Election Results Bring Threats, Angry Rhetoric And Vandalism In Montana
In the wake of Donald Trump’s election last Tuesday, there are numerous reports on the internet of an uptick in election-fueled harassment and intimidation. But's not just the internet, nor just outside of Montana.
Human rights organizations, local police departments and schools here are reporting, or checking out reports, that include pamphlet drops touting Nazi Party ideology, anonymous graffiti bashing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and Facebook posts loaded with vitriol and name-calling.
With all this pent-up anger, pride and fear oozing out of secret chat rooms and into the light of day, we dove into several incidents to see what's true, versus what’s been exaggerated.
Will Randall stood in Depot Park in downtown Kalispell Monday, yards away from the city’s most often used protest site.
"Over the weekend a woman was protesting the election results by herself and she was jumped from behind by three teenage males who took her signs, tore them up and threw them on the ground as they ran away," said Randall.
Randall co-chairs Love Lives Here, a Flathead Valley affiliate of the Montana Human Rights Network. He said after the alleged attack, the woman went back to her car for more signs, while a bystander tried to chase down the boys.
The bystander later called the police, but Wade Rademacher, administrative captain of the Kalispell Police Department, said no official report or complaint was filed. In fact, he said in a voice message that the two officers who showed up believe:
"It was pretty apparent this lady was trying to be as controversial as she can or elicit whatever attention she could."
Rademacher then declined an interview.
"I don’t think this is going to be something we’re going to participate in to further somebody trying to create controversy," Rademacher said.
Randall, with Love Lives Here, acknowledges the signs were upsetting to some people. And the Kalispell police can’t confirm or reject that an attack actually happened.
Since Election Day, Randall’s been wading through stories like this of perceived intimidation in the valley, trying to figure out where and how Love Lives Here can help.
Randall said someone in his organization had their car egged Saturday night.
"If others want to create a bridge that's up to them. we're going to stand up for the members in our community that are feeling threatened and marginalized."
So, no bridge?
"I honestly hope this country can move forward and we can work together again someday," says Randall.
Ron Tjaden, chair of the Lake County Republicans, has similar hopes following an incident of vandalism at his local party headquarters in Polson Friday evening that left the building covered in spray-painted crude drawings, the anarchy symbol and the words "Fuck Trump."
"It was just so off the wall," Tjaden says. "I wasn't about to leave it up any longer than I had to for the public to even be part of that."
Tjaden says the building was no longer even used by the party — the lease expired last Thursday.
"That's why I had all our signage taken down two days after the election, because we don't need to be throwing our weight around that type of thing."
The vandalism was covered up Sunday evening.
In Missoula, fliers citing the American Nazi Party were anonymously dropped on some doorsteps Friday night. A local synagogue requested police protection in response.
In Billings, a new business owner went on a hate-filled and sexist commenting spree on Facebook, igniting a firestorm of pushback and calls for a boycott of a business that does not yet exist.
The University of Montana sent an email to students and staff Monday afternoon about a Facebook post that threatened physical assault on campus targeting a student. The post included references to ethnicity as well as political undertones.
"People are feeling afraid and intimidated, and that's across the board. And that's real. That's real no matter what."
Rivas said the Network has received a few dozen reports of harassment or intimidation since last Tuesday, an increase she attributes to Donald Trump’s election.
"It's more amplified, because behind it, it doesn't have that single graffiti artist, or that single person flipping someone off in their truck, it's that it has the power of the presidency behind it," says Rivas, "and that is what makes people afraid."
Rivas says the Network is more likely to receive these reports than police, though both the Network and police departments encourage people who have information about perceived threats to contact them.