Page 2 of 3In April 2010, a PLE movie night featured Epic: The Story of the Waffen SS, a 1982 film of a speech by former SS officer Leon Degrelle, who calls Adolph Hitler a “man of exceptional genius,” says the Holocaust didn’t happen and claims that Hitler was targeted by “international bankers and the servile press…because of his social work.” While the movie drew about a dozen PLE members and supporters, roughly 200 anti-racist demonstrators rallied outside. Observing the protesters, Karl Gharst told a reporter for the Flathead Beacon, “It’s a fucking freak show…They’re all the same queers and Jews and shit that were at the gay pride parade.” That evening, April Gaede and her husband were arrested for scuffling with a protester who was snapping photographs of individuals entering the library to attend the screening. The charges against them were later dropped.
The protest outside the library was one of four anti-racism demonstrations held in response to the PLE movement by the Flathead Valley Multi-Faith Coalition. Rev. Darryl Kistler, pastor of the Flathead Valley United Church of Christ, organized it. In March, his church was struck by a bullet and spray-painted with graffiti that read “Faggot Lovers.”
It seems as though PLE extremists “feel like they’ve gained a critical mass of numbers,” Kistler says, “and they’re becoming more aggressive and out front with their views.”
The American Civil Liberties Union is under indictment for treason to the white race. So is the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Council of La Raza, the Anti-Defamation League and the Montana Human Rights Network.
This news arrived in a series of emails sent earlier this year over a six-week period by Karl Gharst, a neo-Nazi organizer who moved to Kalispell and is one of the most notorious members of the Pioneer Little Europe movement. Gharst has a long history of making violent threats.
“I will see justice come to those who lay traps [for], slander and otherwise persecute good white people for exercising their God-given rights,” Gharst wrote in one such email. “I promise!”
Elsewhere, Gharst used arcane language typical of adherents to sovereign citizen ideology, a pseudo-legal system of beliefs founded upon elaborate conspiracy theories that is popular with members of the Patriot movement as well as neo-Nazis and other white supremacists. Sovereign citizens hold themselves above laws; typically, the only legal authority they recognize is their own common-law jury system.
The Gharst email declared that the Montana Human Rights Network and the other groups are “Jewish criminal organizations” and “illegal operations of whom their intent and demonstrated actions are constitutional violations also violating the sovereignty of Montana by working against and contrary to the lawful and rightful citizens of the SState [sic] of Montana.”
Gharst singled out by name and threatened several “agents” of Media Matters, the ACLU and an Alabama-based immigration rights organization, citing their “treason to the white race.” “I and my appointed/sworn representatives will do all in my/our power...to ensure that [employees of Media Matters, ACLU and the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama] are brought to justice at a time and place of our choosing.”
In a different mid-September email to Montana Human Rights Network executive director Travis McAdam, Gharst declared, “These people calling themselves ‘Jews’ are not citizens of the State of Montana in accordance to the Constitution of the State of Montana.” Gharst wrote that as a “lawful citizen,” meaning white and non-Jewish, “I am giving you proper notice that I am now exercising my duty that I will do all in my power... to see that all MHRN members will stand trial by the lawful citizens of the State of Montana for crimes against the State, and justice returned to lawful citizens.”
A month later Gharst announced that the trial of McAdams and his associates will take place “before or on June 6th, 2012, at 2:00PM MST” in the Kalispell town square.
What may sound like gobbledygook might actually verge on death threats. Gharst is vowing to punish individuals for treason. He recently boasted online that he carries a “razor-sharp” knife at all times, always keeps a gun within reach and is an expert sniper.
In 2004, Gharst was convicted of threatening the life of a Native American social worker in Montana and served five months in jail. According to a charging document, Gharst told the social worker he was forming a group in Kalispell to “gather up all the lesbians and mongrels and evil people,” and that she had only a short time to live.
After he was released, Gharst moved back to Idaho, where he’d long been a recruiter and organizer for Aryan Nations. He resurfaced in Kalispell in 2008 and became active with the Pioneer Little Europe movement by, according to Gharst, arranging construction jobs for skinheads who moved to Kalispell and by organizing the PLE’s Holocaust denial film series along with Gaede, the PLE’s spokesperson.
This fall, however, Gharst apparently had a falling out with Gaede. “Karl, you really need to stop smoking crack,” Gaede posted in late September on a white supremacist bulletin board. “Or maybe the untreated diseases you got from the filthy Rosebriar whores finally caught up with you and warped your brain.” (The Rose Briar Inn is a boarding house in Kalispell.)
Some law enforcement investigators suspect the purported Gharst-Gaede feud is a smokescreen to create a false sense of disorganization and infighting. But it wouldn’t be out of character for Gharst, who attacked another high-profile PLE activist, neo-Nazi webmaster Craig Cobb, in a vicious online rant in mid-September. Gharst called Cobb a Jew and accused him of informing on a “politician’s son who’s part of our movement.” Gharst may have been referring to PLE activist Zachariah Harp, a fellow neo-Nazi who grew up in Kalispell and whose father is former Montana legislator John G. Harp.
Gaede claims the PLE movement has “pro-white” supporters who are high up in the Flathead Valley Republican Party. “I cannot say who they are, obviously they would get lots of flack for it, but yes, we do have people who are pro-white…in higher places,” she posted online in October. Flathead Valley Republican Party Chairwoman Sandy Welch disputes Gaede’s claim. “She says they [PLE supporters in the local Republican party] are keeping their heads down. Well, they must be keeping them really low because there is no obvious racist or pro-white activity in our party. We are not a racist organization and we condemn their positions.”
Cobb began living in Kalispell in the summer of 2010 after being kicked out of Estonia and then being charged with hate crimes in Canada, where he remains a wanted man. (Cobb has dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship.) In September 2010, Cobb and Harp co-hosted a PLE screening of a Holocaust-denial film at the Kalispell Public Library.
In addition to their PLE activism, Cobb and Harp are both members of the Creativity Movement, a white supremacist organization formerly known as the World Church of the Creator, according to the Montana Human Rights Network and other hate-group monitors. There have been WCOTC chapters in Montana for at least 20 years, but just in the last two years, along with the rise of the PLE movement, there has been a significant uptick in Creator activity centered in Kalispell as well as in Bozeman and Billings.
The Montana Creators, as members of the state chapters refer to themselves, have been shopping at gun shows while wearing their black-and-red uniforms or Creator “RAHOWA” T-shirts, according to three gun dealers who asked not to be named out of fear of retribution. “RAHOWA” stands for “Racial Holy War.” Last year, one of the leaders of the Montana Creators boasted online that members of his group “take advantage of our state’s gun laws.”
A 2010 report by Legal Community Against Violence, Gun Laws Matter: A Comparison of State Firearms Laws and Statistics, ranked Montana among the 10 states in the country with the weakest firearms laws. Montana, the LCAV found, has enacted few gun-violence prevention laws. The state does not require background checks before the transfer of firearms between private parties (enabling the gun show loophole), does not license or regulate firearms dealers, does not limit the number of firearms that can be purchased at one time and does not prohibit the sale or transfer of assault weapons, .50 caliber sniper rifles or high-capacity magazines.