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BCHRTF celebrating 30 years

Staff Writer | July 13, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT – Friday, the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force is celebrating 30 years of working to promote human rights.

Organized by churches in the area, the group first met in 1991 after the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Rights warned of an increasing threat. That threat came In the form of violence and recruitment in the area due to the influence of Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler and his followers, Brenda Hammond, BCHRTF co-president, said. Looking down from her seat above the crowd, Hammond remembers Richard Butler being at the first meeting, making the event quite dramatic.

One year later, the task force became an official organization, joining others across the nation working to ensure safety and tolerance for all by “mobilizing” and speaking out so everyone in the community can live without fear of bigotry or intolerance.

Since the fall of the Aryan Nations compound in 2000 and the death of Richard Butler in 2004, the organization has broadened its horizons to uphold values set forth by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed in 1984. That declaration ensures certain political and civil rights such as the rights to life, liberty, and security granted to any individual at birth.

Being able to open up the focus of the organization has led to the funding of grants, partnerships with organizations that have similar interests, and aiding in the creation of others such as Sandpoint PFLAG.

“We're part of the beginning of PFLAG in the community [from] when they first started,” Hammond said. “So we've been in partnership with them from the very beginning,”

The partnership of PFLAG and the BCHRTF is a long-standing one and will be witnessed with this weekend's events, as the Pride Festival and the task force’s 30th anniversary will be held together in the granary district making for two days of music, art, and awareness with plenty of fun to be had.

The community is invited to the Granary District to celebrate outside of Matchwood Brewery on Friday, July 15. The celebration will kick off at 4 p.m. with music from Bright Moments, and continue until 8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m. The day will feature vignettes about the history and activities of the task force, poetry, and music from Max Reed, violinist, and Nights of Neon. In accordance with the event’s title “Add Your Voice,” Beth Pederson will also perform and play some songs for the audience to sing along to.

There will be T-shirts available for purchase with a donation, featuring designs that Hammond said symbolize standing together and replacing hate with love.

“[They are] images that reflect the feelings and beliefs of most of the people who live here, and help to erase the stain left on our region by the presence of the Aryan Nations and other extremist groups,” Hammond said.

A new book called, “Torn: Married to a White Supremacist,” the memoir of Christine

Eddy, will be launched and discussed at the event. A new, and highly acclaimed volume of Ukrainian poetry, published by Lost Horse Press, will be available. There will also be a silent auction and art activities for children” and anyone who feels creative,” Hammond said.

Hammond the Task Force is hoping to raise funds, and awareness and gain new members. However, the event also provides an opportunity for supporters to come together to celebrate what has been achieved. The task force is also seeking an individual to take advantage of their paid internship in managing and creating ideas for social media.