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.

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Rallies are excellent ways to speak up for important issues, but what happens when the rallies are over? 

 

Love Lives Here knows that the work of dismantling discrimination never ends. It organized an online event designed to help people understand the ongoing, essential work that’s necessary to dismantle white supremacy and systemic racism in our communities and ourselves.

 

This edited recording of the webinar includes:

  • A time to hear the names of the people who have been killed recently by police and racial violence.

  • Thoughts from Indigenous community members. 

  • Action items to support local Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people and organizations.  


For this video that’s available to the public, we decided to not include the portion of the webinar containing a presentation by Tobin Miller Shearer. We made this decision due to the harassment Shearer has faced from white nationalists.

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Local Officials Should Denounce Rumors, Reject Armed Activists

Anti-racist activists and concerned communities around the state are protesting in response to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. At the same time, Far Right paramilitaries are spreading rumors to encourage violence against people of color and their supporters. MHRN is sharing the facts behind these rumors and offering two actions that community members can take to help prevent the violence that these activists of the Far Right crave.


Debunking Rumors in Montana


Late Monday, former state Senator Jennifer Fielder set off a firestorm of misinformation regarding anti-racist events in Montana. She posted a note on Facebook warning that “multiple reports from credible witnesses” said a caravan of Antifa members was planning to infiltrate anti-racist protests planned in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, before heading to Missoula. Since this post went live, variations on Fielder’s claims have been shared far and wide in militia and other anti-government Facebook groups. Members of these groups have responded by fantasizing about the chance to shoot Antifa demonstrators.

There were several problems with Fielder’s claim and the agitation it created, but the most important one was this: There was no caravan. MHRN thoroughly researched the situation and was unable to find any solid proof of a caravan, and neither could several law-enforcement sources MHRN contacted. Instead, the claims made by Fielder followed an “Antifa Fantasy” template that is sweeping the country. Both the Associated Press and the Idaho Statesman have published articles debunking the claim. Additionally, the Kalispell Police Department issued a statement yesterday that says it has no information of “any outside groups” planning events in their area. A Montana Public Radio piece quoted the Missoula Police Department making similar statements. 

MHRN is issuing this information because facts matter. MHRN is also concerned that this Antifa Fantasy is being exploited by armed militia groups to divide our communities and intimidate peaceful protesters.

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Many of us have been lucky enough to shelter in place in places we feel safe, but some of us have had to endure unsafe and trying environments with unsupportive families and housemates. LGBTQ+ Montanans are especially at risk for family loss, loss of healthcare access, and are at increased risk of homelessness and unemployment. With this in mind, Equality Montana recently brought a presentation to the public about the “Do’s and Don’ts of Allyship.” This presentation was geared specifically at people who wanted to learn how to be better allies to the LGBTQ+ community.


If you watch the video, you will find and learn some very helpful tips, like: 

 

-What it means to be an ally

-How to best support people coming out, and what that means

-How to best support Trans, Non-Binary, and Two-Spirit folks

-What questions are appropriate and how to ask them

 

The Q&A style lecture was made and presented by the staff of Equality Montana as part of its vision to increase the reach, visibility, and impact of LGBTQ+ organizing and policy work in Montana.

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Our affiliate Love Lives Here noticed that misinformation and conspiracy theories are flying around during COVID-19. In Kalispell, the group sees how false information is eroding trust in public health and medical professionals who are trying to prevent the spread during this pandemic.

Love Lives Here contacted Julie Edwards from Humanities Montana to provide information about how to recognize and react constructively to false information that is all too prevalent today. Here’s what you’ll learn in the video: 

– Understand how emotions drive reactions
– Examine the power of cognitive bias
– Find out how funding drives disinformation and misinformation
– See how clickbait hooks readers

Edwards brings 15 years of experience as a librarian in public and academic libraries. She has an MS in Library & Information Science (University of Illinois, 2005) and has worked, published, and presented internationally on issues related to librarianship and information. She is passionate about helping individuals think critically, even when – especially when – that’s unfashionable.

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City Governments, Media, and Christian Leaders Counter Recent Antisemitic Fliers Dropped in Three Montana Cities

 

Human Rights Groups Shame Local GOP Officials for Using Antisemitic Symbol in Fundraising

 

While three Montana communities recently awoke to find neighborhoods papered with conspiratorial antisemitic literature, there has been an impressive and robust response from city governments, media, and Christian leaders to support the Jewish community and denounce the hateful acts. The swift and clear messages countering the acts of antisemitism are even more remarkable given the current challenges for governments, churches, and community organizations during the public health crisis due to COVID-19.


At the same time these community responses have been taking place, human rights groups continue to voice concern about the increased mainstreaming of antisemitism. A recent example includes Gallatin County Republicans using a common antisemitic trope in a recent fundraising letter.

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A couple of weeks ago, the Montana Human Rights Network posted an article about how anti-government activists in the Flathead were organizing against public health efforts by the City of Kalispell to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Our local affiliate, Loves Lives Here, provides this update about the situation.

COVID-19 has dominated the news in the Flathead Valley, and it’s kicked up a strain of extremism, too. The situation in the Flathead Valley is a little complicated, so buckle up for this post — and rest assured that we’re watching everything carefully.


TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

Here’s an overview for those of you who don’t need every detail. In early April, Dr. Annie Bukacek released a video of misinformation about COVID-19 that she’s using to promote anti-government talking points taken straight from dangerous “patriot” extremists like Ammon Bundy. Since then, we’ve discovered that she’s connected with a group of local anti-government activists who are threatening local officials and trying to get businesses to defy public health directives from the state and county.

Along the way, we were reminded that the Flathead County Commission appointed Bukacek to the City-County Health Board late last year without allowing for a public comment period. In spite of community objections to her recent actions, the commissioners are (so far) refusing to make this topic an agenda item for future meetings. If that’s all the information you need, here’s what you can do about this situation.

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Anti-Choice Doctor Undermines Public Health in Kalispell


An anti-choice doctor previously investigated for Medicaid fraud is leading the charge against public health in Kalispell. Dr. Annie Bukacek is already well known to the Far Right in Montana, and she is now trying to gain attention by criticizing public health advice designed to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bukacek’s history includes discriminatory views about LGBTQ+ people, opposition to church-state separation in public schools, taking anti-vaccine positions, and her bizarre tactic of using tiny plastic fetus replicas during her efforts opposing women’s reproductive health access in Montana.

 

Earlier this week, the Kalispell City Council followed most other Montana localities and declared a state of emergency due to COIVD-19. This action allowed the city to access emergency funding and gain more flexibility in responding to the pandemic. It also allowed the city to enforce the Governor’s shelter-in-place policy to help contain the spread of COVID-19. This action is designed to preserve public health. However, anti-government talking points and misinformation quickly escalated, claiming such precautions attacked constitutional rights. Annie Bukacek has been the ringleader opposing the city council’s action.
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Organizations and individuals across Montana collaborate to reduce racism and bigotry and increase empathy, compassion and understanding as COVID-19 advances




UPDATE:


Social and racial justice experts and organizations across Montana have came together for a 90-minute webinar to demonstrate how they are providing constructive community responses in light of the global pandemic. This session equipped Montanans with historical context as well as inform them of the prevailing social and racial justice issues the state is facing and the initiatives that have been created in response.

Partnering organizations:
Montana Human Rights Network
Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council
Montana Racial Equity Project
Missoula Urban Indian Health Center
Missoula’s IDEA
EmpowerMT

Speakers
Tina Has The Eagle, Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council
Ivan MacDonald, Urban Indian Health Center
Meshayla Cox, Montana Racial Equity Project
Rachel Carroll Rivas, Montana Human Rights Network
Tobin Shearer, Director of African American Studies and Associate professor of History
Vasu Sojitra, Earthtone Outside MT and Athlete Activist
Jamar Galbreath, Missoula’s IDEA , EmpowerMT
Alex Kim, Missoula’s IDEA, EmpowerMT

Co Hosts: Alex Kim Jamar Galbreath

Format: Each organization and Individual spoke about Racial and Social Justice issues across the state.

ORIGINAL POST:

As we are all dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, social and racial justice organizations across the state have come together to create a 90-minute webinar from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, April 3, 2020. The webinar will feature a series of 10-minute presentations that will inform and equip Montanans with current and historical information about key social and racial justice issues and initiatives.

Representatives from the groups below will be discussing specific issues that are arising and the ways these organizations and professionals are providing constructive community responses.
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Human Rights Network Issues Report on Kirk, Turning Point USA

 

Charlie Kirk, the founder and leader of Turning Point USA (TPUSA), is scheduled to speak at an event for the Flathead County Republican Central Committee this weekend. Since Kirk has made a career out of spreading misinformation, the Montana Human Rights Network (MHRN) is issuing a report examining the divisive beliefs of Kirk and TPUSA, including staffers like Candace Owens and campus chapters around the country.


Titled Charlie Kirk and Turning Point USA: Bringing a Minor League Version of White Nationalism to Montana, MHRN’s report is one of the most comprehensive reviews of  TPUSA activity to date. It details how Kirk and TPUSA have built their reputations by organizing conservative students on campus, targeting faculty, and funneling money into campus elections. It also delves into TPUSA’s constant problems when it comes to white nationalism and its staffers making racist and anti-Semitic statements.  

 

“Our reference to ‘minor league’ in no way means Kirk and TPUSA should be underestimated,” says MHRN’s Travis McAdam. “Instead, it refers to TPUSA functioning as a minor league program for white nationalism. Hardcore white nationalists view TPUSA as prime recruiting ground where students are introduced to racist concepts and then can be moved up to more militant ranks.”

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