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.   

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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. 

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Banners, Stickers, and Flyers Broadcast Racist Messages

The research team at the Montana Human Rights Network actively monitors the plans and actions of White Lives Matter (WLM) supporters. When actionable information is uncovered, we coordinate with law enforcement and alert leaders and folks in the Jewish, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ communities to ensure that affected communities are aware of their activities. We had very reliable information ahead of the WLM protest in Helena over the weekend, but we decided not to issue a public statement, as we didn’t want to inadvertently provide them with free advertising. We know how violent extremists try to manipulate media coverage to their advantage. Now that their “Day of Action” is over, we are eager to provide accurate information and context regarding WLM, their dangerous ideology, and presence throughout Montana.


On Saturday, December 18, a small group of about 10 white nationalists held signs and banners at an intersection near Costco in Helena. These Montana members of the national neo-Nazi group called White Lives Matter were participating in the national group’s “Day of Action.” Formed by established white nationalists, WLM is designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. While the Montana chapter has only 15-20 activists, its activity has increased recently, and WLM supporters encourage like-minded extremists to move to Montana.
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It came as no surprise that Rep. Derek Skees published a guest opinion that tried to cast himself as the victim after legislators and community members rallied to hold him accountable for his attack on Montana’s esteemed constitution. You don’t need a legal degree to understand why Skees’ recent statements are dangerous and misleading, but it’s important to speak plainly about why people should be alarmed. It’s too easy to get drawn into unrelated issues that Skees tossed around in his op-ed.

  • When Skees took his oath of office, he literally pledged to uphold the constitution. It’s a fundamental requirement of his duties as a state legislator. If he doesn’t believe in that oath or the state’s guiding document, then his district should be served by someone who does. We cannot allow legislators who refuse to uphold the state or U.S. constitutions to serve.

  • When an editorial by Lee Newspapers suggested that Skees should be “forcibly removed” from office, it’s clear that they were referring to an orderly legislative process to end his time as an elected official since he will not voluntarily resign.


It is tempting to laugh off Skees’ actions or dismiss his flippant statement as a fringe idea. However, he and other extremists are working to set the stage for a GOP supermajority in the 2023 Montana Legislature. Their attempts to attack people’s basic rights keep failing in the courts due to Montana’s robust and balanced constitution, and their response is to amass political power that could allow them to “throw out” (Skees’ own words) Montana’s constitution altogether.
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We are LGBTQ+ community members from all over Montana who heard Senator Manzella’s statement justifying violence against us. It was loud, it was clear, and it took place at an event where other speakers were spreading harmful misinformation about LGBTQ+ Montanans. We know that these kinds of statements increase discrimination and violence toward us. Manzella’s backpedaling and excuses are a clear attempt to avoid accountability.

To our fellow LGBTQ+ community members, we see you, and we’re going to keep fighting to make sure Montana is a place where you are accepted and treasured. It is unacceptable for you to have to endure hostility from elected public servants.

Allies, this is your time to act. Legislators need to hear from you. Senator Manzella’s actions are harmful and dangerous, and we need more people telling elected officials exactly that. Manzella is one of several legislators who supported anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the Montana Legislature this year, and we are depending on you to speak up to counter their misinformation.


Click here to find your legislators and get their contact information, then click here to see how they voted on HB 112, HB 113, HB 427, and SB 215. Please tell them that anti-LGBTQ+ statements and legislation aren’t welcome in Montana.


Shawn Reagor
Equality Montana Program Director

Equality Montana is a program of the Montana Human Rights Network.  To learn more, visit https://www.facebook.com/EqualityMT/ or email Shawn at shawn@mhrn.org.

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Jordan Hall Wants You to Pay His Legal Bills 


This fall, the extremist pastor Jordan Hall from Sidney, Montana, has made a huge show of touring local towns around Montana to claim he’s standing up for “God, County, and Family.” His real mission is to get other people to pay for his legal defense in lawsuits brought against him for his heinous attacks on LGBTQ+ people and their allies.
 
 
His strategy is conniving and cruel. Through posts on his extremist blog, the Montana Daily Gazette, and in-person interactions, he is targeting people in the LGBTQ+ community, specifically trans folks, as they are going about their daily lives. Then he finds a reason to verbally attack them or print misinformation about them. When people use their legal rights to protect themselves from Hall’s abuse, he lawyers up, tries to hide behind the First Amendment, and then begs for money to cover the lawsuits that he provoked.  
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Dear MHRN Supporter, 


The past year has been one of 
hard-won victories and heartbreaking setbacks. The 2021 legislative session proved to be one of the most challenging sessions on record, with unprecedented and relentless attacks on the rights and freedoms of our friends, neighbors, and loved ones. Extremist activity galvanized by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought violent, anti-science protests to school boards, health boards, and local governments across the state. 


The Montana Human Rights Network’s mission of 
Challenging Bigotry and Discrimination for Community, Equality and Justice has never been more important than right now. Your support is the keystone to making that mission a reality on-the-ground in Montana. With you on our side, bigotry and extremism will never go unchallenged. We are grateful to all of our supporters who help us keep that promise by rising to every challenge. As the year comes to a close, will you consider an extra year-end gift to help us begin 2022 energized and resourced for whatever may come next? 


On January 6
th of this year, white nationalists stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in a brazen attack on our democracy. With some of our own Montana elected officials still applauding and normalizing that attack, the Montana Human Rights Network remains laser focused on the threat white nationalism presents to our communities and local governments. The Montana Human Rights Network’s Combating White Nationalism and Defending Democracy staff tracks the explosive growth of militia groups across the state and ensures communities facing extremist activity are never left to fight alone.  


Meanwhile, Our Equality Montana program continues to defend against anti-LGBTQ+ attacks, advocate for policies that increase LGBTQ+ protections, and through the Montana Gender Alliance ensures LGBTQ+ Montanans always know where they can go for support, friendship, and community. While the challenges are undeniable, the Montana Human Rights Network continues to believe that joy is an essential tool of resistance. 
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The extremist blog the Montana Daily Gazette has made a business out of publishing misinformation, harmful stereotypes, and hostile attacks. Given their typical posts, it’s not surprising that they fell for a fake story about immigrants.

A story they published early this month uses a badly Photoshopped flyer featuring an altered MHRN logo along with a fabricated story about a Montanan receiving the flyer in Tijuana. (See image below so you don’t have to visit their blog.)

Nothing about this story passes even the most basic fact checking. It is deeply troubling that Gazette bloggers not only believed this story but tried to pass it off as credible material to their readers.

MHRN firmly believes that migration is a human right, and people who want to come to the United States for safety and opportunity should be able to do so. We are always looking for ways to make sure that Latinx people feel accepted and welcome in Montana.

We respect the difficult journey people make to arrive in this country. MHRN would only communicate with Spanish-speaking people using material created by someone who speaks the language. Dr. Angelina González-Aller, Executive Director of MHRN and a native Spanish speaker, translated the flyer.


Come to the beautiful Bozeman, Momtana [sic]

JOBS ACCOMMODATIONS NEW LIFE LIVE WITH ALL THE BENEFITS OF CITIZENSHIP

Beginning today your new life. Bozeman needs your help to make that our community great again.

YOU DO NOT NEED PAPERS! JUST ARRIVED.

“I would never allow such an inaccurate and poorly translated document to be distributed by the Montana Human Rights Network,” says Dr. González-Aller.

This piece is so obviously fake that it might seem funny, but MHRN takes these kinds of posts very seriously. It is terrible to see Montanans use their platform to hook readers with racist stereotypes and then reinforce them with with fabricated stories that advance xenophobic rhetoric and racism.

Our years of experience combatting extremism in Montana has taught us that the real problems in Montana are right-wing extremism, which we see manifested in white nationalism, antisemitism, homophobia, bigotry, and other dangerous ideologies. The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have issued warnings about this rising danger, and it is alarming to see blogs like Montana Daily Gazette normalize it.

Help us defeat extremism in Montana. You can click here to make a donation to MHRN, or you can give to one of these amazing organizations that supports immigrants and Latinx Montanans.

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The Montana Human Rights Network Board of Directors has hired Dr. Angelina L. González-Aller as its new Executive Director.  

 

Angelina is a researcher, educator, organizer, and seasoned non-profit professional. She has an extensive background in public policy and years of experience as a research and policy analyst at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico.  An experienced community organizer. Angelina is a longstanding trainer with the Montana Racial Equity Project and a cofounder of Earthtone Outside MT, an organization dedicated to elevating the visibility of Montana’s diverse outdoor enthusiasts.  

 

“I am humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to build a safer and just future for everyone who calls Montana home,” said González-Aller. “Montana has a growing consciousness that recognizes inequities are fracturing our state.  I’m eager to work with the Network to make sure Montana is a place free of hate where everyone has an opportunity to thrive.”  

 

In 2018, Angelina completed a PhD in political science, specializing in racial and ethnic studies, health disparities, and U.S. policymaking. Born and raised in New Mexico, Angelina moved to Bozeman in 2017, and enjoys hiking, biking, climbing, and many other outdoor adventures around Montana.  Most recently she was the program manager of the Center for Large Landscape Conservation’s Community Resilience Program where she worked to help communities prepare for a changing climate and achieve community-directed conservation goals.   

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Conspiracy Fest Names Enemies, Alludes to Civil War  

 

“We’ve gone to war before,” Hamilton’s Trish Roberts told a reporter for Lee Newspapers at the Red Pill Festival. “I don’t fear a civil war, but I feel it’s a very real possibility.” 

 

It wasn’t surprising to hear a Red Pill attendee make such a statement. Instead, it confirmed that Roberts absorbed the messages she heard from the speakers’ podium during the 10-hour conspiracy fest held in St. Regis on Saturday, July 24, 2021. Somewhere between 150-200 people and vendors came to the event, which featured right-wing extremist speakers from Montana, Idaho, and Washington.  Attendees came from the same states, with many Montana license plates originating from the Bitterroot and Flathead Valleys.  

 

Red Pill participants heard the COVID pandemic was a hoax, that the federal government is illegitimate, and that various provocateurs (socialists, communists, Democrats, etc.) are destroying the country. While references to civil war were couched as a last resort, it was clear that revolution was on the table. Montana state Rep. Derek Skees (R-Kalispell), acting as the event’s emcee, repeatedly reminded the crowd that speakers weren’t trying to incite violence. His sarcastic delivery, however, brought to mind the Shakespearian quote that Skees and attendees “doth protest too much.” Skees also repeatedly ridiculed specific mainstream media reporters in attendance. 

 

The level of animosity and the “us versus them” mentality built throughout the day. The early speakers discussed how their conservative Christian beliefs called them to public service. By the end of the event, speakers were claiming states could overrule the federal government and replace it with what they view as a God-ordained republic of sovereign states. The speakers combined many tenets of the anti-government movement with Christian Nationalism. It’s no wonder that Trish Roberts and other attendees left with the idea that a war with their perceived enemies in God’s name was imminent.  

 

Despite the extremist nature of the event, Republicans were more than happy to attend. In addition to Skees, the lineup of speakers included Montana state Senators Theresa Manzella (R-Hamilton) and Bob Brown (R-Thompson Falls); Idaho state Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard); and former Montana state Rep. Rick Jore (R-Ronan). Republican groups and central committees from Mineral, Missoula, and Ravalli Counties had booths at the event. The GOP presence and participation demonstrates what MHRN refers to as “margins to the mainstream,” the process by which extremist ideas end up making their way into regular political discourse. Having these elected officials on the program helped legitimize and normalize the fearmongering and conspiracies promoted at the Red Pill Festival.  

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