WASHINGTON — Montana’s top elected leaders of both parties issued a strong denunciation Tuesday over a plan by neo-Nazis to conduct an armed march harassing the state’s Jewish community.
“We condemn attacks on our religious freedom manifesting in a group of anti-Semites,” the officials said. “We say to those few who seek to publicize anti-Semitic views that they shall find no safe haven here.”
The statement — signed by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D), US Senators Steve Daines (R) and Jon Tester (D), Rep. Ryan Zinke (R) and Attorney General Tim Fox (R) — is a response to plans to hold the march next month in the town of Whitefish.
Whitefish is the hometown of the leader of the so-called alt-right movement, white nationalist Richard Spencer, who initiated widespread controversy last month when he exclaimed “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” at a Washington, DC conference to cheers from an electrified audience, some of whom responded with Nazi salutes.
Among those who signed the statement, Zinke was recently selected by President-elect Donald Trump to serve as the next secretary of the interior.
Plans for the march first circulated on the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. The announcement was made with a web graphic that included a picture of the entrance to Auschwitz and a yellow Star of David with the word “Jude” printed on it.
The site’s founder, Andrew Anglin, further encouraged his followers to bring guns with them to the demonstration. “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,” he wrote.
The publication also published a blog earlier this month in which the writer called on readers to “take action” against Jews in Whitefish and provided contact information for local Jewish residents. The website claims that Jews were “threatening” a business run by Spencer’s mother.
The Montana officials who signed the statement said that law enforcement would “address these threats directly and forcefully” and that “any demonstration or threat of intimidation against any Montanan’s religious liberty will not be tolerated.”
Offering their “full support to the Jewish community, Montana families, businesses, faith organizations,” the signatories also said they “stood firmly together to send a clear message that ignorance, hatred and threats of violence are unacceptable and have no place in the town of Whitefish, or in any other community in Montana or across this nation.”