Tristan Scott, Flathead Beacon, November 18, 2014
Local residents turned out in droves Monday night at the Whitefish City Council meeting to decry a white separatist think-tank’s local residency and voice support for an anti-hate ordinance barring such groups from assembling in the community.
The grassroots demonstration was organized by Love Lives Here, a Flathead Valley affiliate of the Montana Human Rights Network, and comes on the heels of renewed publicity for the National Policy Institute, whose president, Richard B. Spencer, set up headquarters in Whitefish several years ago after moving from Washington, D.C.
The not-for-profit group bills itself as “an independent think-tank and publishing firm dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of European people in the United States and around the world,” and Spencer advocates “a White Ethno-State on the American continent.”
In the wake of the renewed publicity, dozens of Whitefish residents banded together and packed the council chambers Monday night, urging council members to enact an ordinance barring hate-group activities in the community.
Organized by civil rights activist and local Rabbi Allen Secher, and his wife, Ina Albert, the residents offered emotional testimony in an effort to “pass a no-hate ordinance so that hate organizations cannot do business in our town,” Albert said.
More than two dozen residents voiced their support for such an ordinance. They were local builders, business owners, former council members, mayoral candidates, attorneys, pastors, mental health professionals and community advocates.
Many in attendance spoke of their Jewish faith, including Hilary Shaw, executive director of the Abbie Shelter, whose grandfather is a Holocaust survivor.
“My grandfather taught me that diversity makes us more beautiful. I do not want Richard Spencer to conduct National Policy Institute business freely in our town,” she said. “I am here to ask you to stop he and others who share those beliefs from doing business in our town.”
At the end of the hour-long public testimony period, Whitefish Mayor John Muhlfeld explained the procedural steps the council would have to take to consider such a measure, including advertising a hearing, receiving a planning board recommendation, and holding two council hearings for public comment.
“We will respond decisively, and I think we have multiple tools in our toolbox to consider this,” he said.
Similar anti-hate or anti-discrimination ordinances have been passed in other local communities, though infringing on First Amendment rights is an issue.