly in rural precincts, as a Missoulian story recently explored:
“It's the old Freemen days,” Anderson said. “That's what we're seeing here again. And it's not just Lincoln County.”
Lincoln County Detective Capt. Jim Sweet agrees that “there's an uprising of anti-government groups that's definitely connected to the election of the Obama administration.”
Law enforcement agencies throughout the multi-state region, Sweet said, are “talking about the patterns. It's obviously bigger than Lincoln County.”
People are afraid of losing gun rights, he said, and they're stockpiling weapons and ammunition, and they want a sheriff who will stand up to federal agents.
“It's a power thing,” Anderson said. “They want the power to buck the fed and federal gun laws.”
Anderson said he traveled recently to Kalispell for an “intelligence meeting” with several federal, state and local jurisdictions - including the FBI, county sheriffs and city police - to discuss “this radical response to Obama's election, and to make sure we all know what's going on.”
And Sweet said he likewise met with authorities in northern Idaho to discuss the same “resurgence of the radical right. It's not something you can ignore at this point.”
Certainly, Anderson said, people have the right to gather and debate and prepare, but authorities similarly have an “obligation to try to stay ahead of the game, so things don't get blown out of proportion like they did before.”
Sweet believes the Eureka petitioners are likely “harmless in and of themselves,” but he worries that opportunists - more dangerous elements with increasingly radical anti-government sentiments - might be attracted to the activity in Lincoln County.
“Our fear is that, once it fails, their recall petition won't be good enough for them,” Sweet said. “We have people tied to the Freemen trying to take over the sheriff's office. We'd be foolish not to pay attention.”
At its most extreme, this same tide of paranoia and fearfulness is also washing up more bona-fide hate groups on our shores -- particularly our old friends the neo-Nazis from Aryan Nations:
"Six months ago, I had four contacts a month, wanted information and membership applications," O'Brien said. "Now it's up to four or five a day."
"It means that white America is waking up," O'Brien said. "That's what it says to me that people are starting to get involved and understand the plight of our race.
The KOMO piece also contained a real nugget of wisdom from an experienced voice:
Eradicating the hate can be a long road.
"You never, never decrease the problem by ignoring it," said Tony Stewart of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations.