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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Printable Image Available, Yard Signs Coming

In 2018 a group of community members in Carbon County became concerned about the flying of Confederate flags and the appearance of other symbols of hate in the area. They didn’t want to see Carbon County become, or become known as, an unwelcoming place.

 

The community members turned to the Montana Human Rights Network (MHRN), contacting the organization in 2018, and a collaboration formed. The result was the development and placement of a powerful billboard on Montana Highway 212 near Red Lodge. The billboard proclaimed, “Hate Has No Home in Carbon County” and featured crossed out images of a Confederate Flag and Nazi Swastika, common symbols used by white nationalists.

 

To ensure their safety, local supporters of the billboard chose to remain anonymous. To recognize the important work of MHRN, those local residents also asked MHRN to be listed on the billboard as a sponsoring organization, even though financial support for the billboard came from the community members in Carbon County. The billboard remained for several months and generated a great deal of discussion. While some in the community were offended by the billboard, the vast majority of the feedback from people in Carbon County was positive. Eventually, the group of community members decided the billboard had served its purpose, and it was taken down.

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We’ve noted with concern that local chapters of “People’s Rights” are popping up in communities throughout Montana. We’ve been sounding the alarm that the person behind creating People’s Rights is nonother than Ammon Bundy, a member of the insurrectionist family that orchestrated armed standoffs in both Nevada and Oregon.  

 

Some local activists have argued Bundy has nothing to do with their groups. While it is true that he likely isn’t distributing specific agenda items for their monthly meetings, these local groups fall under Bundy’s national umbrella. In this video, he discusses how he started People’s Rights and continues to fan its flames as the group spreads across the country. 


We don’t think it’s a coincidence that Bundy
 has tried to keep his name from being synonymous with People’s Rights organizing. Ammon and the rest of the Bundy Family have shown that they exploit anger at the local level and contribute to blowing up situations into armed standoffs. His family’s previous infamy has saddled Ammon Bundy with negative political baggage.  

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Recently, the Montana Human Rights Network has posted some videos to social media featuring analysis of the Far Right. We wanted to make sure you didn’t miss them. Make sure to follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss these types of videos in the future!

MHRN Facebook:  “People’s Rights” Seeks to Create Uber-Like Militias
Posted August 12, 2020

Last week we shared a two-part series of articles by the Havre Daily News about a local chapter of Ammon Bundy’s “People’s Rights” group. This video clip features the Montana coordinator for People’s Rights, Nick Ramlow, talking about how the group wants to create an “Uber-like” militia response system that can be mobilized at any time.

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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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Paramilitaries are not the answer to police violence and create risk of violence at protests 

The Montana Human Rights Network is seriously concerned about the increased risk for violence by armed paramilitary militia activists who are showing up at otherwise peaceful protests in Montana and other rural communities, especially across the West.  
 
The nation, including Montana, is having a serious and challenging conversation about institutional racism, but paramilitaries are not the answer to police violence because they are not accountable to elected officials and community members. 

The Montana Human Rights Network has documented threats, intimidation and harassment by militia activists at racial justice protests around the state. Paramilitary militia activists are manipulating and controlling people’s right to assembly and speak using the threat of violence with firearms. These paramilitary militia activists were not asked by law enforcement or racial justice protesters to provide an armed presence. 

These militia mobs are using these events as training and recruitment opportunities. In the situations they are creating the threat of violence is real. If one person gets offended and they have their finger on the trigger – or a car backfires nearby — dangerous situation could erupt quickly.  

Inclusive democracy doesn’t happen at the barrel of a gun. Our local and state leaders need to publicly rejecting the presence of armed paramilitaries at peaceful anti-racist protests held in their communities.” said, Rachel Carroll Rivas, co-director at the Network. 

The Network has been monitoring hate activity in the state for over two decades. Tracking of hate activity is part of the Network’s efforts to better understand what is happening on the ground in Montana and offer a response and alternative that focuses on our common humanity and human rights. 

The public can report militia activity and other
discriminatory activity at  www.mhrn.org/reportingform and a quick button is located at the top of the homepage at www.mhrn.org 

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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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Dear MHRN Friends,
 
We appeal to you today as a dedicated supporter of human rights, who no doubt, like us, are appalled at the recent murder of George Floyd in the wake of a history of anti-black violence. This has come on the heels of the recent disproportionate economic and health impacts on black and brown communities due to the COVID pandemic.
 
The many faces that have made up our logo for 30 years is representative of the Montana we seek, one that is beautiful and thriving in its diversity and equity. Black Lives Matter.
 
For those of you who have been unfairly subjected to the devastating impacts of racism, we are holding you up in each and every action we take.
 
For those of you who have known the pain of discrimination in other forms, maybe as women or members of the LGBTQ community, we are asking you to conjure the empathy that comes with having been told you are less than.
 
For those of you who carry the historical trauma as Jewish people and others who have been, and continue to be, subjected to the ugliness of bigotry, we are asking you to act from that place of understanding.
 
And for those of you who are privileged to only know of these plagues on our communities through books, videos, and the stories of friends and family, we ask you to act and follow the lead of black, brown, indigenous and other people of color. Each of you will play a different role, but let the commitment to those at the center of this struggle permeate every part of your life.
 
Let us not be paralyzed in our effort to be perfect, but let us commit to lean into our values of justice, equity and inclusive democracy.
 
Black Lives Matter.
 
In Solidarity,
Rachel Carroll Rivas
Co-Director, MHRN
 
PS: We ask that you consider supporting our friends at the Montana Racial Equity Project at www.mtrep.org and Indian People’s Action
at www.indianpeoplesaction.org
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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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