Hundreds of protesters gathered in a North Dakota town on Sunday to speak out against plans by an American Nazi group to buy up property and take over the local government in an effort to build a bastion against diversity.
About 300 protesters, including some 200 Native Americans from nearby reservations, gathered outside the Leith City Hall where Jeff Schoep, leader of the National Socialist Movement presented his plans for turning the tiny North Dakota town – population 24 – into a segregated place where whites can live among themselves.
According to Schoep, however, the plan for a single-race town in Leith is part of a much broader plan.
"We have to start somewhere," he told Reuters. "So if we start in small towns and spread out from there, it's sort of a test ground in that sense, where if we're able to get off the ground here, then we're able to get off the ground in other places."
Members of the Grant County Sheriff's Department, together with deputies from several nearby counties, were on hand. The North Dakota Highway Patrol also appeared on the scene in riot gear, but no violence was reported, officials said.
However, the demonstrators, some of whom had traveled miles to be in Leith, were vocal in their condemnation of the plan.
Scott Garman of Fargo hollered with the aid of a loudspeaker,
A veteran took the megaphone to yell, “Creepy Nazis, Ku Kluxers, get the hell out of here!”
Schoep, however, dismissed the accusations, saying he’s not a white supremacist, but a supporter of “white civil rights,” the paper reported.
Meanwhile, town officials are scrambling to offset plans by the Nationalist Socialist Movement, America's largest neo-Nazi organization, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit civil rights organization that their website says is “dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry.”
Leith Mayor, Ryan Schock, said local officials were considering the possibility of unincorporating the town and turning it back over to the county in order to thwart the group's plans.
"This is a small, quiet town," Schock said. "Families live around here, and it's a very close-knit community. I really wish it hadn't gotten to this point."
Dreams of a whites-only town in America, where the percentage of European ethnic whites are on a sharp decline, is the brainchild of Craig Cobb, a white supremacist activist who has grandiose plans for Leith.
For more than a year, Cobb, 61, has been purchasing properties in Leith and inviting like-minded supremacists to move in and lay the groundwork for what has been dubbed "Pioneer Little Europe."
In a recent interview with KXMB-TV, Cobb said he had received numerous offers to buy up land from people who believe that white people have a right to live among themselves. However, the move towards cultures embracing diversity and multiculturalism has made such an idea highly controversial, he admitted.
"It's fine for all these other minorities, but not us," he said in the interview. "If you merely speak about [civil rights for whites], you're going to be defamed in this country."
Cobb's plans were revealed in August after the SPLC published a report revealing his land purchases in Leith, which is located in a county that is 97 percent white.
According to the report, other leading supremacists are also moving to buy property in Leith, including Tom Metzger, leader of the White Aryan Resistance, and Alex Linder, who manages the Vanguard News Network (VNN), an online forum. Cobb moved into a
Last year, Cobb announced on VNN his plans to build an all-white settlement in North Dakota “post haste.” “Been waiting quite a few months to spring this. Now is the time,” Cobb wrote then, while touting the advantages of living in Leith.
SPLC summarized the motivation behind Cobb’s initiative:
According to the most recent US Census data, 90 percent of the population of North Dakota is white. That figure jumps to 97 percent in Grant County, where Leith is located.
Cobb has tried in the past to build a homeland for whites. In 2006, he moved to the Baltic State of Estonia and started Podblanc, a video-sharing service. The US political system was on a road to ruin, he warned then.