Reflecting on Ruby Ridge 25 years on - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Reflecting on Ruby Ridge 25 years on

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COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -

"This region was really rich with extremism and hate in the early '80s. Fiery crosses and clan gatherings were occurring in North Idaho."

Former Spokesman-Review reporter Bill Morlin remembers it was a heavy layer of racism that may have attracted white separatist Randy Weaver to Ruby Ridge in the first place.

While Weaver never officially joined the Aryan Nations, he refused to turn government informant on the group, which led to federal agents trying to arrest him during the standoff in August 1992.

Morlin says all that hate and distrust started to attract more of the same as the siege dragged on.

"Eventually, other right wing, neo-Nazi types, Aryan Nations types start showing up at the road block so you had this mix of a tinder-box type situation at the road block," he said.

"At times it got a little chaotic where you never really knew if you had enough resources to manage the situation," Christie Wood said.

Wood was on the front line of dealing with the Aryan Nations.

She was a young Coeur d'Alene police officer at a time when the Aryan Nations were numerous enough locally to march the streets of downtown Coeur d'Alene.

"It was taxing and it was a blight on the community that our resources, our tax dollar resources had to go to something of that magnitude," she said.

Wood became part of the Kootenai County Task Force for Human Relations, which came on the scene just as hate groups like the Aryan Nations began to take shape in the 1980s.

Norman Gissel is also on the task force, as the group's attorney.

"We were deeply, deeply engaged in dealing with the Nazis, sometimes on a daily basis, usually on a weekly basis, and always on a monthly basis," Gissel said.

It was in the wake of Ruby Ridge that the task force scored one of its most important early victories.

"Because we took over, for the first time in American history, an active, ongoing Nazi compound," Gissel said.

The same compound where Weaver had first met the Aryan Nations was also being used as a center of hate crimes in America, according to Morlin.

"They later were identified as a domestic terrorist group who killed a Jewish talk show host in Denver, committed armored car robberies, printed counterfeit money at the Aryan Nations church, committing a whole series of crimes throughout the US," Morlin said.

Morlin says that victory, and our local alliance, now is an example to communities around the country that are dealing with their own issues of hate today.

"People of goodwill looked around and counter these elements, these very small elements of racism in our midst and different task forces have been formed, there are now task forces, a handful of them in this region and the Kootenai County folks have gone to other parts of the country and helped other local communities address it," he said.

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