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Groups Tied to Armed Standoffs Hold MT Rallies

Groups across the country have rallied against stay-at-home orders by channeling their frustrations at public officials. (paulacobleigh/Adobe Stock)
Groups across the country have rallied against stay-at-home orders by channeling their frustrations at public officials. (paulacobleigh/Adobe Stock)
July 3, 2020

HELENA, Mont. -- Militia groups are combining people's fear of the novel coronavirus and the Fourth of July weekend to recruit followers in Montana.

Travis McAdam, research director with the Montana Human Rights Network, says groups with ties to white nationalism saw an opportunity when towns across the state cancelled Independence Day events because of the pandemic.

He says these groups are pitching their "Rage Against the State" tour across Montana as family-friendly, patriotic events - but the speakers at these events aren't generally considered civic-minded leaders.

"They're coming from the perspective that armed confrontation with the government is good," says McAdam. "Creating militias to sort of harass and intimidate public officials that are trying to deal with spread of COVID-19 virus is also beneficial."

The events are taking place today through Sunday in Belgrade, Livingston and Whitehall. The rallies are part of a wider movement across the country organizing against stay-at-home orders aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

McAdam says the groups organizing these events have racist roots, specifically to the white nationalist militia movement of the 1990s. He says many of the speakers also have close ties to the Bundy family, which led armed standoffs in Nevada and Oregon.

"We don't think that there's value at all to helping the Bundy family and its supporters have the next standoff be in Montana," says McAdam.

According to McAdam, these groups act like they have wide community support, but he says that isn't the case. He thinks their critics should speak up.

"It's important for the majority of the community to just talk about how they view their community, what they want for their community, and how these events don't do anything to aid in really building community," says McAdam.

He adds that community sign-on statements are a safer response than counter-protesting, given the threat of COVID-19.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT