Spokane NAACP leader V. Anne Smith
NAACP National President Benjamin Todd Jealous travels to Spokane this Sunday, April 3, to march with local civil rights activists against the attempted bombing of a Martin Luther King holiday parade last January.
Facing prosecution in the case is Kevin Harpham, 36, is in the Spokane County Jail without bail with a trial date set for May 31. He has pleaded not guilty.
Regional NAACP members say they called the march in part to commemorate the 43rd anniversary of King's assassination, which falls on April 4.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has said that Kevin Harpham made more than 1,000 postings on an Internet site used by racists called the Vanguard News Network. The SPLC has also said that Harpham belonged to a neo-Nazi group called the National Alliance.
Spokane NAACP leader V. Anne Smith said several groups in the town have held forums this spring trying to come to grips with the incident.
"I think it's a wake up call when we're worrying about terrorists when we have individuals like this coming in and trying to destroy a community," she said. "I'm thinking about the babies that were strapped to their fathers' backs and the mothers with strollers who were walking in the parade that day, and the power of this bomb that was right where they were passing by. What kind of a person could hate like that?"
She said the Sunday forum will include speakers on a range of issues such as failures such as educational inequality, health care and the courts system.
Still, local activists have praised the FBI and police department's work in defusing the bomb – which was discovered by sanitation workers – and arresting the suspect.
The incident has changed the community in Spokane, she said.
"Overall it was devastating, there were various forms of trying to address this violence, and many meetings trying to deal with the hate," Smith says.
NAACP members held a forum in February that concluded residents needed to "send a message to those who would dare target individuals," she said.
"You can't stop hate but you can let them know that they will not destroy your community."
Harpham, who has extensive ties to white supremacist groups, made yes and no answers during his brief court appearance last week in which he was indicted by a grand jury on charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and unauthorized possession of an unregistered explosive device.
Federal prosecutors have sealed nearly all the information in what authorities have termed a case of attempted domestic terrorism, a decision Harpham's lawyer called "somewhat unusual."
Harpham is an Army veteran who lives near Addy, 50 miles north of Spokane.
The bomb was found the morning of the parade on Jan. 17 and disabled before it could explode. No one was injured.
Harpham's father, Cecil, has told reporters his son was with him the morning the bomb was found, and could not have planted the device. Peven said he has met with the father but could not disclose the contents of the conversation.
The father has said his son talked to racists on the Internet regularly, but never acted on racial hate.
Kevin Harpham served from 1996 to 1999 in the U.S. Army at what is now Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Wash.
He owns 10 acres of land north of Addy in rural Stevens County, a few miles south of his father's home. Property records show he bought the land in 1997 and built a small house in 2007. His lawyers have said Harpham is not married and had not been recently employed.
The Spokane NAACP's website is under construction but they have a Facebook page and a special event invitation to the Sunday march also on Facebook. Email the group at [email protected]