MHRN Denounces Proposed Legislation as Part of “Antifa Fantasy”
Tells Legislative Committee the Real Threat Comes from the Far Right
The Montana Human Rights Network is criticizing a bill brought by a freshman legislator out of the Flathead. The resolution is based on something like an urban legend promoted by the Far Right. The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on House Joint Resolution 11 on Tuesday, February 16, 2021. HJ 11 seeks to declare Antifa a domestic terrorist organization. MHRN submitted comments to the committee stating the resolution is based on misinformation that the organization has previously dubbed the “Antifa Fantasy,” which is a conspiracy based on claims that Antifa is a violent threat to our communities.
“Antifa has become a ghost story that Far-Right activists tell around the campfire of social media,” says MHRN’s Travis McAdam, Program Director for Combating White Nationalism and Defending Democracy. “These stories routinely make it sound like Antifa is going to attack our communities by land, air, and sea. However, the real threat to our communities comes from the Far Right. The entire country watched that threat become a reality when the mob attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.”
Security and intelligence organizations have not documented any Antifa structure or leadership, and Antifa is more of an idea that is sometimes referenced by activists than an actual organization. In its comments to the committee, MHRN expands on the real dangers posed by the Far Right, citing reports from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI as confirmation. The comments also include numerous media reports on the topic. MHRN encourages the House Judiciary Committee to kill the resolution or amend it to focus on groups with structure and leadership, like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, that are real threats to safety.
“House Judiciary should kill HJ 11 or at least amend it to include threats from the Far Right,” says McAdam. “If they don’t, they should add references to the Headless Horseman and other scary urban legends and folklore. HJ 11 in its current form should be taken just as seriously as those ghost stories.”
MHRN has worked on policy issues regarding human rights at the Montana Legislature for over 30 years. While many extremist ideas have been proposed as bills during that time, MHRN notes that over the decades there has been an increasing number of Far-Right activists that have been elected to the state legislature. The 2021 session has shaped up to feature even more marginal ideas and characters than the 2011 session, which took place during the Tea Party revolution. One challenge MHRN and other advocacy groups have faced this year is that testimony that is critical of activists, movements, or ideas is often limited during committee hearings, where it’s deemed too personal to legislators.
“The line between Far-Right activists and lawmakers has become too blurred, leaving regular Montanans locked out of the seats of power in what is hailed as a citizen legislature,” says Rachel Carroll Rivas, Co-Director of MHRN. “This session we’ve seen testimony limited during bill hearings and other such manifestations of the Far Right’s influence. This happens when the Far Right is able to exert control over democratic processes. Democracy begins to suffocate as authoritarianism and conspiracies shape how policy is considered and made.”
MHRN notes that, in the case of HJ 11, the resolution’s sponsor is an activist trained by the Far Right. Rep. Braxton Mitchell (R-Columbia Falls) cut his political teeth with Turning Point USA, a group known for its allegiance to former President Trump that frequently crosses the line into white nationalism. More information about Turning Point USA and Mitchell’s activism with the group can be found in this MHRN report.
MHRN encourages community members to contact their legislators and tell them to vote NO on HJ 11.
The comments submitted to the House Judiciary Committee by MHRN can be found here: https://mhrn.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/MHRN_Opposes_HJ-11.pdf.