Event Seeks to Stoke Anger at Pandemic Prevention
The upcoming “Rage Against the State” events feature a combination of Bundy Family supporters, candidates running on the Montana Libertarian Party ticket, and fundamentalist Christians. Described as a “three-day tent revival,” this anti-democratic roadshow will be staged in Livingston, Belgrade, and Whitehall on consecutive days between July 3-5, 2020. Promotional materials allude to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the events are organized by people who are “united in our rage” at the “men who would rule us rather than serves us.” While organizers mention taxes and the size of government as issues they care about, the Montana Human Rights Network believes the point of the “Rage” events is creating and harnessing anger over the public health measures taken to slow the spread of the virus, while also targeting the officials making those decisions. The “Rage” speakers (see profiles below) are a tight-knit group with pre-existing relationships.
Four of the “Rage” speakers have direct connections to the notorious Bundy Family which garnered national news by engaging in armed standoffs with the federal government in both Nevada and Oregon. The family has become a favorite of the anti-government “patriot” movement and has supporters in Montana. As the Bundys look for their next opportunity to orchestrate a standoff, family members have spoken or appeared in Montana a handful of times in recent years.
Three “Rage” speakers are current Libertarian candidates for office. While some Libertarians embrace social issues close to the political Left, the Montana Libertarian Party has historically attracted “patriot” activists and others who think the Montana Republican Party isn’t conservative enough when it comes to issues like guns, taxes, and government regulations. The three “Rage” speakers running for office exemplify these Far Right, anti-democratic views.
The “Rage” events help illustrate how militias and other “patriot” groups seek to capitalize on the COVID-19 pandemic. When states implemented shelter-in-place orders earlier this year to slow the spread of the virus, militia activists used it as a recruiting opportunity. COVID-19 led to fear in communities, which made people susceptible to misinformation spread by militia groups. As shelter-in-place and other public health orders continued, some folks grew angry at the government for having to stay home, keep a business closed, or other prevention measures. This anger and fear eventually manifested itself as the lockdown rallies held in Montana and across the country. Militias didn’t always organize the rallies, but they strategically showed up at them. The rallies were perfect recruitment opportunities, as they featured crowds of scared and angry conservatives protesting the government. “Rage Against the State” is trying to both create and tap into that type of anti-democratic fervor.