The North Dakota town that thwarted a neo-Nazi takeover By Jude Sheerin http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25646954 Neo-Nazi Craig Cobb (centre) apparently imagined Leith would accept the order. He was wrong. Bobby Harper remembers thinking there was something strange about his new neighbour in the tiny rural community of Leith, North Dakota, when they first met. It was a warm dusk in autumn 2012 on the sleepy town's main road, a gravel path that curls away through wheat fields to the vast Great Plains sky. "He said, 'hey, do you have any land for sale?'" recalls Harper, the town's sole black resident. "And I said, 'no'. "He wouldn't quite turn around, so I could see his face and I thought that was kind of strange." Little did Harper or any other resident suspect, but the newcomer was Craig Cobb, a notorious neo-Nazi. He had been quietly snapping up homes in the town since April that year, with the intention of turning it into a white separatists' enclave called Cobbsville. For the barely 20 inhabitants of Leith, it was the beginning of a nightmare that is still not over. Cobb, the son of a multi-millionaire businessman, was fleeing allegations of inciting hatred in Canada when he made his way over the border into North Dakota early in 2012. The 62-year-old's plans for Leith were exposed in August last year by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organisation. It published a report detailing his acquisition of about a dozen cheap plots of land in the town, which lies 50 miles (80km) south-west of the state capital, Bismarck. Harper's wife, Sherrill, a 59-year-old homemaker, says: "I felt this was surreal. Leith, this little, teensy town. This man had these big plans to take it over. "And because I was a white woman married to an African-American man, they wouldn't want us here." After his scheme was exposed, Cobb began flying Nazi flags from his ramshackle, two-storey home. In a part of the country where many people are of German and Russian ancestry, the swastika is something residents neither want to forget, nor especially be reminded of. Cobb, meanwhile, began handing out property deeds to some of the American far-right's most prominent figures, urging them to settle in Leith and help him seize a voting majority. In September, Sherrill Harper received a letter which urged her to join Cobb's movement. It said: "What are you doing 'married' to a Negro?" Later that month, a small group of members of the National Socialist Movement, formerly the American Nazi Party, travelled to Leith at Cobb's invitation to stage a far-right jamboree. They were greatly outnumbered by counter-demonstrators, many from the nearby Indian reservation.