‘We will never remain silent’: North Idaho community braces for Aryan Freedom Network gathering

HAYDEN LAKE, Idaho — More than two decades after the Aryan Nations went bankrupt and ultimately left North Idaho, a new group is targeting the area.

The Aryan Freedom Network has announced it’ll host a gathering in March in Hayden Lake. Not much is known about the group, the exact time or location. Regardless, it’s enough for Jeanette Laster, Executive Director of the Human Rights Education Institute to be concerned.

“It is alarming that potentially that ideology can infiltrate our region,” she said. “They could be prospective buyers. They can shop in our restaurants, they could go to our stores and there could be discrimination and inclusion issues.”

Laster explained on the group’s website it says they’re choosing North Idaho because of its history. The group promotes the same neo-Nazi and white supremacy ideology.

“What it means to our citizens is a place of welcoming and kindness and inclusion whereas that is contrary to their ideology,” Laster said.

Tony Stewart, with the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, explained their organization is currently investigating.

“We have to make sure they carry out what they say they’re going to,” he said. “We’re also trying to find out where their property is, not to confront them, but we have been at this for a long time, and we want to make sure we know all the facts.”

Stewart is also a founding member of the organization. It stood against the Aryan Nations when they were in Idaho.

“This is something we’ve been experiencing for many many years, and certainly we know how to deal with, hate groups or hate crimes or hate messages,” Stewart said. “I think the better term than frustrated is determined. We certainly will always speak out, we will never remain silent.”

The Human Rights Education Institute is planning a community conversation that same weekend featuring speakers who were former white supremacists in Coeur d’Alene. More details to come.