Seattle and Portland are two of the most liberal cities in America, but the surrounding region extending east into Idaho seems to offer fertile ground for white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

The Northwest’s dense forests and lightly populated areas provide plenty of space for those on society’s fringes to hide out and fantasize about a racially purified homeland for white people. Much of the time, these grim characters operate below the radar, but, now and then, they commit some heinous act that reminds us they are always lurking in the shadows.

On Feb. 8, one of them showed up before dawn at Spokane’s Temple Beth Shalom. With a can of red spray paint, he drew a big swastika on the side of the synagogue and went on to deface a Holocaust memorial. This week, a suspect was arraigned in Spokane County Superior Court – a local member of a neo-Nazi group called the 14First Foundation named Raymond Bryant.

Bryant and his fellow skinheads were not unfamiliar to authorities. They have been out and about distributing racist and anti-Semitic leaflets, heckling Black Lives Matter protesters and taunting congregants at Temple Beth Shalom. They are part of what the FBI has identified as a rising tide of right-wing extremist organizations, like those that spearheaded the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

The Trump administration not only ignored warnings about the threat these militant groups pose, Donald Trump, himself, openly encouraged them in veiled, and not so veiled, ways. The Biden administration appears ready to take a very different approach and Spokane County looks like one good place to start getting tough with these domestic terrorists. 

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