More Swastikas in North Idaho: This Time on the Vehicle of Brittany Edelblute

Idaho has had a new rash of hate crimes in the last year.  Last Friday, Brittany Edelblute’s Subaru was spray painted with swastikas.   In an article in the Spokesman-Review this morning, it was explained that Brittany Edelblute was apparently targeted because she has friends who are African-American that come by her house.  She has had a problem with people shouting racial slurs while they drive by.   A photo of her damaged vehicle is online here.  I blogged about a similar incident last month against Haitham Joudeh here and here.   In the news coverage last month in the Coeur D’Alene Press, the comment section was full of hateful comments.   The whole story was later taken down.  This time, the Coeur D’Alene Press did not post a story online about the crime against Brittany Edelblute.   Last month, a majority of the people making comments online accused Haitham Joudeh of vandalizing his own car just to get sympathy.

Why does this stuff always happen in North Idaho?  I don’t think it is just happenstance. It seems that the people in power over there inadvertently foster such behavior by their own actions.  Look at the shabby way Kootenai County Commissioners Rick Currie, Todd Tondee and Richard Piazza treated Haitham Joudeh.  Haitham Joudeh, an Idaho native of middle-eastern descent, sought a building permit.  The local Planning Department did not object to the project.  In addition, after a lengthy public hearing where all sides were held, the Hearing Examiner Rebecca A. Zanetti recommended that the permit be approved.  But neighbors put together an anti-Joudeh rally against the applicant, and the county commissioners bowed to pressure and rejected the permit.   Haitham Joudeh complained that during the rally and the public hearing, many negative comments were made about his religion and ancestry.   Commissioner Rick Currie is a member of the Mica Grange, the group that allegedly held the anti-Joudeh rally.   Currie boasts of his membership to this group on his re-election website.

I have done a fair amount of land-use law in my practice, and it sure seems strange that the county commissioners would not approve a permit when the experts did not see a problem with it.  And if the commissioners are affiliated with groups opposing the permit, they have a duty to step down and appoint a neutral decision maker.

I hope that journalists start to look at this problem in North Idaho as a whole.  A business owner who faces discrimination in the permitting process is not as quick and easy to write about as spray-painted swastikas, but the story deserves attention.   When county commissioners and civic groups foster an attitude 1) that is suspicious of outsiders, 2) that applies different standards to newcomers, and 3) when they do not sufficiently condemn the bigoted statements of their constituents, they inadvertently create an atmosphere that allows the incidents of street vandalism to flourish.

What do you think?  Why do you think these incidents of vandalism and swastikas have occurred?  Brittany Edelblute expressed frustration that the police officer asked her if she wanted to “press charges” over the incident.  Why do you think the officer asked that?   What are the advantages of remaining silent?  Last month the comments to the articles online often attacked Haitham Joudeh.   Will the newspapers better enforce their guidelines for posting comments?

What do you suppose the Coeur D’Alene Chamber of Commerce thinks of all this?  Does Coeur D’Alene want to be known as a first-class vacation destination or a backwater struggling with frequent hate-crimes.   The article in the Spokesman-Review quotes an official who seemed to think that the solution is in law-enforcement?  Is this correct?   Take a look at an interesting article explaining the position of the NAACP leader V. Anne Smith on the issue of hate crimes in Spokane.  (See article).   How would this advice go over in Coeur D’Alene?

4 Responses to “More Swastikas in North Idaho: This Time on the Vehicle of Brittany Edelblute”

  • Amanda:

    I am so glad the CDA Press took down all that comment crap from the last time this happened. 80% of them said Haitham Joudeh trashed his own car to get sympathy but remember those same people claim the holocaust is a hoax too! I can’t figure it out either. Either people just aren’t paying attention or they just don’t care. I am not sure what it will take to get peoples attention. Haitham Joudeh is a grown man and probably quite tough. This latest victem is just a kid, I can’t imagine what she is going through.

  • Deb Siemens:

    “Why does this stuff always happen in North Idaho? I don’t think it is just happenstance.”
    Great article! I don’t think this is just happenstance either. My family and I have been here for 9 years and have heard, firsthand, racial slurs and derogatory remarks. My son works for a local food shop and was discussing the state of Israel with a fellow worker. A customer walks up, pays for his order, then, turns on his heel and says under his breath, “F-in Jew!”.
    I had a similar experience while walking on the CdA boardwalk one night before the Christmas holidays. We were walking, saying “Merry Christmas” to those who passed us by. I decided to say, “Happy Hanukkah!” instead. A man passed me and said in a most spiteful way, “Jew!” I was shocked.
    My son, who attends a Charter school, says that he has more than once corrected another student when he was caught making derogatory remarks about Jewish people. And, a final one, while I was in KMC hospital, after delivering my baby, two of the nurses, on separate occasions, both made derogatory remarks about black people. Yes, there is something about North Idaho that is horribly wrong! It is a sad day indeed when we hear this.

  • Tammy Wyatt:

    Vandalism stories are easy to cover for reporters – institutional racism is not. The sort of crap that the people have to put up with on a routine basis goes completely unchecked. The only time that people care is when the locale gets such a bad rep that people stop visiting.

  • Steve Graham:

    Thanks for visiting guys. I appreciate your comments. Deb, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am not sure what the answer is to these issues in North Idaho, but I feel the media aren’t even asking the right questions sometimes.

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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking:
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