“We run book clubs to support the library,” explains Billy Joe Kraniecki, wearing a wide-brimmed sun hat and a neat white shirt with buttoned cuffs. I’m in my 70’s and full of energy. “We are very quiet and very polite here.”
“They come into our community with their own standards and agendas and are determined to impose it on us,” says Kraniecki. We’re going to carry our guns to our meetings. Let’s carry our guns. We don’t need it. This country doesn’t need it.”
So, under the apple trees in the library garden, are the protesters reading from among the 400 books? “No,” Kranietzki said, clutching a raspy paperback about a dying man of God in an Alaska Native community. “We are reading our favorite books.”
However, they made their feelings clear at the library board meeting. “Things need to change,” one man told the board at a meeting in late August.
And at a conference in July, local real estate agent Donna Capurso said: Capurso is an occasional contributor to her website, Redoubt News. Her website responds to the growth of a group of self-described “God-fearing, freedom-loving patriots” here in northern Idaho.
“American bulwark” is a term coined by a Christian survivalist in 2011. The idea is that Christian patriots should withdraw here from modern America to live their truth and defend themselves. Redoubt is a large piece of land that includes all of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the eastern sliver of Washington and Oregon. The border resembles the all-white mainland border envisioned by the Aryan nation, which for many years had its headquarters about 80 miles south of Bonners Ferry. The Redoubt movement does not support segregation.
“In the last few years there has been a huge influx of people coming to the area to escape the urban environment,” says the well-dressed, gray-haired Darrell Kirby, former mayor of Bonners Ferry. Born and raised. Like most people here, Kirby voted for former President Donald Trump. And I will consider doing so again.
Just outside of town stands a large sign that says “Welcome to Trump Nation” in big bold letters. It also features a small font “Go Badgers” in support of the Bonners Ferry School sports team. Kirby is conservative, but staunchly supportive of the library’s board and their efforts to resist book banners.
“This is not about Trump,” he says. “This extends beyond conservatism, almost to Nazism, where they are trying to impose their ideas and religious concepts on everyone else. It’s not America.”
“What I don’t want to see is my community being torn apart like this,” said Lee, reading a protest book in the dappled light cast by apple trees outside the library. Colson also said.
He is a recently retired forestry worker and a volunteer firefighter for over a quarter century. He has a thick mustache, a big smile, and a very worn baseball cap. He voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton in his 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020. He is also one of his board members on the Library Board currently facing a recall. And he stands up to those who want to ban every book on the long list emailed to libraries in the spring, even if it’s not on the shelves.
“The conflict is that we can’t say we can’t get them,” Colson says. If so, we’ll get those books.That’s our job.”
And what they are doing is following the Constitution. What he’s been through has made Colson more politically conscious and involved, he says. “Come in. Last week I attended a school board meeting that I had never actually been to before.”
Former mayor Kirby, who also served on the city council, agrees that this isn’t just about books. “Obviously not, because they don’t exist. They’re not here. I think it’s about control.”
There are worries under the apple tree. Maybe even angry. But I also hope things go well.
“There’s a group of people who want to change this community and a group of people who want it to stay the same,” says Colson. “I’m a notorious optimist. I think free choice and freedom will win out in the end.”
CNN’s Stephanie Becker contributed to this article.