A few weeks ago, the leader of a literal neo-Nazi group, the National Socialist Movement (NSM), announced on social media that he was planning to hold an event in Missoula. Rumors grew, and it became clear that the community needed support and a plan.
We are relieved to report that despite all of the hype, only three NSM members participated in the event. They stood in front of Southgate Mall on Saturday, June 18, for about an hour. After livestreaming and recording their paltry turnout, they disappeared after rain and hail dumped down on them. This weak showing is evidence that, while white nationalist groups have an online following, they typically have limited in-person support. It’s clear that Missoula’s refusal to engage with them prevented a larger turnout, so we are grateful that people avoided them.
On the same day across the state in Livingston, White Lives Matter supporters in Montana also gathered and had a very small turnout. That low attendance level is similar to other racist honk-and-waves events the group has conducted recently.
Now that this threat is past, it’s a good time to talk about the best ways to Nazi-proof local communities. Here’s what we know and what we learned from these incidents.
PRIDE DAY OF ACTION: JUNE 30, 2022
Defend the right of Montanans to have accurate personal documents
In late May, Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) issued an emergency rule that would prevent transgender and nonbinary people from revising gender marker changes. You can read MHRN’s original statement here.
Tragically, DPHHS has responded to calls from LGBTQ+ community members and allies to overturn this rule and reject gender marker changes with an attempt to make the emergency rule permanent. After receiving calls and emails detailing how harmful and hateful the emergency rule is, DPPHS chose not to listen to the majority of public statements made at the 2021 Legislative Session. Instead, they have doubled down on cruelty. This vicious attack on transgender Montanans must be stopped.
Unlike the emergency rule, a permanent rule includes opportunity for public comment. Our best chance of defeating this harmful policy is to turn out in LARGE AND LOUD NUMBERS on June 30th during public comment.
How to give comment:
There are two ways to give public comment. The first is to attend the hearing online via Zoom and give spoken or written comment. If you are able to tune into the hearing, we STRONGLY request that you make a public comment. Please do more than listen in. More comments equal more support for the rights of trans, nonbinary, and Two Spirit Montanans.
If you are unable to attend the hearing, that’s ok! You can submit written comments by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on July 8th.
The Montana Human Rights Network extends our congratulations to Adrian Jawort and Upper Seven Law for winning their lawsuit against Sidney pastor Jordan Hall, who published false accusations against Jawort during the 2021 Montana Legislative Session.
Hall published dangerous, false statements in his extremist blog, the Montana Daily Gazette, and then went on a speaking tour across Montana to repeat those claims and beg for donations to his blog and his legal fees. Jawort received harassment and threats after Hall’s anti-LGBTQ+ campaign, and some of that continues today. In addition to the false statements, Hall has repeatedly and intentionally misgendered Ms. Jawort. We applaud Adrian’s strength and resilience through this challenging process.
MHRN has been following this case and Hall’s malicious statements for months. We are relieved that he is being held accountable for his untrue, unsubstantiated statements that have caused harm to Jawort and other members of the LGBTQ+ community. We commend Jawort for her courage and hope that others will speak out against malicious rumors that harm Montanans who already face discrimination.
Jawort is the Political Director of Indigenous Transilience.
Late yesterday, news broke that the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) responded to an ongoing lawsuit regarding gender markers on identifying documents with a worst-case scenario. DPHHS issued an emergency rule that stops all gender marker changes. According to the emergency rule, “The court’s decision leaves this department in an ambiguous and uncertain situation. The court’s preliminary injunction means that, pending final resolution of the litigation, the department’s Office of Vital Records (OVR) cannot accept and process birth certificate sex designation amendment applications….”
The logic for this emergency rule defies the authority of a court injunction and boils down to a calculated political attack on some of Montana’s most marginalized citizens. It’s hard to imagine any other reason for this decision other than DPHHS seizing an opportunity to cruelly punish transgender Montanans for being who they are. It appears that DPHHS is attempting to create a loophole in the legal process in order to defy court orders and cause fear, despair, and anxiety.
The evidence is clear: restricting gender marker changes is extremely harmful. In a study published last month researchers found that that transgender and nonbinary youth with IDs that match their gender identity were 11 percent less likely to report a recent suicide attempt compared to those who were not able to change their gender marker on official documents. Suicide rates among transgender youth are among the highest in the nation. The findings from this study indicate that altering the way a person’s gender is reflected on legal documents is an effective way to protect the health and wellbeing of transgender youth.
The news that the U.S. Supreme Court is positioned to overturn Roe v. Wade has left people across the country riddled with fear that their access to safe, effective reproductive care will end. The Montana Human Rights Network believes strongly in an individual’s right to the medical care they need and privacy during that process. All people deserve to be able to consult medical professionals, not partisan politicians, to make the best healthcare choices for themselves and their families. Whether that is the need to terminate a pregnancy or receive gender-affirming care, everyone deserves to make the decision about what is right for themselves.
The decision of when and if to become a parent is one of the most important many of us will make in our lives. For decades, far-right groups and politicians have tried to demonize people who seek abortion care, eliminate access to healthcare providers, and restrict and outright ban reproductive care. Make no mistake, this is a well-coordinated, well-financed radical takeover of the country by a fringe minority. However, the court of public opinion is firmly in favor of freedom of choice for pregnant people. More than 70% of Americans are in favor of protecting an individual’s right to make their own healthcare decisions.
Montana is no exception. In the most recent legislative session, MHRN and other allied organizations fought against a tidal wave of anti-choice bills, three of which were passed but are currently being challenged in court. Another bill, which prohibits abortion coverage in health insurance plans offered through the Montana Exchange, has already gone into effect. These policies are the newest efforts to roll back established precedent and enact government-mandated pregnancy. Montana has a longstanding tradition in protecting an individual’s right to privacy. For over two decades, Montana’s courts have upheld that the right to abortion access is protected under the state constitution’s right to privacy. Despite this legal precedent, anti-choice legislators have worked overtime to roll back these essential protections and limit access to abortion. Another anti-abortion bill, HB 167, was passed in 2021, and will appear on the November Ballot as the ‘Born Alive’ referendum.
What Would CI-121 Do?
Every corner of the 406 is feeling the pressure of rising housing costs and property taxes. Instead of making housing more affordable for hardworking people, partisan operatives created a tax giveaway called CI-121 to benefit themselves and their million-dollar property owning friends.
CI-121 is a ballot initiative that unfairly penalizes first-time homebuyers, seniors trying to downsize, and ranchers, without making housing more affordable for the average Montanan. It will also slash funding for schools, libraries, and other crucial services, damaging the high quality of life Montana is known for. CI-121 would radically alter the Montana Constitution, making it harder to change the Montana tax code in response to Montana residents’ needs. If CI-121 makes it into the Constitution, it would be almost impossible to remove it, which would saddle generations of Montanans with a harmful one-size-fits-all tax policy.
How Will This Impact the LGBTQ+ Community?
People who endure discrimination often suffer the most from bad legislation, and CI-121 is no exception. This proposal redirects the responsibility of property taxes from those who can most afford it, like those who own an expensive home or multiple homes, and shifts it to those who are struggling to make ends meet, like first-time homebuyers.
Butte’s Ron McVan worked with David Lane, a white nationalist and domestic terrorist, to create a racist version of Odinism called “Wotanism” or “Wotansvolk.” While spreading his sham religion around the world, McVan has focused on trying to recruit incarcerated people as new followers. His history in the white nationalist movement shows he is drawn to its most violent sectors, and he’s worked closely with notorious racist leaders.
Kelly Chambers lives in Butte, works at the Montana State Prison, and is a loyal disciple of McVan. Over the last few years, Chambers has hosted events bringing racist neo-pagans and McVan acolytes to town. He’s currently supporting efforts to hold a festival for racist Odinists in the Butte area in August 2022. Chambers records music with McVan, helps McVan with home improvement projects, relays messages for McVan on social media, and, most troubling, has dedicated himself to following McVan’s white nationalist religion.
Because of this, the Montana Human Rights Network has asked the Montana Department of Corrections to investigate whether Chambers’ white nationalist beliefs impact his job performance and interactions with incarcerated people at the Montana State Prison. A comprehensive report about Chambers and McVan follows. Content Warning: The report contains offensive material from white nationalist sources.
Each time we celebrate the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, we have the chance to do more than remember. We have the opportunity to take action that makes real and lasting changes in our communities.
This year, the Montana Human Rights Network has chosen not to organize an in-person event due to public health concerns regarding the omicron variant. Since we cannot be together in person, we encourage you to listen to one of the moving celebrations of Dr. Martin Luther King from our affiliate, Love Lives Here. Click here to access three recordings.
On this day, we also want to honor the wishes of Dr. King’s family. The King family has called on Americans to take action for voting rights, which are under attack in Montana and across the nation. To honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and the wishes of the King family, we have assembled a list of action items that will help you roll up your sleeves to work towards Dr. King’s vision of a Beloved Community.
We may have just turned the page on 2021, but a day of infamy falls early in the new year. January 6 marks one year since right-wing insurrectionists physically attacked the U.S. Capitol in an effort to overthrow our time-honored process of free and fair elections. Criminal charges and jail sentences for the insurrectionists continue to roll out, as does the investigation by a special committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Since the fateful day, January 6 will be remembered as a time when an unthinkable attack on our nation happened right in front of our eyes. It also served as an example of what happens when extremism leaves the shadows and transforms into domestic terrorism, which, in this case, was viewed in real time on screens across the country. January 6 should be a day of thoughtful reflection about how so many people were incited to violence and how we can prevent another dangerous attempt to overthrow a legitimate election. As we consider how to safeguard our nation, extremist groups and leaders continue banging the drum for violent insurrection.
These insurrectionist cheerleaders are planning an event for January 6 in Helena, Montana. The following information from the Montana Human Rights Network (MHRN) will give a clear picture of the extremists and groups organizing the event. MHRN is also calling on Montana’s leaders to publicly condemn this event that is trying to normalize talking points that reject the authority of the federal government.
Extremists Organizing Insurrection Celebration in Helena
In Montana, an extremist blog called The Montana Daily Gazette has joined with violent extremist Ammon Bundy and his so-called People’s Rights network to hold an event at the Montana Capitol on January 6. They claim their event is some sort of prayer vigil to support the people who terrorized police, members of Congress, and Capitol staff as insurrectionists vandalized the U.S. Capitol building. Many members of Congress and their staff are still healing from the trauma of that day and the attempts to ignore the damage done to our nation during this attempted coup. Montanans should recognize that, no matter how organizers describe their event this week, they are celebrating domestic terrorists who literally and physically tried to overthrow the federal government.