Legacy Of Hate: Human Rights Task Force Talks Aryan Nations And North Idaho Culture

Oct 2, 2017

Members of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations include (from left) Tony Stewart, a founder of the task force and the current secretary; Christie Wood, the current president, and Norm Gissel, a founder, board member and lawyer who has represented the task force.
Credit Matt Guilhem / Boise State Public Radio

The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations has been around nearly 40 years and was instrumental in the expulsion of the Aryan Nations from Hayden Lake.

The organization was founded in 1981 in response to Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler and his associates targeting a Jewish-run restaurant in Hayden Lake. A group of fifteen citizens told Sid Rosen, the restaurant owner, they wouldn’t sit idly by as organized bigotry was carried out in the community.

Almost two decades later, it would be the task force that played a key role in the trial that brought the hate group to its knees.

As part of "Legacy of Hate," our series examining white supremacy in the Gem State, we sat down with two of the task force’s founders and longtime leaders, Tony Stewart and Norm Gissel, and the organization’s current president, Christie Wood.

In our extended interview, the trio discusses the founding of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, how the group battled not only the Aryan Nations but other acts of bigotry in north Idaho and the evolving mission of the organization after Butler and his acolytes retreated.

Tony Stewart and Norm Gissel will be at Boise State University October 26 sharing lessons learned from battling the Aryan Nations and strategies for grassroots organizing.

This story is part of KBSX's news series "Legacy Of Hate."

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