On Jan. 27, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued what it called a "heightened threat environment," not from global terrorists but from extremists within our borders. To more than a few Idaho activists, the alert was long overdue.
"Those of us who are in the affected population that would be targeted by said individuals have lived under this threat for quite some time," said Phillip Thompson, executive director of the Idaho Black History Museum.
In a series of interviews, Morning Edition host George Prentice talked with individuals who, through their own activism, confirmed the threat is very real in Idaho. Listen to both interviews below:
"But some of the activists who are leading some of the really important work that was going on around racial — they had safety plans. And it's a sad day when we have to turn to ourselves for that. And to finally have DHS say something is actually good to hear."
Read the full transcripts of both conversations below:
GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News, good morning. I'm George Prentice. The major headline last week was a bit of a stunner… when the Department of Homeland Security warned us of a heightened threat… but of domestic terrorism in the wake of the violence that rocked the US Capitol on January 6th. DHS says domestic extremists may be emboldened. And we're going to talk a bit about that this morning with two high profile activists here in Idaho, Joseph Kibbe is here, vice president on the board of directors of Boise Pride Festival. And the Nicole LeFavour is here, you know her as a former Idaho State Senator, author and journalist. She served as an openly gay lawmaker at the Capitol.
JOSEPH KIBBE: Good morning, George.
(NI)COLE LEFAVOUR: Good morning, George.
PRENTICE: I'm going to ask you to look through the lens of your activism and ask about your reaction to Homeland Security's heightened warning about a homegrown threat.
LEFAVOUR: George, I think for many of us, it was maybe a sense of, well, finally, someone is calling it what it is and calling some attention to the fact that this is ongoing, because I think we've all lived with this idea for the last four years, to some extent… watching it accelerate.
KIBBE: I would agree with that. I think it's finally nice to get an accurate description of what's going on in not only in Idaho, but in the greater United States, looking through my own experiences here with Idaho and traveling to northern Idaho and having some very close… and I'm going to say uncomfortable and dangerous run-ins with some of our state lawmakers. I really believe it's time for us to start taking this a step further and labeling it as a domestic terror threat that threatens all of us that either live within the State of Idaho or within the United States.
PRENTICE: Indeed these are, sad to say, visceral times as expressions of… well, sometimes just simple displeasure…but then grow to outrage…. and then grow. on more than a few occasions, to violence. Joseph, what has it been like to walk in your shoes... some of the things that you just alluded to?
KIBBE: Experiences range from a backcountry church to outside of Notus, Idaho, to a very anti-immigration, very anti-government rally, having gone undercover to take a look at that portion of the community, to running into a lawmaker in the halls of the State Capitol with having to go all the way up to file a legislative complaint and have a suppression order placed between a lawmaker and me. I definitely feel like those experiences have shaped the way I want to stand for others, but I want to engage members of the community and speak for those who can't themselves. But I'm definitely cautious and I'll say that I look over my shoulder when I'm in unfamiliar territory.
LEFAVOUR: I know Joe has had people stationed out in front of his house, and I know other people who have had people during these times know where they live. And so when Bundy calls for this neighborhood nationalism and neighbor-on-neighbor violence, it is incredibly disturbing. And I mean….all through these years, so many activists in this community have faced threats. But the level of it now is… it's just everywhere.
KIBBE: It's a very real threat. Nicole is correct on the days of the election, and leading up to that. I had individuals in front of my home; and I didn't necessarily feel comfortable reaching out to local police because I don't know that I'm going to get the kind of response that I want or need to feel safe or protected in my home. So that fear is very real. Having two gentlemen in front of your home that you don't know who they are or what their intentions are… and all of a sudden they're just gone.
PRENTICE: You say that when you heard about the DHS [terror threat] issue.. well, that's a see-change.
KIBBE: Yeah, it absolutely is. It really makes you stand up and become more alert. And again, I feel Idaho is not different. In the case that we have people that are prepared to act on those actions. I feel they're armed, they're dangerous, and we don't have a real safety check on those individuals yet. At this point, we have a patchwork of state, local municipalities and some county municipalities that are shielded…they have a handle on these thing, but there's no good statewide strong response.
PRENTICE: Joseph, do you feel less fearful when you're in the city of Boise?
KIBBE: In the fact, George, that I feel less fearful because I have people that I know will come to my aid quicker. I'll say that it doesn't make me more safe. I just know how to access those resources quickly. And to again…, to come back to what Nicole's saying and things that we've stated over and over again - it's the people that live in smaller communities, where these things are more prevalent and where you have people that are actively moving up and down your streets. And Nicole, please jump in…Those are the folks that I worry about.
LEFAVOUR: You know, in the days leading up to the election, a number of us in the community…in Boise and the Treasure Valley, we organized some safety planning. And we looked at active-shooter information. We talked about how to be out of harm's way and not where we might be expected to be…encouraging people who might be at-risk of violence. And that's not necessarily me. I'm pretty irrelevant these days. But some of the activists who are leading some of the really important work that was going on around racial justice - they had safety plans. And it's a sad day when we have to turn to ourselves for that. And to finally have DHS say something is actually good to hear.
PRENTICE: They are Joseph Kibbe and Nicole LeFavour. Be safe, be well, and thanks for giving us some time this morning.
KIBBE: You're welcome, George.
GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning, I'm George Prentice. We're spending some time this week talking about threats on the homefront in the wake of the announcement from the Department of Homeland Security - a warning of an increased threat of domestic terrorism. We're having conversations this week about fear and hope and everything in between. So, we're going to spend some time this morning with Mr. Phillip Thompson, executive director of the Idaho Black History Museum. Always a welcome conversation, Philip. Good morning.
PHILLIP THOMPSON: Good morning, sir. How are you?
PRENTICE: I'm well, sir. Can I ask first up, looking through your particular lens, what were you thinking… what was your reaction when you heard from no less than the Department of Homeland Security, which warns us of outside threats to America, officially saying we have a serious security risk from within.
THOMPSON: As counterintuitive as it may sound, it caused a relief, for lack of a better word, because those of us who are in the affected population that would be targeted by said individuals have lived under this threat for quite some time, maybe not as elevated as the threat as it is now… but to have a federal institution come out and acknowledge and call it out for what it is, so your local law enforcement agencies can then follow suit or take the necessary action, to me, it was a long time needed, long time coming And it didn't elicit any fear nor concern on my behalf simply because it's been this way for quite some time. It was, like I said, for lack of a better word, a relief that they're actually calling it for what it is and taking action to say, listen, “We need to rectify this. Let's be prepared.”
PRENTICE: We've been lucky enough over the years to talk about your mom and your equally fabulous daughter. So, I'm going to ask where you find hope for your family these days.
THOMPSON: So, hope in the absence of action is apathetic. Right? So, I don't concern myself much with hope. And I have a beautiful family. I live six blocks from my mother and my child is the greatest. I keep them safe. I keep them protected. I do all I can, but I take steps to do so as opposed to aspiring for this utopian society that I've never seen. I'm not mocking or making fun of or talking ill of anything locally in Idaho. I love Idaho. I think Idaho is beautiful, but this has been a reality for quite some time. We need not panic. We simply need to take it seriously and organize and be prepared and galvanize and be aware of this threat. I think for far too long people have tried to dismiss it and act like, “Oh, it can't happen here,” whether it be a national problem, whether it be an international problem. Whenever harm it is….we have a tendency to disassociate ourselves from it and assume, “Oh, it can't happen here.” And this was merely a ringing of a bell or like acknowledging that. Listen, it can happen here. The federal laws are letting you know that we're in a heightened or an elevated state of the likelihood of it happening nationally. So be aware and navigate accordingly and perhaps listen to those who tried to raise the sense of awareness previously… buy yhey have oftentimes fallen on deaf ears.
PRENTICE: Let's talk about that navigation, then. Are you hesitant at all to call law enforcement when you feel threatened?
THOMPSON: So, me as Phillip Thompson, the individual? Absolutely not. But my mom constantly reminds me that I have a very fortunate perspective and even existence. Right? I'm on the Boise police chief's advisory panel and have worked with the sheriff extensively. So, I don't have the same disconnect from local law enforcement that any other black male or Muslim male may have. A black male, Muslim male, that might be an entirely different narrative because I exist in a very fortunate space of being a known entity by those two institutions. So, the same fears that the vast majority of people would have, it doesn't I'm not unaware of my, I don't know, luck to have a more fortuitous coexistence with those two institutions. But for others, I understand why they would be terrified. I try to help and intervene when I can or to connect the two so we can diminish this notion of us versus them. But I, as a black Muslim male, absolutely would be terrified to do so. I as Phillip Thompson, who have worked with them at great length…I have no apprehension in doing so.
PRENTICE: How old is your daughter now?
THOMPSON: She will be ten in March.
PRENTICE: When, if you haven't already, do you have these types of conversations with her?
THOMPSON: So, we've had them from the impetus of her being old enough to understand the difference of her mother being white and her father being black, or that her father is Muslim. Her mother is not. And then we divorced and it became even more apparent… not apparent, like in a negative way, but just the need to talk about cultural norms, religious norms, et cetera, and how navigating the world as a black young woman with a Muslim first name as well, that she's not afforded the same luxuries that her mother is Her mother is good people. But her perspective as a white woman, is it going to be the same as the perspective afforded my 10 year old black Muslim daughter? That she needs to speak respectfully? Always be aware of how she comes across? How she's being perceived, navigate under the premise that those that you're coming in contact aren't going to necessarily respect you as an equal. Yeah, hypothetically, they should. And it'd be ideal if they do. But you have that expectation. We're not afforded that luxury. You really have to expect more and better of yourself in regard to everything. If you ever hope to get ahead. That's just a reality in which we live. It's not great. She talks about it being unfair. But I told her, “Baby, I'm not worried about teaching you fairness. I'm worried about equipping you with a tool kit that will end with success. My job is to prepare you for the world as it is, not to sell you some pipe dream that I have yet to see in my time and that you may see in yours.” But we’re not there now.
PRENTICE: He is Phillip Thompson… it's always a pleasure. Stay safe, stay well. And as always, thank you for giving me some of your time this morning.
THOMPSON: Thank you, sir. Good to talk to you.
Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren
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