Until last week, the small Montana town of Whitefish (population 6,357, as of 2010) was known, if known at all, as home to a ski resort. Now, though, it is the focus of news reports about a planned white supremacist, pointedly anti-Jewish march, the “James Earl Ray Day Extravaganza,” to be held on Jan. 16, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and named for King’s assassin.
The online publication The Daily Stormer, which proudly takes its name from the vile Holocaust-era Nazi tabloid Der Stürmer, issued, beneath a photograph of Adolph Hitler, a call to “Take Action” against Jewish people in Whitefish (the number of which is unknown). The publication is run by a man by the name of Andrew Anglin, and he suggested to his followers that since Montana has “extremely liberal open carry laws,” they can “easily march through the center of the town carrying high-powered rifles.”
That statement was probably intended more to intimidate than as an actual, if veiled, threat, as the local police can put any number of restrictions, including on loaded weapons, on any march permit it issues. But the attempt itself to terrorize Whitefish residents is noteworthy, and scorn-worthy.
The reason Anglin has organized a harassment campaign against Jews in Whitefish is because a building owned by the mother of Richard Spencer, an “alt-right” leader who famously elicited Nazi salutes from his followers at a rally several months ago (later dismissing that response as only being in a spirit of “exuberance and irony”) had been the site of protests over her son’s views.
When the mother accused a local Jewish realtor connected to a human rights organization of harassing her, Anglin responded by publishing photos of the realtor, her young son and her husband on his website, along with the contact information of area businesses that support her efforts. The photos were affixed with yellow “Jude” stars like the ones Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany, and readers were urged to harass them and Jews in general, who Anglin described as a “vicious, evil race of hate-filled psychopaths” and “a people without shame.”
Anglin claims he has representatives from the United Kingdom, Sweden, and France heading to the march, and that someone from the Palestinian terror group Hamas “will give a speech about the international threat of the Jews.”
The march, it seems, may not happen. Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial said that “there’s a pretty good chance it’s just rhetoric.”
And if it does, the Montana Human Rights Network has a plan ready to turn the sour, indeed rancid, lemon into sweet lemonade — in fact, the group calls its plan “Project Lemonade” — by encouraging donations to “things [the marchers] detest,” tied to the number of minutes the march lasts.
The donated money would go to a Human Rights Network-managed fund, which would distribute it to Jewish institutions, security for threatened locals, educational events on the danger of white supremacy and community training on how to handle hate incidents.
The human-rights group’s reaction mirrors that of Montana’s elected officials, the mayor of Whitefish, the local Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and religious leaders from across the state, all of whom loudly decried Anglin’s declared plans.
There is something to glean from that reaction to the announcement of the rally, as well as from the announcement itself.
The strong and principled rejections of the planned march are evidence of the fact that America embodies so much that is good and decent, that the tenets of equality, freedom and protection of minorities, that lie at our nation’s roots, are alive and well.
But what brought forth those principled rejections of racism and hatred is something real too.
It is all too easy to imagine, amid the good will we routinely see around us, that the rot of mindless animosity toward Jews and others has been arrested, and that there are no longer any Americans who hate people for no reason other than their ethnicity or religion. But, as Mr. Anglin and his odious supporters demonstrate, such ugliness persists too.
For us Jews, that fact should serve as a reminder that, despite all the wonderful gifts and privileges that come along with being Americans, we remain in galus, and only the arrival of Moshiach can and will put a true end to the animosity that we have suffered, whether openly and blatantly, or subtly and hidden, for millennia.