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Context of 'July 1, 1998-2000: Aryan Nations Compound Lost in Civil Suit'

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Early 1970s: Idaho Racist Founds Aryan Nations

The Aryan Nations logo.The Aryan Nations logo. [Source: Southern Poverty Law Center]Aerospace engineer and white racist Richard Butler, who departed California in the early 1970s and moved into a rural farmhouse in Hayden Lake, Idaho, founds and develops one of the nation’s most notorious and violent white separatist groups, the Aryan Nations. Butler’s 20-acre farmhouse becomes the compound for the group and its affiliated church, the Church of Jesus Christ Christian; Butler and his nascent organization envision a “whites-only” “homeland” in the Pacific Northwest. At age 11, Butler read a serialized novel in Liberty Magazine, depicting the takeover of the US by “race-mixing Bolsheviks” that deeply impressed him. As a young man, he worked as an aeronautical engineer in India, where he was fascinated by the Indian caste structure and the concept of racial purity. In 1941 he left a Los Angeles church after concluding that the preacher was spreading Communist doctrine. During World War II, as an Army engineer, he became fascinated by the German military, and later recalls that he “was thrilled to see the movies of the marching Germans.… In those days, all we knew was that Hitler hated communists, and so did my folks—as we did as teenagers.” In the 1950s, Butler was enthralled by radio broadcasts of then-Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) and his “Red scare” accusations, and sent money to support McCarthy’s political campaigns. During that time, Butler met William Potter Gale, another white supremacist who went on to found the Posse Comitatus (see 1969). Butler held a high position in the Christian Defense League, an organization founded by the Reverend Wesley Swift and described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as “virulently anti-Semitic,” until 1965, and shortly thereafter became a mail-order “ordained minister” of Christian Identity, a white supremacist offshoot of the Christian church (see 1960s and After). Butler buys the farmhouse in Hayden Lake and founds his own “Christian Posse Comitatus,” and thereafter founds the Church of Jesus Christ Christian. The two groups merge into what later becomes known as Aryan Nations. [Washington Post, 6/2/2003; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010]

Entity Tags: William Potter Gale, Wesley Swift, Joseph McCarthy, Richard Girnt Butler, Church of Jesus Christ Christian, Posse Comitatus, Christian Defense League, Aryan Nations, Southern Poverty Law Center

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Three Aryan Nations security guards (see Early 1970s) assault a mother and her child, leading to civil charges. Victoria Keenan and her son Jason stop briefly in front of the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Falls, Idaho, to retrieve something that has fallen from their car. The car either backfires or someone sets off a firecracker; whatever the source of the sound, the guards believe the compound is under fire from the car. They pursue it in a pickup truck, firing repeatedly at the vehicle before shooting out a tire and forcing it into a ditch. The guards assault both mother and son before releasing them. In response, Keenan and her son retain attorneys, including a team from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), to sue Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler and the three guards. During the trial, Butler tells the jury, “The white race is the most endangered species on the face of the earth.” Two years later, a jury assesses a $6.3 million judgment against the defendants. $6 million of the judgment is in punitive damages. Butler himself is responsible for $4.8 million because he had hired ex-convicts as security guards, given them no training or formal policies to follow, armed them with illegal assault weapons, and indoctrinated them in racist, hate-filled ideology. The Keenans’ lawyers successfully argue that the actions of his guards were a foreseeable result of his negligent and reckless supervision. The courtroom defeat ultimately forces Butler to relinquish the Idaho compound in a bankruptcy auction. The new owners demolish the buildings. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010]

Entity Tags: Southern Poverty Law Center, Jason Keenan, Aryan Nations, Victoria Keenan, Richard Girnt Butler

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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