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Ryan Bakken, Forum News Service, Published October 07 2013

White supremacist Cobb attends UND symposium on 'Faces of Hatred'

GRAND FORKS - Craig Cobb made a 640-mile round trip to attend a three-hour symposium about himself at the University of North Dakota on Monday, but he was allowed only 90 seconds to talk.

That didn’t mean the white supremacist was in the spotlight for only 90 seconds, however. He made his presence known by sitting in the front row, occasionally laughing, making several trips across the courtroom to a reporter to comment on the panelists’ remarks and recording the panel discussion on his laptop.

Cobb’s presence was “somewhat unnerving,” said Gregory Gordon, a UND law professor and director of UND’s Center for Human Rights and Genocide Studies, sponsor of the symposium.

Later, Gordon elaborated on why it was unsettling: “He’ll probably take excerpts from what we said and send them to his hate mongers.”

Cobb, 61, has purchased 12 building lots in Leith, a small town 75 miles southwest of Bismarck. He has been giving the lots to other known white supremacists as part of his plan to eventually take over the town’s government. In late September, more than 300 protesters rallied in Leith against Cobb’s plan.

Rambling comment

The events in Leith prompted the UND center to host the symposium titled “Cobbsville? A White Supremacist Takeover of Leith, North Dakota?”

The estimated 75 people in attendance were required to go through security, including a wand that was operated by Grand Forks Police Department personnel. UND spokesman Peter Johnson said Cobb requested the security Saturday when he informed UND that he planned to attend.

Gordon thanked the Grand Forks police “for helping in making this a peaceful event” during his presentation and added later that, “We had a civil and professional discussion, and I’m glad we had something in place for it to happen that way.”

In Gordon’s talk, entitled “The Faces of Hatred,” he said, “We allow people to speak their mind even if we find them repugnant. In a democracy, the best way is to let them speak and expose them for what they are.”

However, because of the symposium-closing rules, audience members were allowed only one comment/question, limited to 90 seconds in length. Cobb used that up in a rambling talk that included him declaring racism as his religion and “you cannot defame my religion.”

Asked later what he thought of the panelists, Cobb answered: “Farting bridge trolls.”

Cobb also said that he had Barack Obama, before he was president, as a rider when he drove taxi in Hawaii. “And, he told me he wasn’t born in Hawaii,” Cobb said.