The town of Antler, North Dakota, has turned to crowdfunding in order to prevent a white supremacist from buying up vacant lots in the town and creating a planned, whites-only enclave within the community, the Grand Forks Herald is reporting.
Antler lies on the wind-swept plains of northwestern North Dakota, a short hop from the Canadian border. With an official population of 27 (as of the 2010 census), the town is hundreds of miles from anywhere. The nearest major international airport is in Winnipeg, four-and-a-half hours (and an international border crossing) away.
Antler’s entire annual operating budget is $20,000, according to Good Magazine, and that money — and then some — is completely gone. The reason: the town dipped into its coffers to buy up vacant lots, in order to keep a white supremacist from buying them and creating a whites-only enclave in the town.
Two years ago, white supremacist Craig Cobb arrived outside of Antler, and started eyeing empty lots in the town. Everyone in North Dakota who had heard of Craig Cobb knew what he was up to: in 2012, Cobb had set his sights on another North Dakota town, Leith (about 225 miles south of Antler), with a view toward building a whites-only community there, according to ABC News.
For upwards of a year, residents of Leith were “terrorized” by Cobb. As radical white supremacist hate group National Socialist Movement took up his cause, heated confrontations among armed protesters and counter-protesters started happening in the once-peaceful community. Cobb took to “patrolling” the streets of the North Dakota town, armed with a shotgun.
Leith Mayor Ryan Schock described that time period.
“Just about for a whole year, we wouldn’t let our kids out of our sight … because we never knew who was coming and going in the town. We finally sat down and we had a discussion with our kids and just to try to figure this out … we thank God every day that we’re still alive.”
Eventually, the law caught up to Cobb. He and an accomplice were arrested and charged with a list of crimes, including menacing and terrorizing his neighbors. Ultimately, Cobb took a plea deal and pleaded guilty to to one felony count of terrorizing. He was sentenced to four years probation — and he skipped town immediately, headed for another North Dakota town: Antler.
Antler took a different approach to Cobb: rather than face the prospect of armed violence like Leith, Antler Mayor Bruce Hanson — with the “full support” of the residents of Antler — dipped into the town’s coffers to buy up all the vacant property in town before Cobb could buy it.
The plan worked, but it left the town completely broke. The land the town bought cost $35,000, plus $7,000 in closing costs, over twice the town’s annual budget. The town also anticipates another $5,000 in legal fees.
To offset the cost, Antler has taken an unusual step to make up its budget shortfall: crowdfunding. A GoFundMe account, entitled “Antler, ND Preservation Fund,” has been set up, with a goal toward raising $50,000 “to pay for legal expenses and property, tear down neglected buildings and make general improvements to the city.”
And while Antler has successfully gotten rid of Craig Cobb, the white supremacist most likely has his eyes on other small Great Plains towns, always working toward his goal of building a whites-only town, says Schock.
“Cobb poses a threat every day and Cobb will pose a threat every day until he’s no longer in existence.”
As of this post, Antler’s crowdfunding project has raised just under $9,000, with donations coming in from as far away as Scotland.
[Image courtesy of: Shutterstock/Dmitry Kaminsky]