BISMARCK, N.D. — One of the most prominent white separatists in the country is distancing himself from a white supremacist who faces terrorizing charges for allegedly threatening people in a North Dakota town he's trying to turn into an Aryan enclave.
Tom Metzger, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and founder of the White Aryan Resistance, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he has instructed his attorney to return property in Leith that Craig Cobb has deeded to him.
"The way he does business is not the way I do business," said Metzger, who still considers Cobb a friend. "I think people should move into communities as regular people and become part of the community, and not necessarily declare their racist views.
"His view was to come into town like a brass band. I disagreed with that," Metzger said.
Metzger's decision, made before Cobb was arrested over the weekend, is another indication that support for Cobb is waning, said Ryan Lenz, a writer with the Alabama-based civil rights nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center.
"It went from Cobb's plans becoming widely known, the racist right basically exploding around him in support ... now people are talking that he's just a buffoon," Lenz said, referring to posts on some white supremacist Internet forums. Those forums also include messages of support for Cobb.
Cobb, 62, and his friend, 29-year-old Kynan Dutton, are accused of terrorizing people in Leith with guns over the weekend. They said they were patrolling the town because of violence and harassment directed at them, including vandalism to property.
Both have been ordered held without bond on seven felony terrorizing counts, and could face between 10 years and 35 years in prison if convicted on all counts. Prosecutor Todd Schwarz said the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also is investigating.
Cobb, who is wanted in Canada for an alleged hate crime, moved to Leith about 1 ½ years ago. He bought a home and 12 other lots, and began encouraging others with similar views to move there and help him create a voting majority in the community that had 23 residents before he arrived.
He has posted racial signs and white power flags on his property, and deeded some of it to other white power activists, including Metzger and Jeff Schoep, commander of the National Socialist Movement, formerly the American Nazi Party.
Schoep traveled to Leith in late September in support of Cobb. He did not immediately respond to several AP requests for comment Tuesday.
Many people in the quiet, rural Leith area want Cobb gone. The city has been updating ordinances that will force him to upgrade his house, which has no running water or sewer, and will prevent others from living in campers or trailers on land he owns.
Cobb has accused the city of discrimination and said he is pursuing a civil rights complaint. State Labor Commissioner Bonnie Storbakken said the Department of Labor and Human Rights is investigating one complaint he filed against a former employer, but that no other complaints are being actively investigated.
Leith Mayor Ryan Schock said residents hope Cobb's arrest signals the end of what has been a nightmare for the small community.
"There's a big relief now," he said.
Metzger said he thinks authorities have a weak case, but that they'll make Cobb miserable.
"I would suggest to him that he leave that place and leave those people alone," Metzger said.
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