Torrential flooding in northern Colorado has resulted in at least three deaths, mudslides, multiple road closures, and the destruction of one dam. The resulting high water levels are impeding search and rescue teams from reaching stranded residents and motorists in the Boulder area northwest of Denver.
Volunteers are trying to help stranded people until emergency crews can arrive, said Boulder Office of Emergency Management spokeswoman Gabrielle Boerkircher.
The state's emergency staff and the Colorado National Guard were activated overnight, Gov. John Hickenlooper said at a press conference Thursday. At that time, said Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, one fire crew was trapped by flood waters on the side of a mountain.
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The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning for central and north central Colorado through Thursday evening. The heaviest rainfall is expected in the afternoon and evening, though flash floods are possible throughout the day, reported the weather service.
Colorado Emergency Management Director Mike Chard said people should avoid creeks and waterways, and not attempt to cross flooded intersections in their cars. Boulder officials have not ordered evacuations, saying that more deaths are likely to occur when people get stuck in flood waters.
In some areas, nine-to-ten-foot walls of debris had accumulated. Boulder Creek is now running nine times faster than usual, said Sarah Huntley, a spokeswoman for the city of Boulder.
However, residents near southeast Estes Park were warned Wednesday night of a possible evacuation after a dam in the Big Elk Meadows area broke due to flood waters, reported the Larimer County office of Emergency Information.
"We're very concerned that land is continually unstable and water is going to keep coming down through the canyon," said Boulder EMA spokesman Andrew Bart. "We're also very concerned that there are definitely people trapped."
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency for the county and northwest Jefferson County, while a mandatory evacuation order was in effect for the tiny community of Jamestown and the Fourmile wildfire burn area.
Some homes had collapsed in Jamestown, where dozens of people live, and the first reported death connected to the flood was caused by a collapsing house in the Jamestown area, reports The Denver Post. All roads in and out of the town are blocked by flood waters, and debris.
The University of Colorado's Boulder campus was closed Thursday, and over 400 students, faculty, and staff members were evacuated.
The flood also forced the American Red Cross to relocate an evacuation shelter in Boulder, reports the Chicago Tribune.
Four to six inches of rain had fallen since mid-Wednesday, with as much as seven inches in some areas.
South of Denver, there have been several flash flood warnings in the area hit by last summer's Waldo Canyon Fire that resulted in the destruction of 347 homes and two deaths. Scorched soil absorbs less water, making it easier for water to build up and for flooding to occur.
The Boulder Office of Emergency Management is currently reporting flood-related power outages that were expected to continue into Thursday morning.
More than 700 customers were without power on Thursday morning in and around the city of Boulder, according to an outage map maintained by utility supplier Xcel Energy.
"This is not your ordinary day, or your ordinary disaster," said Sheriff Pelle at the press conference.
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The National Hurricane Center (NHC) declared Humberto a hurricane at 5 a.m. on Wednesday – meaning the storm, the first hurricane of the season, missed the title of being the tardiest such storm by a mere three hours.
At the time of the announcement, Humberto was located 310 miles west-northwest of the Cape Verde Islands and was producing winds of approximately 75 miles per hour, making it a Category 1 storm.
But Humberto is unlikely to make it to land: The storm is expected to strengthen Wednesday before weakening on Thursday, according to an NHC report.
The Category 1 designation indicates four-to-five-foot water surges, but any damage from such storms is usually minimal.
Since 1967, when meteorologists began using satellites to track storms, the first hurricane of the season that formed the latest materialized at 8 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2002, Dennis Feltgen, an NHC spokesman, told Bloomberg. The earliest hurricane on record was named April 20, 2003, according to Weather.com. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
This hurricane season has been one of the calmest on record. There have been eight named storms thus far, but none gathered enough intensity to be rated as hurricanes until Humberto. A storm is given a name if it becomes a tropical storm, meaning that the storm's winds have reached 63 miles per hour. A tropical storm is then declared a hurricane only if winds reach 74 miles an hour.
“A slow northwestward motion is expected to resume later today and continue through the night,” Michael Brennan, a senior hurricane specialist at the NHC in Miami, said in an advisory, as reported by Bloomberg. “A gradual turn toward the north is expected Thursday and Thursday night.”
The power of Second Amendment advocacy ricocheted across Colorado this week with the recall of two state legislators who had pushed for tighter gun control.
State Senate President John Morse and state Sen. Angela Giron, both Democrats, were defeated in special elections, and both will be replaced by Republicans on the pro-gun side of the political ledger.
In the wake of the mass shooting at a suburban Denver theater last year, the Colorado state legislature passed stiffer gun control measures, including expanded background checks for gun buyers and limiting ammunition magazines to 15 rounds. Both ousted senators had supported that legislation.
Senator Morse's recall election was close, 51-49 percent, while Senator Giron was recalled by a margin of 56-44 percent. In both cases, Republicans won 100 percent of the vote to determine who would replace the ousted senators.
Gun rights supporters see the votes as a clear warning to any other politician who wants to keep his or her job. In a statement, the Colorado Republican Party called the results "a loud and clear message to out-of-touch Democrats across the nation."
Like a lot of other Democrats, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to move on as quickly as possible to other issues. In a statement, he said he was "disappointed by the outcome of the recall elections," calling on voters to "refocus again on what unites Coloradans – creating jobs, educating our children, creating a healthier state – and on finding ways to keep Colorado moving forward."
The recall vote may not bode well for his political future.
“Gov. John Hickenlooper – once deemed so unbeatable that the GOP couldn't even find a candidate to run against him in 2014 – now faces falling approval ratings and a crowded field of Republican contenders, in part for backing stricter gun measures,” the Denver Post reported Tuesday as the results of the recall vote became clear.
A Quinnipiac poll last month had the governor on the losing side – 45-47 percent – of a question about whether he deserves reelection next year, with an overall 48 percent approval rating the polling organization called “lackluster.” One major reason likely was his stance on gun issues, with most Coloradans disapproving 52-35 percent.
National organizations on both sides of the issue had poured resources into the recall vote, including the National Rifle Association (NRA) and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Most of the outside money came from Mayor Bloomberg and others on the pro-gun-control, anti-recall side. But that may have backfired to some extent.
"The people of Colorado Springs sent a clear message to the Senate leader that his primary job was to defend their rights and freedoms and that he is ultimately accountable to them – his constituents, and not to the dollars or social engineering agendas of anti-gun billionaires," the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action said in a statement.
Tuesday's vote also exposed divisions between Colorado's growing urban and suburban areas and its rural towns. Dozens of elected county sheriffs have sued to block the gun laws and some activists are promoting a largely symbolic measure to secede from the state.
Morse recall organizer Timothy Knight said voters were upset that Colorado's Democrat-majority Legislature seemed more inclined to take its cues from the White House than its constituents. The gun laws passed this year with no Republican support.
Still, Democrats remain the majority in the Colorado Legislature, Democrat Hickenlooper is still the governor, and the new gun laws on background checks and ammunition magazines remain in effect.
“This election does not reflect the will of Coloradans, a majority of whom strongly support background checks and opposed these recalls,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “It was a reflection of a very small, carefully selected population of voters’ views on the legislature’s overall agenda this session.”
But it was clear from the results that advocating stronger gun control measures can be risky for those holding elective office, despite a spate of gun massacres around the country in recent years.
If he had any regrets, Mr. Morse didn’t indicate that as the vote results made clear that he was out of a job.
"I said at the time if it costs me my political career, so be it," Morse told Reuters shortly after conceding Tuesday night. "That's nothing compared to what the families of [gun violence] victims go through every single day. We did the right thing."
• This report includes material from the Associated Press.
Just hours after Sherrie Zimmerman frantically called 911 Monday and told police that her recently estranged husband, George, had punched her father in the nose and threatened both of them with a gun, she recanted, saying that her father would not press charges and she had seen no gun.
Her turnaround put brakes on a fresh police investigation into the man who was acquitted in July of murder and manslaughter in the killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.
Florida law treats domestic violence as "a criminal act rather than a domestic matter," so police could still pursue the case and arrest Mr. Zimmerman after viewing video footage gathered from home surveillance cameras and police squad cars.
But police told AP they did not find a gun on Mr. Zimmerman, and Lake Mary, Fla., Police Chief Steve Bracknell said that “domestic violence can’t be invoked because she has changed her story and says she didn’t see a firearm."
According to CNN, Mr. Zimmerman was sitting in his truck when Ms. Zimmerman called police on Monday:
On the 911 call, Shellie Zimmerman is breathing heavily when she tells a dispatcher that Zimmerman is still at the house.
"He's in his car and he continually has his hand on his gun, and he's saying, 'Step closer.' He's just threatening all of us with his firearm," she says.
The same report points to some discrepancy about reports of the alleged gun:
The question of the gun became confused later when police told reporters there was no gun involved, but George Zimmerman's attorney told CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 that he believed his client had a firearm on him.
"He acted appropriately. He never took the weapon out," said Mark O'Mara, who is also a CNN legal analyst. O'Mara said he never saw the gun.
In a July police video taken when a traffic policeman pulled Mr. Zimmerman over for speeding near Dallas, the officer refers clearly to a firearm in Zimmerman's glove compartment.
"Just take it easy, go ahead and shut your glove compartment. Don't play with your firearm, OK?"
Zimmerman got off with a warning, but it was his second return to the public eye within two weeks of his shooting verdict. Days earlier, he had made headlines for helping to rescue a family of four who were trapped in their car, after it rolled over on a highway in Sanford, Fla.
Since then, he has remained visible by earning a speeding ticket in Florida, touring the factory of the of the gunmaker that manufactured the weapon he used to kill Trayvon, and his wife's choice to file divorce. "I have a selfish husband," Sherrie Zimmerman told ABC in a video interview, "and I think George is all about George."
Less than week after George Zimmerman's wife filed for divorce and told ABC News that she thought her husband felt "more invincible" after he was acquitted in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Mr. Zimmerman came under police investigation Monday afternoon for a claim of domestic battery involving a gun.
Zimmerman's now-estranged wife, Sherrie, dialed 911 from their shared home in Lake Mary, Fla., and told a police operator that Mr. Zimmerman had "punched my dad in the nose" and "is about to shoot us," according to CBS news.
Mr. Zimmerman was released after a brief police detention, and three hours after placing her call, Ms. Zimmerman announced that she would not press charges.
But the incident has returned Mr. Zimmerman to the media spotlight less than two months after his acquittal of manslaughter and murder charges by a Florida jury provoked nationwide protests and kindled questions about gun ownership, "stand your ground" laws, and racial bias in the court system. Mr. Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watch captain, said that he shot Trayvon, who was black, in self-defense.
During her 911 call Monday, Ms. Zimmerman said, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune: "He's in his car and he continually has his hand on his gun and keeps saying step closer ... and he's gonna shoot us."
She added that "he's just threatening all of us with his firearm."
"I don't know what he's capable of. I'm really, really scared," she told the 911 operator. At one point in the call, she can be heard saying: "Dad, Dad, get inside the house. George might start shooting at us."
Mr. Zimmerman told the police that his wife was the one being aggressive, the Tribune reports.
"There was an altercation and one party put their hands on another party," Lake Mary Police Chief Steve Bracknell said. "We're still trying to figure out who touched whom."
Since the verdict in his murder case, Zimmerman has struggled to keep a low profile.
- In July, he was pulled over for speeding in Texas, asked if the officer recognized him, and said he had a gun in his glove compartment.
- In August, a picture surfaced online of him touring the factory of the of the gunmaker that manufactured the weapon he used to kill Trayvon.
- Last Tuesday, the location of his home became public when he was ticketed for speeding in Florida.
- And on Thursday, Ms. Zimmerman filed for divorce and told ABC, in a video interview, "I have a selfish husband, and I think George is all about George."
Reuters reported that the now-separated couple went through gun training together, earning their concealed-weapons permits and buying a pair of guns in 2009.
Four years earlier, according to the same report, Mr. Zimmerman had been charged with resisting arrest, violence, and battery of an officer, but avoided conviction by agreeing to participate in anger-management classes. The same year, he and his then-fiancée, Veronica Zuazo, were both granted restraining orders against each other after she alleged domestic violence.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio holds a wide lead in the Democratic primary race for mayor of New York, but pollsters say it's uncertain whether he can get the 40 percent of the vote in Tuesday's election needed to avoid a runoff.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday showed Mr. de Blasio, the most liberal of the three major Democratic candidates, leading among likely Democratic voters with 39 percent, followed by 25 percent for William C. Thompson,Jr., a former city controller, and 18 percent for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner, caught up in a scandal involving explicit photos he sent on the Internet, was favored by 6 percent of likely voters.
De Blasio’s strong showing is a bit less impressive than his showing in a Quinnipiac poll released Sept. 3 when he was the choice of 43 percent of the likely Democratic voters.
“It looks as if Public Advocate Bill de Blasio couldn’t hold that 43 percent in a week when he was in the spotlight and got walloped by everybody,” Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a release accompanying the polling data. “His support by black voters slipped just enough to make a runoff possible. But he is ever so close.”
In a televised debate last week, opponents hammered de Blasio on a wide variety of issues but focused especially on his plan to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for universal pre-kindergarten.
The Quinnipiac pollsters found that 8 percent of New York voters said they were still undecided and that 18 percent of those who did cite a favorite candidate said there was a “good chance” they could change their minds by election day.
An NBC4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Monday also found de Blasio with a chance to avoid a runoff. The poll found that 36 percent of likely Democratic voters favored de Blasio, while Mr. Thompson and Ms. Quinn each were the choice of 20 percent. Mr. Weiner received support from 7 percent.
The de Blasio campaign “is being fueled by Democratic voters’ dislike of extending term limits, the policy of stop and frisk, and of course, the Dante effect,” according to a statement by Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. The Dante effect refers to de Blasio’s son. De Blasio is white but is married to a black woman, and his mixed-race son is prominently featured in a TV campaign commercial.
If there is a runoff, “de Blasio starts as the early favorite,” Mr. Miringoff said. Among registered Democrats in a runoff, de Blasio leads Quinn 56 to 34. Against Thompson, de Blasio would get 50 percent of the Democratic vote to Thompson’s 38, the Marist poll found.
Democrats out number Republicans in New York City, but a Democrat has not won City Hall since 1989.
The Quinnipiac poll surveyed 782 likely Democratic primary voters from Sept. 6 to 8 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The NBC4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll was conducted Sept. 3 to 6 among 556 likely primary voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.
A SWAT team in Pine Bluff, Ark., shot and killed a 107-year-old man Saturday during a gun battle in which both sides exchanged fire.
The situation began when local police responded to a complaint. The elderly man, Monroe Isadore, allegedly pointed a gun at two people. Over the next three hours, the situation escalated to the point that a SWAT team gassed the room and broke down the door, resulting in the shootout that left Mr. Isadore dead.
No law enforcement officers were injured.
A public police report does not address the cause of the disturbance, but it states that police arriving on the scene at about 4:30 p.m. "were able to determine that an Aggravated Assault had occurred against two people at the residence," according to a transcript obtained by WTHV-11 TV. Isadore "had pointed a weapon at them," the report says.
Police sent the two people away; the report mentions no injuries. But when police approached the door of the bedroom where Isadore was believed to be, he opened fire through the door. No officers were injured, and the officers called for support.
Supervising officers arrived and began negotiations with Isadore, according to the Pine Bluff Commercial. When a SWAT team arrived on site, it took up tactical positions around the house, the Commerical reports.
By inserting a camera into the room, the SWAT team determined that Isadore was armed. When Isadore refused to surrender his weapon, the SWAT team pumped gas into the room. Isadore responded with gunfire, according to multiple reports.
At that point, the SWAT team entered the room. "Shortly afterwards, a S.W.A.T. entry team, inside the residence, breached the door to the bedroom and threw a distraction device into the bedroom," the police report says. "Isadore then began to fire on the entry team and the entry team engaged Isadore, killing him."
Isadore appeared to have suffered multiple gunshot wounds, Deputy Coroner Eric Belcher told the Commercial. Isadore was pronounced dead at 7:23 p.m.
It is unclear why law enforcement officials determined that gas was needed to force out Isadore after a few hours of negotiation, precipitating the fatal gun battle.
[Updated Friday 3:40 EDT.]
A Montana judge has sparked outrage once again – this time for what attorneys on both sides say was an improper attempt to backtrack on a lenient rape sentence, one that led to pressure from around the world for the judge to resign.
District Judge G. Todd Baugh planned a resentencing hearing for Friday afternoon, saying his original 30-day prison sentence of teacher Stacey Rambold for raping a 14-year-old was incorrect and the case instead requires a minimum of two years. (Technically the sentence was for 15 years, suspended except for 31 days, with credit for one day served.)
The Montana Attorney General’s office sought to block the hearing, saying only the Montana Supreme Court has the authority to fix sentencing mistakes and the hearing would interfere with the appeal the office is filing. Defense attorney Jay Lansing agreed in a court briefing that a Friday hearing by Baugh would create confusion.
The high court on Friday afternoon blocked the hearing and ordered Judge Baugh to enter a written sentencing for Mr. Rambold. Baugh never signed a written sentencing order after making his oral pronouncement in the case.
When Baugh delivered the original sentence Aug. 26, he said the victim was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as Rambold, who was in his late-40s at the time.
Baugh apologized last week for his comments about the victim in a letter to the editor of the Billings Gazette.
His attempt to hold a hearing Friday may have been a way “to have a do-over, recognizing that he did something wrong … but I think the demand for him to resign was the correct demand,” says Sheena Rice, who helped plan the rally last week as a senior organizer at the Montana Organizing Project. At that rally people called not only for the judge to step down, but also for a legal review of his other rape trials and for education in the legal community about the damaging effects of victim-blaming language in rape cases.
While this case has drawn wide attention, it’s fairly typical for victim blaming and other “minimizing of sexual assault cases” to occur, particularly in situations that involve teachers and students or that don’t fit traditional notions about rape, says Jennifer Long, director of AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women, in Washington. “Adolescent victims are consistently blamed for either seducing their rapist or for some other behaviors.”
Members of the public have stepped up to protest in previous cases, such as the teen rapes in Steubenville, Ohio, and “to educate their own community and beyond about the importance of not victim-blaming,” Ms. Long says, “but it seems that we are still stuck in this cycle … where [some of] the very people who should know this information – judges, prosecutors, and other professionals – still believe in the myths and still engage in very dangerous practices.”
In Montana, the age of consent is 16. Rambold was charged in 2008 with three counts of intercourse without consent (commonly known elsewhere as statutory rape) for actions that started when Cherice Morales was 14.
When Cherice was 16 and the case was still pending, she killed herself. Prosecutors deferred trial at that point based on conditions such as Rambold entering a treatment program and not having unauthorized conduct with children. They went forward with prosecution after he violated those terms. Rambold pleaded guilty to one count in April.
Baugh’s failed attempt to hold a new hearing Friday could make it easier to demand that he resign or be removed, says Marian Bradley, president of the Montana chapter of the National Organization for Women.
Ms. Bradley is also helping to organize a Justice4Cherice campaign, which includes a Facebook page and a way for people to file formal complaints with the Montana Judicial Standards Commission. She says hundreds of such complaints are in the works and eventually she expects thousands; because a complaint requires a notarized signature, it’s not as easy as signing a petition.
Baugh would be up for reelection in 2014. The Judicial Standards Commission can recommend to the state supreme court that he be removed.
“What I’m hearing from people throughout the world … is that they are outraged at the victim-blaming,” Bradley says. It’s like they’ve heard one too many times comments such as the controversial statements by former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin about “legitimate rape.”
“People are done,” she says. “Men and women, young and old, people of all races and religions, they’re stepping up.”
After the rally last week, Bradley says, Cherice’s mother told her that she had felt alone when Baugh handed down the original sentence, but that when people in the community called for change, it helped restore her faith in people.
It’s not the first time Montana has seen controversy over rape trials. In the spring, the University of Montana at Missoula entered into agreements with the US Departments of Education and Justice stemming from complaints about how campus sexual assaults and harassment were handled over a period of several years.
To help promote a better understanding of best practices in handling sexual assault cases, organizers such as Ms. Rice in Billings are beginning a dialogue in the legal community about possibly requiring members of the Montana bar to have continuing education that includes the issue of victim-blaming language.
Material from Associated Press was used in this report.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn … social media sites encourage users to create a digital trail of life events. But a recent survey shows that Americans might be having second thoughts about uploading details of their lives to the Internet.
Internet users say that their pictures, birth dates, e-mail addresses, and cellphone numbers are available online, but what concerns those surveyed the most is the privacy of their e-mails and online searches, two of the items hardest to keep from Internet companies.
Eighty-six percent of Internet users have taken steps online to remove, or mask their digital footprints – ranging from clearing cookies to encrypting their e-mail, according to a Pew Research report released on Thursday. Most Internet users – 59 percent – do not think it is possible to be completely anonymous online.
“Users clearly want the option of being anonymous online and increasingly worry that this is not possible,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. “Their concerns apply to an entire ecosystem of surveillance.”
Internet giants' information-harvesting techniques have come under increased public scrutiny in the past few months after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified documents detailing a large-scale, secret data collection plan, PRISM.
However, the Pew report does not show that Americans are concerned about online government surveillance. Internet users “are more intent on trying to mask their personal information from hackers, advertisers, friends, and family members than they are trying to avoid observation by the government,” says Mr. Rainie.
Thirty-three percent of users wish to avoid hackers, or criminals, followed by 28 percent of users who want to avoid advertisers. In comparison, only 5 percent of Internet users reported they wanted to avoid government observation.
“There is a possibility that our questions were answered the way they were because people were thinking about their day-to-day activities,” says Rainie, in an e-mail.
“Advertisers – or avoiding advertisers – might be a more top-of-mind thought for users because they encounter advertising all the time online and probably have to think about their approach to it. In contrast, government observation just isn’t something that people directly encounter during regular Internet activities," he adds.
However, government surveillance programs, like the NSA's PRISM, would not operate if major Internet companies weren't mining troves of data about their users. The same metadata that tells a social media site what kind of ad to use is the same information that the government accesses to pinpoint national security threats.
Both Facebook and Google have been entangled in recent lawsuits that accuse the companies of taking advantage of the wealth of consumer data the companies have amassed, and using it to better target their advertising.
Facebook was accused of using approximately 150 million users' images to promote products and services through the Sponsored Stories program, and ended up agreeing to pay $9.5 million to settle the case. Meanwhile, Google is the defendant in an ongoing court case that accuses the company of violating consumers' privacy by accessing their e-mail content to better target advertising. The content of e-mails is considered to be the most sensitive piece of information by consumers, according to the Pew report.
Three days after the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech, a meeting took place that the civil rights leader probably never would have envisioned: A Ku Klux Klan member and officials for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a meeting to discuss race relations.
Last Saturday, KKK organizer John Abarr walked into a conference room at the Parkway Plaza Hotel in Casper, Wyo., went through a security check, and then greeted four local NAACP leaders.
For several months Jimmy Simmons, president of the Casper NAACP, had heard reports about black men getting beat up – usually when they were with white women – in Gillette, Wyo. Klan pamphlets began circulating there around the same time. A frustrated Mr. Simmons considered holding a rally against the Klan.
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After all, the NAACP was founded to empower groups that the KKK sought to intimidate into submission.
But Simmons decided to do something different: He reached out to Klan leaders.
“If you want to talk about hate, get a hater,” he said. “Let him tell you something about hate,” he said, according to the Casper Star-Tribune, which had exclusive coverage of Saturday's meeting.
Rosemary Lytle, president of the Colorado, Montana and Wyoming State Area Conference for the NAACP, said she had told Simmons not to arrange the meeting, according to the Star-Tribune. Bradley Jenkins, the UKA's imperial wizard, said he sanctioned the event, AP reported.
On Saturday, Mr. Abarr tried to disassociate the Klan from its violent past, painting the organization as a cultural entity, rather than a white supremacist group.
“I just know what it is today,” he said during the meeting. “I had relatives in the Klan in the ’20s, and they didn’t lynch anybody.” Hate-driven violence may still occur, but those perpetrators are hoodlums, and there's no proof it is Klan violence, Abarr explained, according to the Star-Tribune.
“You’re really confusing me, because I don’t think you understand the seriousness of your group,” said Mel Hamilton, another representative of the NAACP who was present.
Abarr said he knew nothing about the reported occurrences in Gillette, AP reported.
Abarr would not discuss how the Klan evolved or what exactly it does, according to the Star-Tribune. He did say that he holds the Klan rank of kleagle, or an organizer, in Great Falls, Mont.
“What I like to do is recruit really radical kids, then calm them down after they join,” Abarr said in response to questions about the Klan encouraging racial tensions.
He also listed his own credentials as a member of antiracist groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center. (A lawsuit from the Southern Poverty Law Center led to the dismantling of the original UKA in the 1980s, according to AP.)
But Abarr’s Twitter account – @TheHoodedone33 – tells a different story. “We must unite as a race and take back our country,” is part of a milder tweet from earlier this year.
During the meeting, Abarr also espoused ideas about secession. He said the northwestern United States – Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon – should legally secede from the Union and form a white territory. Primarily black states should also secede, he said.
In an odd finale to the meeting, Abarr became a member of the NAACP at Simmons’s invitation. The membership cost $30, and Abarr added a $20 donation before he snapped his briefcase shut, shook hands with Simmons, and left the hotel.
"I don't know if we accomplished too much," Abarr said, according to AP.
Simmons took a measured view. "It's about opening dialogue with a group that claims they're trying to reform themselves from violence," he said, according to AP. "They're trying to shed that violent skin, but it seems like they're just changing the packaging."
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