North Dakota has had a long and interesting political history with swings from the left to the right, often depending on the economic climate in the state. Currently all branches of state government are controlled by the Republican party.
North Dakota has always been a welcoming place to people from all over the world. The very first mosque in the U.S. was located in Ross, ND and the people of North Dakota continue to follow this pattern today. North Dakotans have a long history of standing up for what is right. During WWII, ND had one of the highest per capita number of citizen-soldiers in the military. We also help out neighbor farmers who are sick and can’t finish harvesting their crop.
Right now, North Dakota is experiencing a huge influx of people from all over the U.S. due to the oil boom. This influx includes people of all races, creeds, and cultures which is leading to changes in the socio-political climate. For the first time in their lives, some people are interacting with others who look different than them or have different beliefs than them. Occasionally – rarely – this can lead to confrontation.
Do you know why Neo-Nazis choose to colonize Leith – population 16?
The Nazis chose Leith because the land is cheap. For many years North Dakota has seen its smaller communities decrease in population and with that came the depreciation of property values. The scene is set for people to buy up land for a very cheap price. Craig Cobb (the leader of this group of NeoNazis) saw an opportunity to implement his goal of an all-white enclave within the U.S.
You’ve formed an organization and worked with local politicians, citizens, and the nearby Native American tribes to get the Nazis out of Leith. Tell us about your work.
UnityND began in early September 2013 when I first learned about the Nazi takeover. I saw a need in Leith and I didn’t see a lot being done to help the residents of Leith in their struggle against the Nazis who were living there and more who were planning on moving there and I knew I had to do something.
I wasn’t sure what I could do so I called my three best friends: Jeremy Kelly, James McMullen-Wendt, and Kade Ferris. We all come from an activist background and a long history of confronting Nazis and hate groups. We decided to organize a rally and to protest the planned visit of Jeff Schoep leader of the National Socialist Movement party.
400 people showed up at the protest including over 150 Native-Americans from the Standing Rock Reservation whose land borders the area in which Leith is located. From that rally, we had the idea of creating an organization that would help build strong, tolerant communities in North Dakota. We need communities that are welcoming to all people regardless of their race, color, creed, etc.