A town council member in the tiny North Dakota community of Leith has set up a legal defense fund to fight a proposed takeover of the tiny town by a white supremacist group that has been quietly buying up property for more than a year, The Bismarck Tribune reports.
Councilman Lee Cook says Leith, with a population of 16 located 51 miles southwest of Bismarck, was targeted by 61-year-old Craig Cobb as the site of a white supremacist community that would buy enough land to take over local government.
The Tribune, in a series of articles by reporter Lauren Donovan, says county records show that Cobb has been buying up largely vacant property from absentee owner, for a few hundred dollars per lot.
The Tribune reports that Jeff Schoep, from Detroit, who is leader of the National Socialist Movement, has rented space at city hall for a town hall meeting on Sunday.
The newspaper describes Cobb, a self-described white supremacist, as a "man wanted in Canada for hate crimes" because of 2010 federal charges for allegedly promoting hate material online while in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Grant County records show that Cobb, who has purchased 13 lots, has since transferred ownership of two lots: one to Tom Metzger, a former grand dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in California, which founded the White Aryan Resistance, and another to Alex Linder, originator of the Vanguard News Network, a white supremacist website, according to the civil rights group Southern Poverty Law Center.
Hatewatch, which tracks extremist groups for the SPLC, says Cobb announced his plans for Leith last year on the online forum Vanguard News Network.
Cobb said he has "been waiting quite a few months to spring this." He boasted the advantages of the town, including cheap utilities and "a surfeit of very good paying jobs in two different cities within normal commutable distances."
The Tribune says the posting also urged like-minded people "to move now and quietly get going here without letting the cat out of the bag."
The newspaper says Cobb has rebuffed its repeated attempts for an interview but told workers at the Grant County Courthouse that he planned to rename the town "Cobbsville."
The AP quotes Cobb as saying he hopes to build a park and maybe a swimming pool dedicated to a neo-Nazi or white supremacist activist. "They would have to be approved by the town council, of course," Cobb told the news agency.
Cook, the councilman, says he has not received any support from county or state officials for his attempts to block Cobb.
For his part, Cook says one group, called UnityND, has formed to fight the proposed takeover, and that he has established a website to try to rally the town.
"We cannot accept this racist hatred they are bringing here. Leith is in a crisis and is crying out for help," Kelly said. "We need to show the Nazis that they are absolutely not wanted there."
The AP says the town council, caught by surprise, is considering whether to dissolve and turn over power to the county to prevent a political takeover by the white supremacists.
"He (Cobb) would still own his property," Ryan Schock, a 38-year-old farmer and mayor of Leith, told the AP. "But … he can't control the city if there's no city government."