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Flathead Valley Groups Look To Check White Supremacy In Kalispell

A paper menorah distributed in Whitefish by Love Lives Here during Hanukkah In 2016.
Nicky Ouellet
Montana Public Radio
A paper menorah distributed in Whitefish by Love Lives Here during Hanukkah In 2016.

After a rash of white supremacist activity in the Flathead Valley this fall, a community organization wants to create a coordinated response with the City of Kalispell and other stakeholders. The request for a new communication network is similar to one set up in Whitefish following a 2016 internet trolling campaign by white supremacists.

Flathead Valley-based Love Lives Here went before the Kalispell City Council this week to propose the creation of an informal communication network aimed at responding to white supremacist activity.

Cherlyn DeVries with Love Lives Here spoke during the meeting.

"It helps to present a united front and tamp down rumors, and present accurate information to the public," DeVries said.

The idea is that the network of community organizers, city officials, police and other community stakeholders can systematically decide how to respond to white supremacist activity, whether that’s coordinating the clean-up of racist graffiti or issuing a unified public response.

The request was sparked after a community monument was spray-painted with a swastika for the second time in recent months, as well as other white supremacist activity like pamflet drops. DeVries says a similar response network in Whitefish has allowed the community to push back against white supremacist groups attempting to move into town.

"And it’s worked really well. Sometimes we do things under the radar and quietly, and other times we decide no, it’s going to be much better if we have a public comment or a public presence," Devries says.

The Whitefish network was created in 2016 when the publisher of a neo-Nazi website encouraged its readers to start an internet trolling campaign attacking Jewish people in town.

DeVries says creating a similar network in Kalispell will help push out hate groups hoping to find followers. Her call for collaboration with the city during the council meeting Monday night was echoed by a few members of the local Jewish community, including Rabbi Francine Roston.

"I’m not sure if you know this, but the Jewish community does not feel safe meeting for worship or celebrations without hiring armed security guards. Every service or holiday party, every gathering requires prayer books and armed guards," Roston said.

Kalsipell’s city manager Doug Russell told MTPR that city officials met with the local group after this week’s council meeting will continue discussions about working together.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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