UPDATE: Early on the morning of September 11, organizers of the events announced that Richard Mack will not be appearing at the rally in person due to injuries sustained in an accident. Instead, organizers announced Mack was planning to record remarks that will be played at the Saturday rally.

The militia movement and other self-styled “patriot” groups have played a significant role in stoking and mobilizing anger against preventative measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. These forces are bringing events to Helena this Friday and Saturday to ratchet up attacks on public health. Using the misnomer “Patriot Days,” the events planned include:

  • Protesting in front of the Lewis and Clark County Health Department

  • Forcing their way into a football game at Vigilante Stadium

  • Holding events on the lawn of the State Capitol

  • Screening a film at Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church.

As if this wasn’t troubling enough, a Saturday rally at Memorial Park features Richard Mack, a former county sheriff in Arizona and a hero to the militia movement since the 1990s. Mack became a rising star in the militia movement when he sued the federal government over the Brady Bill, a gun control measure. He began speaking on the militia circuit in the early 1990s and never stopped.

In Arizona, Mack was elected Graham County Sheriff in 1992. His lawsuit against the Brady Bill was consolidated with a similar one by a sheriff in Montana, Ravalli County Sheriff Jay Printz, who has also been listed as a speaker for this weekend’s events. The US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the sheriffs, saying it was unconstitutional for Congress to compel local law enforcement to conduct background checks on potential gun buyers. However, Mack’s lawsuit and speaking time on the “patriot” circuit became central issues during his 1996 re-election bid, and he failed to make it out of the primary. Catering to the militia crowd ended his career in law enforcement.
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