- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Politicians in Montana pushed back Tuesday against an anti-Semitic “armed march” being organized in the small town of Whitefish next month by a neo-Nazi website.

A bipartisan group of the state’s leading officials published an open letter Tuesday condemning the “ignorance, hatred and threats of violence” that erupted after The Daily Stormer website announced its intent to hold the rally “against Jews, Jewish businesses and everyone who supports either.”

“We say to those few who seek to publicize anti-Semitic views that they shall find no safe haven here,” reads an excerpt from the letter published online Tuesday and attributed to five of Montana’s top politicians, including Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, and state Attorney General Tim Fox, a Republican.

“We offer our full support to the Jewish community, Montana families, businesses, faith organizations and law enforcement officers as they ensure the security of all our communities,” their letter said. “We will address these threats directly and forcefully, putting our political differences aside to stand up for what’s right. That’s the Montana way, and the American way.”

Plans for an armed march on the small Montana town of roughly 6,000 were announced earlier this month after local activists set their sights on Richard Spencer, a part-time Whitefish resident who is widely regarded as the creator of the term “alt-right” and currently chairs the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think-tank known for espousing neo-Nazi views.

Tanya Gersh, a local realtor, allegedly contacted Mrs. Spencer’s mother recently and urged her sell a mixed-use building she maintains in downtown Whitefish or else be subjected to protests related to her son’s politics.

“Richard does not own the building, nor has he ever used it for his writing or publishing. Put simply, the building has nothing to do with politics — and it has everything to do with tourism and local businesses,” reads a Dec. 13 blog post attributed to Sherry Spencer.

“Whatever you think about my son’s ideas — they are, after all, ideas — in what moral universe is it right for the ‘sins’ of the son to be visited upon the mother?”

The post prompted the editor of the Daily Stormer to issue a call for action earlier this month that was rekindled in a subsequent update published last Friday, two days before Christmas.

“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,” wrote the website’s editor, Andrew Anglin, who also claimed the Daily Stormer “will be busing in skinheads from the Bay Area” to attend next month’s march.

Weeks earlier, the Whitefish City Council passed a resolution distancing itself from the views of Mr. Spencer and his followers. In the wake of The Daily Stormer’s latest threat, however, officials in the statehouse have signaled their own opposition to supports who intend to rally in his defense.

“Rest assured, any demonstration or threat of intimidation against any Montanan’s religious liberty will not be tolerated. It takes all Montanans working together to eradicate religious intolerance,” continued Tuesday’s letter, which was also co-signed by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, both Republicans.

The Whitefish Police Department is aware of the march being planned and intends to release an update on the situation later Tuesday, Detective Shane Erickson told CBS News’ Great Falls affiliate.

Independent attempts to contact law enforcement were not immediately successful.

Additionally, a Whitefish woman told local media Tuesday that she intends to hold a “Love Not Hate” block party in the coming days to act as a preemptive counter-protest to the purported march.

“I would like it to be a unifying event of bringing people together and also very uplifting in helping people realize that so many of us do accept others for their differences, and do show love toward our fellow citizens who may come from a different race, different sexual orientation, different religion, and that this is a place where people can feel safe and welcome,” event organizer Jessica Laferriere told Missoula’s CBS News affiliate.

Mr. Anglin, meanwhile, has signaled his website may avoid holding a rally altogether. On Monday he said the Daily Stormer will nix plans for the event if local activists apologize for their actions and agree to stop targeting Mr. Spencer’s family members, the CBS affiliate reported.

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