PORTLAND — A seemingly run-of-the-mill application for a park permit turned out to be a request to hold a concert and gathering for white supremacists in the Columbia River Gorge town of Cascade Locks, officials said Friday.
"About a month ago we had an individual show up at the Port who wanted to rent a picnic area in a public park for about 200 people, and he indicated they were holding an event for displaced African farmers," said Chuck Daughtry, general manager of the Port of Cascade Locks.
The Port granted the request to Randall Krager, leader of the Volksfront, a Portland-based white supremacist group, before learning who he was earlier this week, Daughtry said.
"On Monday we discovered his group had ties to extremely racist and controversial organizations so we contacted the Hood River sheriff's office and they came back with very disturbing information," Daughtry said.
The Volksfront Web site advertises the event as AryanFest '05, a fund-raiser to benefit "displaced and persecuted South African whites."
Port officials consulted their attorney and their elected commission before deciding the permit could not be denied because of constitutional protections for speech and the right to assemble, he said.
But because of security concerns, Port officials convinced Krager to move the event to an industrial site in Cascade Locks, which lies just above Bonneville Dam.
Several residents said they are angry about the event and worry about the potential for violence.
"The town's going to be overrun by skinheads and tattooed swastika people," Richard Randall told KGW-TV in Portland.
The concert is part of increased activity by the Volksfront and neo-Nazi racists known as "skinheads" for their shaven or close-cropped hair, said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.
"AryanFest has become one of the two major skinhead concerts of the year," Potok said.
The other is staged by the Hammerskins, described by the Anti-Defamation League as "the most violent and best-organized neo-Nazi skinhead group in the United States."
Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler said deputies will be joined by U.S. Forest Service law enforcement agents, the Oregon State Police and American Indian tribal police to handle security during the concert, scheduled from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.
Law enforcement agencies across the Columbia in neighboring Washington state also will be on alert to assist, he said.
"Historically, they don't have problems at these gatherings," Wampler said. "This is a group that beats up people in alleys, and does not make a spectacle of themselves in public."
The event also will feature a speech by Idaho lawyer Edgar Steele, the attorney for Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler, who died bankrupt in 2004 after losing a $6.3 million lawsuit.
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