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Northern Idaho’s anti-government streak hampers COVID fight

Northern Idaho has a long and deep streak of anti-government activism that has confounded attempts to battle a COVID-19 outbreak overwhelming hospitals in the deeply conservative region.

David Hall, co-owner at Rokkos Teriyaki and BBQ, speaks about the effects on business due to coronavirus, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. AP Photo/Young Kwak

A deadly 1992 standoff with federal agents near the Canadian border helped spark an expansion of radical right-wing groups across the country and the area was for a long time the home of the Aryan Nations, whose leader envisioned a “White Homeland” in the county that is now among the worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Hospitals in northern Idaho are so packed with COVID-19 patients that authorities announced last week that facilities would be allowed to ration health care.

“This is extremism beyond anything I ever witnessed,” Tony Stewart said of people who refused to get vaccinated and wear masks.

Stewart is a founding member of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, which battled the Aryan Nations for decades and helped bankrupt the neo-Nazi group. “I’m almost speechless in seeing so many people have lost concern for their fellow humans.”
Only 41% of Kootenai County’s 163,000 residents were fully vaccinated, well below the state average of about 56%, officials said.

Anti-government sentiments are strong in northern Idaho.

State Rep. Heather Scott, a Republican from Blanchard in the northern part of the state, refused an interview request, saying reporters were liars. Scott promoted mask-burning protests around northern Idaho and the rest of the state earlier this year. She is also among the lawmakers that have frequently pushed misinformation about COVID-19 on Facebook.

Stewart called fierce opponents of vaccines an “irrational segment of the population.”

But not everyone agrees there is a problem.

David Hall, 53, who co-owns a restaurant in bustling downtown Coeur d’Alene, said Friday he “serves hundreds of customers a week and I’ve heard of nobody that’s been hospitalized.”

“Not a single person who worked for me got it,” Hall said of COVID-19. “I don’t know where (patients) are coming from.”

One thing Hall does know is news of packed hospitals is bad for business, saying his revenues have dropped.

Don Kress, 65, of Coeur d’Alene, said he believes that Kootenai Health, the town’s major hospital, is overflowing with patients.

“It’s become such a politicized issue,” he said of COVID-19. “If you take the politics out of it and let common sense prevail, people will get the shot.”

Northern Idaho has had an anti-government segment of the population for decades. It was the site of the standoff at Ruby Ridge, north of the town of Sandpoint.
Randy Weaver moved his family to the area in the 1980s to escape what he saw as a corrupt world. Over time, federal agents began investigating the Army veteran for possible ties to white supremacist and anti-government groups. Weaver was eventually suspected of selling a government informant two illegal sawed-off shotguns.

To avoid arrest, Weaver holed up on his land.

On Aug. 21, 1992, a team of U.S. marshals scouting the forest to find suitable places to ambush and arrest Weaver came across his friend, Kevin Harris, and Weaver’s 14-year-old son Samuel in the woods. A gunfight broke out. Samuel Weaver and Deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan were killed.

The next day, an FBI sniper shot and wounded Randy Weaver. As members of the group ran back toward the house, the sniper fired a second bullet, which passed through wife Vicki Weaver’s head — killing her — and wounding Harris in the chest. The family surrendered on Aug. 31, 1992.

The Aryan Nations was not specifically anti-government, but it drew many disaffected people to the area after white supremacist Richard Butler moved there in 1973 from California.

Four years after moving to rural Kootenai County, Butler — a former aeronautical engineer — started a compound. The 20-acre site north of Hayden Lake would become a racist encampment that drew people from across the country. The group held parades in downtown Coeur d’Alene and annual summits at the compound. By the 1990s, the Aryan Nations had one of the first hate websites.

The Aryan Nations compound and its contents were burned and bulldozed after a lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center bankrupted the group in 2000.

Now COVID-19 has exacerbated conflicts in Coeur d’Alene, a fast-growing resort and retirement community that hugs the shore of a namesake lake and draws celebrities and the rich to gorgeous lakefront homes. High-rise condos have replaced lumber mills near the lakefront, and swanky stores abound.

Last year, armed groups patrolled the city’s downtown core to protect against non-existent Black Lives Matter protesters.
COVID-19 has thrived in this environment.

Kootenai Health has 200 beds for medical or surgical patients. On Wednesday, Kootenai Health’s doctors and nurses were caring for 218 medical and surgical patients, aided by military doctors and nurses called in to help with the surge.

On Friday, the hospital tallied 101 COVID-19 patients, including 35 requiring critical care. The hospital normally has just 26 intensive care unit beds.

Jeanette Laster is executive director of the Human Rights Education Institute, which was established in the wake of the Aryan Nation’s rise in the region. She cautioned that it is incorrect to assume that the neo-Nazi philosophy of the Aryans is related to the anti-government sentiments that now dominate the political agenda.

The Aryan Nations was a white supremacist, antisemitic group, she said, while anti-government sentiments are rooted in freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

“I don’t feel the majority of our community is hateful,” Laster said. “This is more about constitutional rights.”

Distrust of the media and authorities is also an issue, she said.

“People are begging for accurate information,” Laster said. “There’s a lot of fear.”

About The Associated Press


  1. Awake in North Idaho

    Four-instances is an extremely limited sample. It also doesn’t consider long-term effects. Nor does your sample indicate the existing health conditions of the four people. The long-term effects of either the vaccine or the virus are obviously not known. We do know that the vaccine is causing a tremendous number of serious side effects and death right now.
    The vast majority of people listed in the CDC statistics that have presumably died from Covid-19, died from their comorbidities. These people had one or more illnesses. Another approach to healing and prevention is to address the illnesses that are preventable, e.g., obesity. Focus on addressing the processed food, health care, and drug industries that develop, promote and support unhealthy products that contribute to obesity. This likely will not be successful because the corporations that produce these products will not stop producing them if there is a market for them. It is a vicious cycle of poor consumption, misguided drug prescriptions, and lifestyle flowing with products from the food, health care, and drug industries to support the use of these products. Forcing a vaccine on everyone because some people and industries want to participate in this vicious cycle is stupid.
    More investigation into the vaccine world uncovers a different reality than the general consensus that a vaccine is always a single solution to deal with illness and that it is the only solution for everyone. Just ask the families of people who have been injured or died from vaccines.
    We do not know what severe Covid-19 does, whatever variant, since the PCR tests are not an indication of the existence of the virus. Yet the “cases” are based on it. We do now that there are treatments other than vaccines to deal with symptoms considered due to Covid-19.

  2. I won’t go into the far left & far right politics as Fed-up In Boise did but instead focus on the misinformation they present about Covid, its prevention, and its treatments.

    Vaccines – There are no perfect vaccines – that’s why they have such things as efficiency estimates. The flu vaccine is not perfect, the Shingles vaccine is not perfect (it’s why they suggest a new version), the pneumonia vaccine is not perfect (did you know there is a shot for each of two kinds?), the meningitis vaccine is not perfect (I think three different kinds with a shot for each), mumps, measles, tetanus all run out and need boosters. Smallpox and Polio worked out pretty good but we all lined up and got shots in the arm to eradicate them almost completely. Yes it was fast – no it wasn’t months. We’ve been working on mRNA vaccines for 20 years ever since the SARs scare. Because we’ve become so good at making vaccines the first volunteers got shots in their arms in March of 2020 while we were still thinking maybe we could contain it. I’ve got four people in my family we all got shots, yes 50% did have some reaction none of which lasted longer than a week. On the other hand even mild Covid can cause long-lasting damage and we know what severe Covid does.

    HQZ & Ivermectin – Both of these drugs started out with high hopes, as did a variety of Aids drugs, Asthma drugs, statins, and a multitude of others that haven’t made it past the petri dish stage. Many hospitals in the US put patients on HQZ before there was any research – why not right? Nothing else was working. But HQZ didn’t work either – doesn’t hurt, doesn’t help it simply made no difference in outcomes. So it’s been dropped out of the treatment protocols. I’d have to go back through my notes to see when Ivermectin started getting some looks but I think it was a US researcher who included it in his protocol based on progression of the disease. And so it started to snowball across the country and across the world, again in throw everything at Covid and hope something sticks methodology. The results are decidedly mixed. One hospital overseas gave it in two different doses to their staff to use as a preventative which seemed to work – but you can’t take it continuously (after all dewormer isn’t “good” for you) . Another preprint on research came out with great results until other doctors looked at it and showed that they didn’t set the study up right so everything they “thought” was based on bad data and because their research design was bad (no way to tell if it really helped or not) then they had to pull that paper and start their whole research from ground zero again. Another recent study found that patients on Ivermectin actually went on ventilators sooner than those who didn’t take it.

    We don’t have to rely on “hopeful” treatments anymore – we’ve got a vaccine that works. It works to keep you and I out of the hospital, out of and ICU bed, and not breathing through a ventilator while are bodies are purposely paralyzed. It’s an easy choice for me and should be an easy choice for any rational north Idahoan.

  3. Is this piece about a few loony tunes nut jobs who squirreled away in No. Idaho (decades ago), or is this piece about trying to understand why people in No. Idaho are reacting to the COVID situation the way they are? It seems to me it’s the former. So, really…. what’s the (your) agenda for that?

    it seems to me that the people of No. Idaho are using common sense and taking a stand for their constitutional rights – and thank GOD they are!

    The truth is: Masks don’t work – if they did, we would not have continuing cases of COVID. The “vaccine” is NOT a vaccine, it’s a “treatment” to try and reduce symptoms. It doesn’t prevent you from getting the virus. It doesn’t stop you from spreading the virus, so it’s NOT a “vaccine”.

    There are other viable treatments that do the job better without the side-effects being seen with the “vaccine” – Ivermectin, Hydroxy-chloroquin and other palliative treatments have been proven to work. NONE of those are being talked about in the media except in a derogatory way, and YET, Africa and other 3rd world countries are using them and they are not seeing the hospitalization case load that all the media in the US is squealing about. I know this to be true because I have direct connections to people in Africa who have spoken to me about this.

    ALSO, Idaho’s spineless leadership under Elmer Fudd Little (and his predecessors, truth be told) has done a terrible job at planning and working towards managing the growth that Idaho is seeing thanks to the Californication of Idaho. Hospital infrastructure and “human infrastructure” (as the Creepy Joe Cabal like to use the term) has NOT received the attention it should have over many, many years. That is all now coming into sharp focus because of the COVID plandemic (yes, this COVID thing was planned right from the start for political reasons). Low wages have traditionally been the hallmark of Idaho, especially in the healthcare sector. A nurse can earn double or triple in other states than what is/has been the norm in Idaho. Our population was much lower too, hovering around the 1.2MM – 1.5MM mark for a long time….. until the last 5 to 10 years. The bed capacity and staffing we had then would service that need, but NOT NOW, and yet they saw the growth happening, they saw the change happening …. and did not plan for it. And now it’s an issue.

    If Little had handled the COVID situation in Idaho as DeSantis did in Florida, focusing on the elderly and those who were truly at risk due to other health issues, and let the rest of Idahoans get on with their lives and business, we would not be having this kind of discussion. But he didn’t. He went along with the Fauci crowd, he listened to the CDC crowd – ALL of whom have an agenda that has NOTHING to do with healthcare and EVERYTHING to do with politics and money.

    NOTHING CAN SUPERCEDE OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. EVER. These rights are EVEN MORE IMPORTANT NOW as we navigate our way through this plandemic. Everything that SHOULD be done, should be done within the framework of the Constitution. Sadly, everything that IS being done goes against the very fabric of Americanism, against our Constitutional rights. And it’s all being done on purpose. Thank GOD the folks in No. Idaho understand this. There is hope for Idaho if this is the case.

    As for the far-right lunatic fringe, the people this article seems to focus on, they are VERY FEW IN NUMBER compared to the far left lunatic fringe – and they don’t run our government and they are not in our White House. The far left lunatics DO and ARE. It’s time we ALL wake up and understand that.