On Tuesday, Montana’s top political officials released a statement “[condemning] attacks on our religious freedom” by “a group of anti-Semites.” “We stand firmly together to send a clear message that ignorance, hatred and threats of violence are unacceptable and have no place in the town of Whitefish, or in any other community in Montana or across this nation,” read an open letter signed by Democratic senator Jon Tester, Republican senator Steve Daines, Republican representative (and Donald Trump’s secretary of the Interior nominee) Ryan Zinke, Democratic governor Steve Bullock, and Republican attorney general Tim Fox. “We say to those few who seek to publicize anti-Semitic views that they should find no safe haven here.” The men were responding to plans for an armed neo-Nazi march in Whitefish, a small resort town whose Jewish residents have recently been harassed and threatened by white supremacists.
Whitefish is home to Rand and Sherry Spencer, whose extremely racist, heiling son Richard has become the face of the alt-right movement. (Richard lives in the area part-time.) Two weeks ago, Sherry claimed that local activists had pressured her to publicly disavow her son’s beliefs and sell a building she owns in downtown Whitefish, with some of the proceeds from the sale going to Love Lives Here, an affiliate of the Montana Human Rights Network. (The Spencers have since said that while they “deeply love” Richard, they “unequivocally do not agree with [his] extreme positions.”) Neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer picked up the story, instructing its readers to “troll” the “Jews targeting Richard Spencer’s mother for harassment and extortion.” The site also posted the names, photos, and contact information of three Jewish women involved with Love Lives Here, as well as information about some of their family members. Since then, the women and people associated with them have been inundated with hate-filled message and death threats, with the harassment spreading to Whitefish business owners and city council members.
Meanwhile, according to Missoulian, the Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin wrote:
“For the next phase of our plan … we are planning an armed protest in Whitefish. Montana has extremely liberal open carry laws, so my lawyer is telling me we can easily march through the center of the town carrying high-powered rifles.” Anglin estimated he could attract 200 followers from his march, “which will be against Jews, Jewish businesses and everyone who supports either. We will be busing in skinheads from the Bay Area.” As for a date, he said only that the march would be held in the second week in January.
Over the weekend, Anglin suggested that he might cancel the event if various demands were met, including “a promise that any protest actions you take in the future against Richard Spencer will not involve his family members.” He then wrote that he and his followers were “reasonable” people — just a few paragraphs above a digital flier featuring the faces of Jewish Whitefish residents pasted onto a photo of the gates of Auschwitz. Spencer, for his part, claimed that he wasn’t involved in Anglin’s plan, though he said, “I think it’s important to call people out.”