White supremacist finds himself hated, alone

20-acre compound of bankrupt neo-Nazi is on the auction block

Miami Herals/February 11, 2001
By Nicholas K. Geranios

Coeur D'Alene, Idaho -- Like his hero Adolf Hitler, Richard Butler is besieged on all sides. The founder of the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations is losing his home and some of his followers after being bankrupted by a civil rights lawsuit. No lawyer will represent him. Someone threw a rock through the stained-glass swastikas of his abandoned chapel. Butler couldn't even rent a motel room to hold services of his white supremacist religion.

The evangelist of hate now finds himself in the position of complaining about discrimination. ``If Muslims or Black Panthers or a Jew rabbi rented the room, they would have allowed accommodations,'' he said on his website after being denied space at the Silver Lake Motel.

Former View of Idaho

Supporters of Aryan Nations once regarded northern Idaho as a minority-free homeland supposedly filled with kindred spirits. Now they dismiss the state as ``Idawhore,'' its residents as ``cracker spuds,'' and its human rights activists as ``hue man rights task forces.'' Instead of leaving, as many Idaho civic leaders had hoped, Butler, 82, is digging in. He has announced an unprecedented series of public events this year, including marches in Coeur d'Alene, Sandpoint and Rathdrum. His annual Aryan World Congress, which used to draw more than 100 skinheads and the like to Butler's compound, will be held instead at a park nearby.

``Pastor Butler has been here for 30 years,'' said Shaun Winkler, staff director for Butler. ``The Aryan Nations is not going to leave now.'' The prospect of neo-Nazis marching through the streets of these tourist-dependent towns is not what human rights groups expected after Butler was bankrupted last year. ``They aren't getting it,'' said Gretchen Albrecht-Heller, a leader of the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force in Sandpoint.

Hardest Blow

The most punishing blow for Butler is scheduled for Tuesday in Coeur d'Alene, when Butler's 20-acre compound will be auctioned off to satisfy a $6.3 million verdict against him and his organization in connection with an assault on a woman and her son by three Aryan Nations security guards.

After losing his compound, Butler tried to hold services of his Church of Jesus Christ Christian in a conference room in December at the Silver Lake Motel. The room was rented under the name of Vincent Bertollini, a financial supporter of Butler's, but the motel canceled the reservation and returned the deposit when it discovered the purpose of the gatherings. Jennifer Edwards, the motel's vice president, said at the time that she feared a loss of business.

Bertollini filed a complaint with the Idaho Human Rights Commission, which investigated and recommended that the two sides seek mediation. Butler also has complained that since losing the lawsuit he no longer is welcome at the Rustler's Roost, a restaurant he frequented. The restaurant manager hung up when called for comment this week. Butler also complained on the Web that no lawyer would handle his case when he pursued his appeal of the verdict.

Bertollini bought a home for Butler in nearby Hayden after the lawsuit. Not all of Butler's friends have been so loyal. Some former Aryan Nations members have joined The Church of True Israel in Noxon, Mont. That group shares the white supremacist views of Aryan Nations but not the hunger for publicity. The Noxon group said it wants nothing to do with skinheads, parades or swastikas.

``The loss of home, church, personal possessions and automobiles didn't hurt so much as the loss of those who claimed to be friends and comrades in the struggle to awake our people,'' Butler wrote on his website. He complained that his former followers ``fled like capon chickens when the enemy attacked.''

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