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National NAACP To March on Spokane Washington for “Demand Justice and Promote Peace” Rally

March 29, 2011

When a bomb was found concealed in a backpack along the route of a parade on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the public was divided. Many felt, and complained that mainstream media played down the attempted bombing because race was a factor.

This complaint was echoed when Kevin William Harpham, an alleged Neo-Nazi was finally arrested just a few weeks ago; many saying the media was again shying away from covering the story in-depth to avoid bringing attention to racial hatred in so-called “post-racial” America.

The attempted bombing has been a hot button issue from the start.

It’s about to get hotter, and the issue of race, unavoidable.

The NAACP has announced it will march on Spokane this coming Sunday (a day before the anniversary of King’s assassination) to “demand justice” and defend “peace, freedom, civil and human rights in an environment where it would appear that excessive racial hatred and discontinuity still exits.”

According to an NAACP statement, Spokane was chosen for Sunday’s march because Washington and North Idaho “are well-known for their history of white supremacist activities.”

It’s no secret Eastern Washington is more rural and conservative than Western Washington. Richard Butler, former leader of the White supremest group the Aryan Nations once anointed the area the so-called new white homeland. Butler died in 2004. His notorious Idaho compound was sold after Butler lost a lawsuit filed by a Native American mother and her son who were assaulted and harassed by members of the Aryan Nations.

But many say that’s in the past and defend Spokane and neighboring rural cities as having come a long way, including Spokane’s Mayor. Mary Verner is encouraging residents to participate in the march and rally saying, “The Spokane I know is a loving, accepting place that believes in equality…As a community, we must continue to visibly stand up against racism and hatred.”

Nevertheless, the rural Pacific Northwest has been home to active, public hate groups in the past, and minorities in Eastern Washington say they live in an environment of covert, systemic racism, particularly against Latinos.

They point to residents like Shaun Winkler who moved to the area from Pennsylvania to lead a chapter of the KKK, which has about a dozen members.  But even the KKK seems to think pipe bombs are extreme:

“We believe in protecting ourselves, but we certainly aren’t going to advocate bombing people,” said Mr. Winkler, 32, adding that he had been interviewed by the F.B.I. about the bomb in Spokane, about 40 miles to the southwest. “That’s a pretty extreme measure even from our end. It’s going to be more of an under-the-radar person, a lone-wolf type.”

Spokane authorities have not given any estimates on the event’s expected attendance, but have confirmed the police department will provide security for the event.  Residents of the city are divided in their reactions.  In the comments on the Spokane Review website, opinions landed on both sides:

“I’m glad to hear that the NAACP is taking this action and coming to Spokane. Although it is interesting to hear the NAACP’s perception of this area and I wonder if this is what the rest of the nation perceives of the inland northwest.  Some could argue that this region takes great strides toward preserving human rights and one would hope that this event will further solidify our area’s intolerance toward racism and show the rest of the nation that Spokane is a great place.”

Other readers aren’t so generous:

“I really resent this NAACP carpetbagger implying that we’re all a bunch of racists around here. What does he base that on? Something he read somewhere? Something he saw on TV once? That old nut-job Butler who used to live by Hayden with a bunch of skinhead punks from the big cities? How long ago was that? 10 years? 20? These days, there’s no organized racist group of any sort doing anything publicly visible anywhere in the northwest. Yes there are probably a some people harboring racist thoughts in their hearts and using racist slurs when sitting at the bar with their buddies. Welcome to human nature. What we don’t need is someone from outside coming in and making a speech about how racist we all are, based on nothing more than his racist opinion.”

The March planned April 3 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Spokane is to be led by national NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous.



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