Today, the remote 20-acre parcel is genuinely deserving of its new name, "Peace Park." No longer a harbor for hate, it now serves as silent testimony to a community of people who fought hate, and won.
Recently a young, family contemplating relocating to Hayden, Idaho, called to ask me about a rumor they had heard from friends that Hayden Idaho could be a Racist community. What they were referring to was a very isolated incident that hit national headlines in 1999.
This was not the first time I had been asked this question. Unfortunate, since this is NOT what Hayden or Hayden Lake are about. The dedicated "Peace Park" is evidence of this and the stance on Human Rights.
In a nutshell...From about 1973 until 2001 there was a very small group of Aryan Nations members that resided on a 20 acre parcel in Hayden Idaho. Richard Butler had purchased the property after moving from California to Idaho in 1973. From about 1973 until 2001, the Aryan Nations had its headquarters there. I've lived in Hayden Lake since 1990 and all during that time there were never more than a handful of "Members" residing there.
In September 2000 the Southern Poverty Law Center won a $6.3 million judgment against the Aryan Nations from an Idaho jury who awarded punitive and compensatory damages to Victoria Keenan and her son, Jason, who were attacked by Aryan Nations guards in 1999. As a result of the judgment, Richard Butler turned over the 20-acre compound to the Keenans, who then sold the property to a philanthropist, who subsequently donated it to North Idaho College. The College than designated the land as a "Peace Park." Richard Butler passed away in 2004.
The designation of the 20-acre "Peace Park" should be validation of what our communities are all about and their commitment to Human Rights.
"Attorney Morris Dees pioneer in using 'damage litigation' to fight hate groups", CNN. "Keenan v. Aryan Nations", Southern Poverty Law Center "Richard G. Butler, 86, Dies; Founder of the Aryan Nations", New York Times
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