November 16, 2020 — The city of Leith, North Dakota, breathed a small sigh of relief on this date in 2013 when two white supremacists with designs on the town were taken into custody. Craig Cobb and Kynan Dutton, two neo-Nazis, had patrolled the town with a shotgun and rifle that Saturday, leading to several 911 calls from Leith residents. The men were taken to the Mercer County Jail in Stanton.

Cobb’s arrest was one nail in the coffin of his plan to turn Leith into a community of like-minded individuals by taking over the city government with a majority of votes. His scheme went so far as to invite other white nationalists to move to the town of 24. While such an in-migration did not occur, several of Cobb’s acquaintances did acquire properties in Leith, such as the old meat locker and creamery.

Cobb himself moved to Leith in the spring of 2012. He purchased a house and 12 lots for under $9,000. It was over a year later that the other residents of the town realized what he was up to. Protests and ugly encounters followed, leading up to Cobb’s armed patrol and November arrest.

Kynan Dutton, the other man arrested, had moved to Leith with his wife and five children in October. Dutton, a self-described “skinhead,” became unpopular with Leith residents for his disruptions at town meetings.

The Leith city council combated Cobb’s attempted takeover by requiring working water and sewer in occupied homes. They also approved a law preventing tents and campers from staying more than 10 consecutive days on a city lot. The council also reworked century-old zoning and planning ordinances and imposed a building moratorium.

The arrests marked the beginning of the end of Cobb’s effort in Leith. He and Dutton accepted plea agreements to charges of felony terrorizing, with Cobb to serve four years probation and wear a GPS monitoring device.

“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast, or buy the Dakota Datebook book at shopprairiepublic.org.

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