Aryans facing tough times

Associated Press/October 31, 2000
By Nicholas K. Geranios

These are tough times for Aryans Nation leader Richard Butler.

He was vilified on the streets of Coeur D'Alene over the weekend and denied use of a hotel for a news conference. Two days later, he declared bankruptcy in the midst of a $6.3 million lawsuit brought by two people who were attacked by guards outside his compound.

The bankruptcy filing Monday came as Butler, 82, prepares to relinquish control of his 20-acre compound this week to satisfy part of the civil rights lawsuit.

Since Butler doesn't have $5.8 million - his share of the lawsuit - he declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which means his assets are to be liquidated to pay his debts, said Norm Gissel, the attorney who represented Victoria and Jason Keenan.

The compound was scheduled to be turned over to the Keenans this week, but Gissel said that will likely not happen because of the filing.

"It means justice is delayed, but not denied," Gissel said.

The Keenans were chased and shot at by Aryan Nations security guards near the group's compound in 1998. Jurors Sept. 7 ruled that Butler and his organization were negligent in selecting and overseeing the guards, who assaulted the Keenans after they had stopped to search for a dropped wallet near the compound's entrance.

The bankruptcy filing also came on the heels of Saturday's Aryan Nations parade through downtown Coeur d'Alene. The parade drew about two dozen marchers, who were shouted down by hundreds of protesters in what may have been the last hurrah of the Aryan Nations.

Directly behind the marchers were two street-sweeping trucks sent by city officials.

"It was a symbolic move," Police Chief Tom Cronin said. "We swept them out of town."

After the parade, Butler tried to hold a news conference at a room he had rented in the Coeur d'Alene Inn. But hotel security and police officers blocked the door to the hotel.

It was another bitter pill for the Aryan Nations to swallow. Once ignored, if not exactly tolerated, the Aryan Nations in recent years has faced rising opposition in Idaho. Attacked by politicians, business and religious leaders, Butler and his followers have found themselves ever more isolated. Butler held a final news conference Saturday at the compound that has been the group's headquarters since the 1970s. He has already moved out, so there was no electricity. It was dark and cold in the church.

A stained-glass window behind the pulpit, which showed the Aryan Nations' shield and swastika symbol, had been shattered by a vandal's rock.

Butler railed from his pulpit against the trial that cost him his home. "A lot of people know it was a railroad job," Butler said. "You know it and I know it."

"They were able to steal a man's property," Butler said.

Besides the property, the Keenans won rights to the name Aryan Nations, which for three decades has been synonymous with white supremacy and anti-Semitism. The name is to be retired, although Butler has vowed to start a new organization called the Aryan National Alliance. He is living in a home in Hayden, about 15 miles south of the compound, purchased by a wealthy supporter.

"Sure it's hard to go, but yet I'm still proud of the fact I've been able to stand in the face of adversity," Butler said.

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