The prospect of racist violence from a neo-Nazi skinhead rally here had worried law enforcement officials for months.
But when they finally arrived this past weekend, the tough-talking youths with shaved heads turned out to have a bark worse than their bite.The 30 to 40 skinheads who gathered at the compound of white supremacist Richard Butler were outnumbered 2-to-1 by police and more than 10-to-1 by anti-racist marchers.
Officials averted confrontations by keeping the skinheads and demonstrators apart, and the only arrest came Sunday when a skinhead was charged with driving with a suspended license.
Butler seized upon the arrest as an example of "religious and racial harassment" of his followers and threatened to sue police and press people.
The mostly teenage skinheads, who said they were from Canada and the West Coast, stayed on the wooded, 20-acre compound for most of the three-day meeting, which included a cross-burning and lectures by Ku Klux Klansmen.
Sunday, the skinheads attended an Aryan Nations church service on the compound while about 20 anti-racism demonstrators held their own service near a police command post a half-mile away.
Saturday night, observers at the command post saw torches flickering through the trees during the cross-burning. Shouts of "Hail Victory!" and the strains of German martial music floated through the still night air.
Earlier Saturday, about 500 anti-racist demonstrators from around the Pacific Northwest marched seven miles down a highway near the compound.
They rallied in a field two miles from Butler's compound, carrying banners proclaiming "Friends Come In All Colors" and "Northwest Nazi Homeland? Never!"
"They are not just going to go away if we ignore them," said Spencer Hamm, a black man from Spokane, Wash., who found an 8-foot cross burning in his yard last August. "We have to march. We have to oppose them at every turn."
Attendance at both the conference and counterdemonstration was much lower than predicted.