Man on a mission sues Aryan Nations

MSNBC News, February 18, 2000
By Beth Miller

SPOKANE, Feb. 18 - One of America's best-known civil rights attorneys says there's a battle raging over the future face of America.

Morris Dees says it's a war between those who want a whites-only nation and others who dream of a diverse and inclusive country. Dees spoke out Friday about views and how to overcome the hate. Dees has devoted his career to suing hate groups.

He says this area is especially aware of the problem. "Probably nowhere in the country are people more concerned about the reputation a few people have given an area," Dees says of North Idaho and Eastern Washington. He also says he wants to put an end to the reputation the Aryan Nations and other white supremacist groups have earned this area - the reputation of a hotbed of hatred.

Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center are suing the Aryan Nations. The civil lawsuit will be tried in Kootenai County, and it alleges that in the summer of 1998, an innocent mother and her son were shot at, assaulted and then threatened by at least three Aryan Nations guards. "Basically," he says, "they were a bunch of ex-convicts brought into that organization." The case won't go to court until this summer.

Until then, Dees says his goal is to turn hate into hope. "It's more important to teach tolerance in the classroom than it is to fight it in the courtroom," he says. He also offers advice for people in this area who oppose the hate groups: don't take the fight to the streets.

"Never confront these people in the streets. They look better by comparison with people throwing rocks and bottles at them."

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