Extremists have busy 2011 in Pacific Northwest
They exist in the margins of the Pacific Northwest.
Some are white supremacists. Some are anti-Semites. Some are anti-government. Many are all of the above.
Sometimes their margins are literal, as they live in small towns near the vast forests that dominate this region. Almost always their margins are social, as many are unemployed, or underemployed, and live alone.
Every now and then, one breaks from the margins and creates a public spectacle.
The latest incident occurred last week as a house in Washougal, Wash., burned to the ground while someone inside shot at firefighters to keep them away. The homeowner has been identified as a self-proclaimed white separatist.
It was one of numerous incidents this year in which extremists of various kinds made news in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
The crimes involved a white supremacist couple charged in a three-state killing spree; an attempted bombing at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Spokane; and a former militia member who opened fire on deputies in Montana and vanished into a forest.
To be sure, the perpetrators are by no means representative of the broader, law-abiding population in the Pacific Northwest. But they are part of a trend that has seen extremist activity on the rise nationally. The region has also been the base for some of the highest-profile ones, including the Aryan Nations and the Militia of Montana.
Travis McAdam of the Montana Human Rights Network said the reasons for the trend include the election of a black president, growing distrust with the federal government, the downturn in the economy and the continued growth of minority groups in the population.
“All of this has created a perfect storm of anger, fear, and resentment that white supremacists are trying to tap into and capitalize upon,” McAdam said.