COEUR d’ALENE — Mayor Steve Widmyer joined local advocates this week in a push to decry hate speech and invite diversity into Coeur d’Alene.
During an unscheduled addition to the City Council agenda Tuesday night, Widmyer read a statement affirming the city’s dedication to what he cited as a nation’s evolution into America’s “melting pot.” By proclamation, he also recognized Constitution Week, Sept. 17-23.
“... The United States of America was conceived based on principles of inclusion and tolerance,” he said. “In the 18th and 19th centuries, the metaphors of a ‘crucible’ or ‘smelting pot’ were used to describe the fusion of different nationalities, ethnicities and cultures and were used together with concepts of the United States as an ideal republic and a new promised land, ultimately leading the United States being referred to as a ‘melting pot’ of different cultures, origins and ethnicities to form a more perfect union, and thus a society of inclusion rather than exclusion.”
The proclamation came as community activist and Democratic precinct committeeperson Laura Tenneson and Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations president Christie Wood presented concerns to the council about a recent influx of racist propaganda into the area. Flyers and postcards espousing race-related conspiracy theories and views have been distributed throughout Kootenai County since at least April, many containing “14 Words,” a slogan commonly used by neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups that reads, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
“I am concerned about the racist actions we have seen in our community recently,” Tenneson said in her speech to the City Council. “The flyers, postcards and letters distributed all bear the same white nationalist sentiment: to secure a white nation and to stop white genocide.”
During Widmyer’s proclamation, he stressed Coeur d’Alene’s dependence on its citizens’ and visitors’ diversity, saying, “[the city] wishes to affirm that it is a welcoming community to all and in no way sympathetic to any hateful actions or hate speech.”
Wood concurred as she accepted the proclamation on behalf of the task force.
“The task force has enjoyed nearly 40 years of a great, strong relationship with the city of Coeur d’Alene,” she said. “We have lived through some trying times, but we have never lost focus on protecting our citizens. We support the self-evident truth that all persons are created equal.”
The mayor’s proclamation asked Coeur d’Alene citizens to “reaffirm the ideals the Framers of the Constitution had in 1787, by vigilantly protecting the freedoms guaranteed to us through this guardian of our liberties, remembering that lost rights may never be regained.”
Tenneson said her need for the proclamation is considerably more personal.
“As a high schooler in Coeur d’Alene, I received mailings from the Aryan Nations aimed at recruiting me,” she said. “I remember parades that would take place in downtown Coeur d’Alene, and the white supremacists that would flock from all over the country for that event. I’ll never forget, and if I can help it, I’ll never let this beautiful place be overtaken by such hateful people again.”