A man who staged a well-publicized white supremacist rally in December 2007 in the southwest Washington community of Longview says he's sorry now.
The Longview (Wash.) Daily News reports that Zach Beck, who is currently serving a 51-month stretch at a federal prison for violating the civil rights of a black man he attacked in June 2011, writes in a self-published book that he's ready to disavow his neo-Nazi ways and that his behavior was "childish, immature and lacking intelligence."
In a series of letters written to the Longview Daily News, Beck wrote that his beliefs were "rooted in fear" and that he "needed to evolve."
Beck's book, which he calls "Hate Behind Blue eyes, Memoirs of an American Nazi," rambles for long stretches according to the Daily News' Tony Lystra, "and includes chapters on neo Nazi dogma."
Beck particularly points to his moving away from the late Richard Butler's Aryan Nation compound in North Idaho as instrumental to his reform.
"Getting out of there (Butler's Idaho compound) and meeting new people, going to different places, coming across old pleasures—music, girls, friends and experiences—made me experience life for all that it is and not all that it can't be," wrote Beck. "The love I have for life is stronger than any sort of manufactured hate I've ever experienced."
Dennis Weber, who was Longview's mayor at the time of Beck's 2007 neo Nazi rally, told the Daily News that Beck had written an apology to him.
"I did forgive him," Weber told the Daily News. "Interesting though, that now he is trying to profit from his experience by writing a book. I don't feel obligated to go out and buy it."
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, told the Daily News that it still had a file on Beck.
"We never took Zach Beck as any important leader. He's a bit of a street thug," said Mark Potok, editor of the SPLC's Intelligence Report. "He made a spectacle of himself, living with Richard Butler ... basically being a loudmouth jerk."
A spokesman for Whole Foods Market Rocky Mountain Region, which includes Idaho, says his company's policy is to have a "uniform form of communication" in their stores.
"Our policy states that all English-speaking team members must speak English to customers and other team members while on the clock," Whole Foods' Ben Friedland told the Associated Press. “Team members are free to speak any language they would like during their breaks, meal periods and before and after work.”
Friedland's remarks came in the wake of some other remarks—in Spanish—that got two New Mexico Whole Foods employees in hot water.
The AP reports that the two workers were suspended for a day in May after they worte a letter in response to a meeting with a supervisor, who told them they couldn't speak Spanish during work hours.
"I couldn't believe it," said Bryan Baldizan, one of the workers. "All we did was say we didn't believe the policy was fair. We only talk Spanish to each other about personal stuff, not work."
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the United Latin American Citizens told the AP that the Whole Foods policy violates the New Mexico Constitution, which protects Spanish and indigenous languages.
“There are people from every walk of life here,” Boise Democratic Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb said amid the buzz of celebration spiked with a strong dose of lobbying, plotting and organizing. “This is where we’re supposed to come and get revived so that we can do our work.”
The Idaho Statehouse clamored with work in progress during the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr./Idaho Human Rights Day. Behind the backdrop of music, song and speeches praising King and his legacy stood the civil-rights workers of today—purveyors of justice, champions of civil liberties and advocates for equality. They pressed palms, collected signatures and called on the celebrants of King’s legacy to keep the dream alive by protecting free speech, defending reproductive freedom and advancing universal equality.
“If Martin Luther King were here right now, he would tell each of you right now to work to make a difference,” said keynote speaker the Rev. Percy “Happy” Watkins. “He would tell each of you that if you cannot be a sun, be a star. He would tell each of you today to be the very best that you can be.”
Many celebrants used the day’s momentum and crowed Statehouse halls to become those suns and stars. Advocates and organizers used booth space and lobbying opportunities to make a difference for the environment, people of color, women, LBGT, people with disabilities and the poor. The multi-issue efforts highlighted the inclusive agenda of the modern civil-rights movement.
“There’s an intersection of human rights,” Planned Parenthood’s Jonny Carkin explained. When one segment of society is not free, none of us are free, he said.
The call for freedom came from Girl Scouts and AmeriCorps volunteers, who reminded celebrants to give back to their community one service project at a time. A push for civil rights came from the ACLU Idaho’s invitation to join in its efforts to protect the First Amendment, reproductive choice and Idaho human rights. And the Add the Words campaign echoed its own Statehouse call to extend liberty and justice to everyone, regardless of who they love.
For MLK celebrants, the hope of Dr. King extends to everyone who has known oppression and everyone who loves freedom.
“Martin Luther King’s message of hope is so universal and inspiring to so many different people,” said Add the Words co-chair Mistie Tolman. “It’s all interconnected.”
Some say they’re living the dream. For others, a struggle stands between civil rights and their reality. And for many, the hope of universal freedom remains the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“We are an imperfect people and there is still work to do,” said Boisean Tony Hodges. “The legacy of Martin Luther King is about progress and moving forward.”
A who’s who of Idaho civil-rights activists, grassroots organizers and progressive movers and shakers flanked the Statehouse steps and crowed into the Capitol Rotunda to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. with songs, praise and calls for service.
The Gap removed a black T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Manifest Destiny" from its stores today, following complaints and a petition from consumers who believed it is racist.
"Manifest Destiny” was coined in the 19th century to describe a belief that the United States was destined to take over the continent. For Native Americans, it is a reminder of the suffering of previous generations who endured relocation and genocide.
Consumers and activists were angered with the fashion item and set up social media petitions, calling for the T-shirt to be removed from sale.
Indian Country Today quoted a letter written by Native American activist and actress Renee Roman Nose to Gap, which read:
"It is with great sadness that I notify you I will not be shopping at your store until you remove the “Manifest Destiny” T-shirts available at your stores. Manifest Destiny was the catch phrase which led to the genocide of millions of my people, millions of Indigenous people throughout this country. I am also inviting the more than 1,700 people on my Facebook page to boycott your stores and inviting them to shop with their conscience."
In response to the large outcry, Gap removed the T-shirt from its stores, saying it valued customer feedback, and its "intention was not to offend anyone."
Bonner County Republican leaders said they're embarassed, but a white supremacist and convicted batterer will be on the GOP ballot in the May 15 primary to become their county's top lawman.
Reuters is reporting that Shaun Patrick Winkler, who once worked for Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler, is one of three candidates for Bonner County sheriff, but Bonner County Republican Chairman Cornel Rasor likened Winkler's chances to "hearing a dying calf in a windstorm."
"It's really unfortunate and unfair," said Janice Schoonover of Sandpoint. "This just stirs the pot and makes us seem like something we're not."
In January, Winkler picketed a Martin Luther King Day celebration for school children at North Idaho College. In 2011, Winkler and a handful of followers demonstrated at taco stands to target Latinos in Coeur d'Alene.
"I don't know the man," said Rasor. "But I'm guessing that he's doing this to make some sort of statement."
Hundreds of citizens - some too young to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - honored the memory of the slain civil rights leader in a midday celebration, dubbed a "Day of Greatness." Retirees, students and scores of parents, many with toddlers, marched from the campus of Boise State, up Capitol Boulevard to the Idaho Statehouse to rally for the universal themes of human rights, justice and equality.
Meanwhile, inside the Capitol Building, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Marilyn Shuler, former director of the Idaho Human Rights Commission, took part in a formal ceremony to mark King's birthday and Idaho Human Rights Day.
Schools across the Treasure Valley will be closed tomorrow—except in Melba, where they're holding classes—and all county, state and federal offices will also be closed to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Tomorrow, which is also dubbed Idaho Human Rights Day, a number of events are scheduled across the region, including Boise State's Day of Greatness. Citizens are invited to go to the Hatch Ballroom of the Student Union Building to make posters in preparation for an 11 a.m. march down Capitol Boulevard to a rally on the steps of the Statehouse.
At noon, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter will sign a proclamation during a noontime ceremony under the Capitol rotunda. The celebration will also include music and a speech from Marilyn Shuler, former director of the Idaho Human Rights Commission.
Newly arrived refugees will be guests of honor Monday evening at a Welcome to Boise Dinner at Timberline High School. Hosts will include the Idaho Human Rights Education Center, the Islamic Center of Boise and representatives from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Later Monday evening, a presentation called, "Jim Crow, Idaho and the Economics of Racism," will be held at 7 p.m. at the Boise State Student Union Building. Boise State associate professor Jill Gill will provide historical context of racism, focused on the 20th and 21st centuries, followed by a panel discussion with Idahoans who experienced the Jim Crow era firsthand.
The Northwest Region of the Aryan Nation was supposed to have a “eat, greet, and meet” event June 27, at Valley County’s Lake Cascade State Park. According to fliers and a website, the event was to take place between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Idaho Parks and Recreation communications manager Jennifer Blazek told Citydesk a group of about eight individuals showed up at 5 p.m. and left at 9 p.m.
“They set up their awning and flag, had a barbecue, and then left before sunset,” Blazek said, calling it a “non-event.”
Lt. Dan Smith, Valley County Sheriff’s information officer, said the department had advance notice of the event but did not plan to provide security. Smith said the secluded campground does not "get much traffic," and no calls or complaint were received.
Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Report for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Citydesk, “The reality is, we have been seeing a resurgence of the radical-right in this country over the past several years, especially the last two years, and the Pacific Northwest is very much a part of that. This is part of a much larger national trend.”
“It is worth saying;” added Potok, “I do not think that Idaho or Montana are at the levels that they were. The destruction of Aryan Nation has changed the calculus there. I do not doubt that there are still several hundred white supremacists in the area, but they do not have near the organizational energy that they once did. The [SPLC’s law] suit really destroyed them.”
A few hundred school kids chose to spend part of their holiday on the steps of the Idaho Capitol. The children accompanied more than 140 members of the Idaho Community Action Network, protesting proposed budget cuts from Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter.
ICAN specifically targeted Otter's plan to slash $25 million from Idaho's Medicaid division.
"The governor's small-government, low-tax approach will result in greater personal need, reduced consumer and environmental protection, less fairness and decreased capacity for improving the public good," said Andrea Shipley, ICAN's new executive director. "We must focus on the solutions and that means raising revenue and ensuring the budget is not balanced on the backs of the poor."
Shipley told Citydesk that her organization wants a vision "to honor the dream Dr. King left for our country nearly a half century ago."