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Published August 24 2013

Forum editorial: Don’t let haters buy town

North Dakota towns peg their identities on all sorts of things: ethnicity, geography, religion, the railroad, a lake, a river, to name a few. But as far as anyone can tell, no towns are defined by hate.

Until this summer, that is.

The Bismarck Tribune’s Lauren Donovan reported last week that a white supremacist and a cabal of like-minded haters intend to take over the village of Leith, N.D., a place of only 19 residents. In Donovan’s lengthy and comprehensive story, Craig Paul Cobb is reported to have been buying up lots in the Grant County town, which is not far from Carson in southwest North Dakota. He’s purchased a house and 12 other lots, according county records inspected by the Tribune.

Nothing sinister in buying a few lots in a small town, right?

Here’s where it gets bizarre. Cobb, who is wanted in Canada for hate crimes, advocates racial holy war. In his Internet posting, he invites like-minded white nationalists to come to Leith to fly Nazi flags, racist banners and bring more “hard core” white nationalists to the town.

Cobb says his aim is to take over the town, establish white-supremacist government and law enforcement, and arrest anyone who might disagree with his world view. Included, according to Cobb’s post, would be “Mexican illegal invaders,” “leftist journalists,” and “Israeli/Mossad spies.”

This guy is for real. Cobb is known to the Southern Poverty Law Center. A representative of that organization tipped off Leith’s mayor about Cobb’s pedigree and his plans for Leith. Furthermore, Cobb has transferred ownership of two of the Leith properties to a former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Clan of California (a founder of the White Aryan Resistance), and to the originator of Vanguard News Network, a white supremacist website. He has connections.

Cobb and company have done nothing illegal. He can think and speak and post as much hate tripe as he likes. At this point, he’s caused no trouble, said county and town officials. But they worry about Cobb’s plans for their quiet town, including renaming it “Cobbsville.” In response, townspeople are buying up other vacant properties in an attempt to thwart Cobb, but he appears to have resources and friends with resources.

The situation bears watching. As the county sheriff sagely warned, these things start small and can get big and out of control. “Friendly North Dakota” need not be friendly to people who want to build a town on hate.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.