Aryan Nations Leaders Richard Butler and August Kreis Work to Keep Christian Identity Movement Alive
Pelted with rain and saddled with a $6.3 million court judgment issued just two weeks before, Richard Butler gave his swan song a defiant ring on a dreary day last October. "The Aryan Nations is not dead!" the 83-year-old founder of the neo-Nazi group intoned through a bullhorn, leading a procession through Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, that consisted of some two dozen followers.
"Communist Jews have not won the war, they've just won a battle!"
Throughout the day's affairs, the senior citizen of the white supremacist movement was flanked by a rather crude character some 40 years his junior.
August Kreis III — aggressive, hot-tempered, and unmistakable with his large frame, flowing red mane and yellow-tinted spectacles — had made the trip from Pennsylvania with his family.
During the parade, Kreis and his young daughters rode with Butler in a white convertible, and Kreis remained at Butler's side for the luncheon and somber ordination that followed.
He was there, ostensibly, to support Butler, who had just lost the civil suit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of two people terrorized by Aryan Nations security guards. But Kreis was also staking a claim.
A longstanding exponent of the violently racist Christian Identity theology, Kreis has run a kind of Identity ministry and sometimes militia. He also now operates a web site in the name of the Posse Comitatus, an Identity-cum-tax protest group that essentially went defunct in the 1980s.
Today, with Aryan Nations very possibly headed for oblivion — the neo-Nazi group's Idaho compound was due to be sold in February as part of court action to satisfy Butler's debts — Kreis wants to help fill the vacuum. He is one of several potential claimants the movement leadership role long played by Richard Butler.
Appealing to the old constituency of Aryan Nations — a group that he only joined last summer as the civil suit inched toward trial — Kreis has vowed to defend the remnants of the organization against its many enemies. But he seems more interested in building up his own power base than in restoring Butler's strength in the Pacific Northwest.
"The Aryan Nations will never die as it is foretold in biblical prophecy," he wrote on his web site not long ago. "Soon there will be a place such as Aryan Nations church grounds here on the east coast. The place will be here at 'The LastOutpost' [sic] in God's Country, Potter County Pennsylvania! The parasitic jews will NEVER defeat us, for there will always be those that do not fall prey to their brainwashing of the masses."
'Puffing Smoke' in Ulysses
Kreis' "Last Outpost" is a plot of scrub-land outside Ulysses, Pa., outfitted with a shooting range, a carpentry shop and three trailers: his home, his office, and a guest house.
Kreis reportedly sells wooden wares as well as some edible goods, although for years — antigovernment sentiments aside — a steady cash flow has come from the welfare office (wife Karley has been the recipient as of late).
Posse Comitatus is Latin for "power of the county," and Kreis believes his own Potter County is a perfect place to spread his message. Adelphia Cable Company, headquartered in the area, has expanded rapidly in recent years, drawing substantial numbers of American minorities and Asians from abroad (see 'Blood on the Border').
Kreis claims that the anger is palpable among many people in this historically white farming area — both long-time residents and those who came to the area to escape racial diversity in urban areas.
"[W]ith the racial makeup of the Coudersport area changing as it is," Kreis wrote in a recent letter to the local Potter Leader-Enterprise newspaper, "there are a great number of disgruntled people now locally that do not like at all what they are seeing! It will not be hard at all to convince them of what is transpiring, why and who is behind it."
Local pastor Doug Orbaker says he has observed some "low-level hostility" toward the newcomers among local white residents. "There is a feeling of, 'I'm not as comfortable in my town, these people are different,'" he says. "For some, it's a scary experience."
Still, Orbaker says Kreis represents "the extreme, the far end of the backlash" against the demographic changes occurring.
"He puffs a lot of smoke, and tries to get a lot of people excited and worried about him," adds Joe Wolf, another local pastor. "Truth be told, he's hardly got any following around here."