Sunday, April 21, 2002 Spokane Spokesman Review New seeds of hate New leaders are establishing new headquarters for the Aryan Nations in rural Pennsylvania, and residents are working to make sure the racists don't feel at home Ulysses, Pa. -- On the northern edge of Pennsylvania, in a region of rolling hills they call God's Country, people are learning to deal with a brand of hate imported from Idaho. August Kreis, a 48-year-old disabled carpenter who lives on welfare, says he's established the new Aryan Nations world headquarters in a mobile home near the tiny borough of Ulysses in Potter County. Kreis and his associate, Harold Ray Redfeairn, of Dayton, Ohio, claim they and a third man, Morris Gullett of Louisiana, jointly lead the organization founded in Hayden Lake, Idaho, in the late 1970s by Richard Butler. The new triumvirate says it deposed Butler because he surrounds himself with "weirdos, winos and clowns" and not the "intellectual leaders" needed to carry the Aryan Nations into the 21st century. Butler, who's 84 and suffering from coronary artery disease, flew to Pennsylvania this weekend to hold a rally and tell the world that he still leads the racist group and that it's still based in North Idaho. While Butler and Kreis duel over control, the people of Coudersport and Ulysses are looking for ways to keep the Aryan Nations from rooting in these Pennsylvania woods. Last month, a group of Potter County residents hooked up by teleconference with a dozen members of the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force. They wanted tips about what Sandpoint and Coeur d'Alene did when the Aryans arrived in North Idaho. "The short message was to be pro-active," said Brenda Hammond, of the Sandpoint human rights group. The Idaho activists urged their counterparts back East to quickly form a human rights group and promote events and the message of diversity. "I think this is a very insidious influence that your community is about to experience," Sandpoint minister Nancy Copeland-Payton told the Pennsylvania group. "It's a very dangerous influence because it tunnels underneath our normal ways of thinking. It can change people." The Pennsylvania group has held three meetings and formally adopted a name, Potter County United. It has adopted official colors red, white, yellow and black and hopes to have a mission statement, bylaws and an official logo by this fall, said the Rev. Dan Jordan, a Methodist minister and co-chairman of the group. But some activists in Potter County say the group isn't moving fast enough to combat the arrival of the Aryan Nations. A group of ministers hastily organized "Unity Day" on Saturday in the town square of Coudersport, a community of 3,000. Organizers served ethnic food and children painted posters. There was live music and a high school dance. "I say, let's get something done now instead of worrying about the colors of our logo or emblems," said the Rev. John Baney, a United Methodist minister in Potter County. Baney, a former truck driver with a grim reaper tattoo, said he supports what Potter County United is trying to do, but wants to move faster. He hooked up with teachers who had schoolchildren draw diversity posters. They were pinned to a gazebo in the town square for Saturday's event. "We are a diverse community, and want to show the world that," Baney said. "I don't see any reason to directly confront those knuckleheads associated with August Kreis or Richard Butler." 'Welfare Nazi' Baney and others say Kreis' announcement in January that the Aryan Nations was moving to Potter County renewed community interest in human rights and diversity. "It has adversely affected the county already," Jordan said of Kreis. The region's bucolic image has been tarnished, he said, and some business leaders fear the county will lose tourist dollars this summer. Kreis was born and raised in New Jersey. He said he moved to Potter County in 1993 after being fired as an apartment manager in New Jersey when the building's Jewish owner found out he was involved with the Ku Klux Klan. Potter County is in north-central Pennsylvania, abutting the border of the state of New York. Homes and small communities, called boroughs and townships, are sprinkled throughout the county. Dairy farms dot the rolling hills. Highway signs warn drivers of horse-drawn buggies driven by the county's handful of Amish families. Coudersport (pronounced "cow-der-sport") is the county's largest borough, located along the headwaters of the Allegheny River. The town's newspaper has called Kreis a "welfare Nazi." The nation's sixth-largest cable and communications company, Adelphia, is based here. It's where company founder John Rigas got his business start. His company provides cable service in Coeur d'Alene and Western Washington. With 2,300 employees working in Coudersport, Adelphia has brought a measure of diversity to the area. Still, Potter County is overwhelmingly white. Like North Idaho, it's a place where big city folks come to hunt, fish and enjoy the outdoors. Many of the two-story frame houses that make up the boroughs are more than a century old. Donna McCaslin is the 76-year-old mayor of Ulysses. She mows her three acres of lawn at least twice a week in the spring with her riding lawnmower. She joined Potter County United after "hiding my head in the sand" when Kreis first arrived and hosted a skinhead rock concert on his property. "We just want him to know that we're not afraid of him, and that we're going to stand up for unity," McCaslin said. Doesn't own the land Kreis lives a couple miles outside of Ulysses, on 10 acres of land posted with no trespassing signs. He rents one parcel and a friend lets him use the adjoining chunk of land, Kreis said. A Navy veteran, Kreis has been involved in the Posse Comitatus, an armed, underground citizens militia. Like Butler, he's taken the title "pastor" as he espouses the group's Christian Identity beliefs that white people are the true Israelites, that Jews are the seeds of Satan and blacks are "mud people" or "beasts of the field." He and his second wife, Karley, have five children, ranging in age from 11 months to 8 years. They live in an old mobile home they rent with a federal housing subsidy. "All Jews should die," said the couple's 8-year-old daughter, Barbara, wearing a "White Pride" T-shirt as she played on a swingset outside their home. Kreis, who suffers from diabetes and a foot ulcer, said he gets Social Security Insurance disability payments and the children get welfare. His wife, he said, has been cut off from public assistance. "We get about $1,000 a month and live in a home that has tail-lights," Kreis said. "That's nothing I'm proud about." He wants to build a home and an Aryan Nations church on the property, but conceded he doesn't have enough money to do that now, and doesn't own the land. "It all depends on what our members want and what they are willing to support financially," he said. "You don't have to have a church to have meetings, and that's what we're doing. We may even buy an existing church somewhere else in Potter County, and use that." Although he doesn't own the property, Kreis said he and a former associate, Michael Reid, considered approaching Adelphia and offering to sell his home for $500,000. Reid, who defected from the group, has described the plan as "extortion." "We talked about it, yeah, but never formally approached Adelphia," Kreis said. "Hell, the deal still stands, and it wouldn't take $500,000. I will sell out for $250,000 and go build the Aryan Nations World Headquarters some place else. .. But once we build a church here, our offer is done." Kreis has had a couple of disputes with his neighbors. In March, one neighbor fired a hunting rifle and wounded Kreis' German Shepherd, Gunther. The 2-year-old dog lost its right front leg. "I was ready to go over there to the neighbor's house and spray the whole place with bullets and kill everybody in it," Kreis said. He called a press conference in Coudersport and said he was adopting a "zero tolerance policy" and would shoot-to-kill anyone who comes on his property or endangers him or his family. He faces a court date next month for owning an alleged vicious dog, a claim he says is without merit. Kreis said a local attorney, who's Jewish, refused to represent him because of his "repugnant beliefs." Hate on the Web A small room in Kreis' mobile home serves as the Internet hub for his Aryan Nations Web page. It competes with a separate Web site operated by Butler and his remaining followers in North Idaho. His Web site asks Aryan Nations followers to join him in Potter County. He's put links to Potter County real estate developers on his site. There is little evidence of followers taking him up on the offer. Kreis does have an associate, Joshua Caleb Sutter, 20, who lives in an adjoining mobile home where Nazi flags cover the windows. Sutter, the son of a Pentecostal minister, said he is willing to carry out "God's law." "I consider myself a Phineas Priest because I'm in full knowledge of my Identity beliefs dating back to Adam," Sutter said. "I cannot be broken by any human institution." Kreis said Sutter "represents the intellectual young men" the Aryan Nations is now attracting. He and Sutter spend two to three hours a day updating their Web site, which has had postings supporting Palestinian suicide bombers and the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. "The enemy of our enemy is our friend," he said. Earlier this month, during the teleconference with the Pennsylvanians, Sandpoint Mayor Paul Graves talked about the mark Butler and the Aryan Nations have left on North Idaho. "We have to thank the white supremacists folks for making our human rights movement so successful," said Graves, who is a member of the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force. "In effect," he said, "we organized against an enemy. In the process, the task force transformed from reacting to the presence of a hate group to responding to the need to treat everyone with dignity." Time will tell what mark Kreis' new Aryan Nations center will have on this part of the country.
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