White-supremacist takeover plot startles tiny North Dakota town

Craig Cobb stands in an empty lot he owns on Main Street in Leith, N.D. Cobb wrote on a white supremacist message board that "we could declare a Mexican illegal invaders and Israeli Mossad/IDF spies no-go zone."
(Kevin Cederstrom / Associated Press)

Life isn’t always sleepy in rural North Dakota.

The tiny town of Leith -- which had 16 residents as of the 2010 census -- got a rude awakening last week when it was revealed that a newcomer in town was plotting a takeover to make Leith a white-supremacist haven.

Paul Craig Cobb, 61, had moved to town about a year ago and made an announcement in May 2012 about his plans for a “White Nationalist intentional community in North Dakota.”

“Been waiting quite a few months to spring this. Now is the time,” Cobb said on a white-supremacist message board, in which he said he hoped for a town in which supremacist speakers would come visit and new residents would “always (24 hrs a day) fly at least one racialist banner,” such as a Nazi flag.


“I want people to move now and quietly get going here without letting the cat out of the bag,” Cobb added.

Well, the cat’s out of the bag.

After a Southern Poverty Law Center researcher tracked Cobb to Leith and published a report last week that Cobb had purchased more than a dozen lots of land in the area, the town government of Leith is now considering whether to self-destruct so that Cobb can’t take control.

The Associated Press reported that, in addition to considering codes and ordinances to crack down on Cobb’s rundown property, officials were considering whether to dissolve the local government and hand over power to the county to prevent a political takeover.

“He would still own his property,” Ryan Schock, a 38-year-old farmer and mayor of Leith, told the Associated Press. “But ... he can’t control the city if there’s no city government.”

In his message-board post, Cobb urged new residents to register and vote in local elections, which, with 16 residents, would not make a takeover difficult.

“Imagine strolling over to your neighbors to discuss world politics with nearly all like-minded volk. Imagine the international publicity and usefulness to our cause!” Cobb wrote. “For starters, we could declare a Mexican illegal invaders and Israeli Mossad/IDF spies no-go zone. If leftist journalists or antis come and try to make trouble, they just might break one of our local ordinances and would have to be arrested by our town constable. See?”

One of Cobb’s current neighbors is black and said the news had already affected him. “I’m more aware of who I speak to, and if I stop speaking to people, they already took something from me,” Bobby Harper, 52, told the Bismarck Tribune, adding, “They can have that ugly stuff in their mind as long as they’re not bringing it toward me.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s examination of property records, Cobb had sold two pieces of property to other known white-supremacists for $1, and two men had recently moved into tents on one of Cobb’s properties.

Cobb is currently wanted in Canada for “willful promotion of hatred” for allegedly promoting hate material online while in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2010, according to the SPLC.


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