Gradually, Montana became home to the highest concentration of hate groups in the nation. In the Flathead — which includes Kalispell (more industrial, more sprawling, population 22,000), Whitefish (a quaint grid of a resort town, population 7,000), and Columbia Falls (a former timber town, now filling with those priced out of Whitefish, population 5,000) — they mostly keep to themselves. Sometimes there’ll be a piece of Nazi propaganda slipped between pairs of expensive jeans in clothing boutiques; other times there’ll be flyers for “A Nature-Based, Race-Centered Religion for White People” folded in children’s books at the local bookstore. “Every place in town has a story like that,” one business owner told me.
But some things can’t be ignored. Like in 2010, when April Gaede — better known as the “Nazi stage mom” to twin girl group Prussian Blue and a member of Pioneer Little Europe, an organization of whites-only intentional communities — began showing Holocaust denial films at the Whitefish library. Or this past December, when a neo-Nazi site, the Daily Stormer, launched a campaign to troll local Jews as revenge for perceived attacks on the mother of “academic racist” (and Whitefish resident) Richard Spencer.
Trump did not explicitly align himself with white nationalism, yet Spencer, along with other neo-Nazis and hate group leaders, aligned themselves with him, hailing his presidency as the long-awaited turn from multiculturalism and political correctness. “I think if Trump wins we could really legitimately say that he was associated directly with us, with the ‘R’ word [racist], with all sorts of things,” Spencer told Mother Jones in October. “People will have to recognize us.”
Like nearly all of Montana, Flathead County voted overwhelmingly for Trump (65% of 46,250 votes cast). White nationalist Taylor Rose lost the race for the Montana House of Representatives’ 3rd District, located just a few miles from the Flathead County line, by just six points. Against the backdrop of a reported spike in hate crime reports across the nation, a clip of Spencer giving a Nazi salute and declaring “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” at an alt-right conference in DC in November went viral.
A week after the Love Not Hate rally, several dozen people gathered at the Outlaw Inn in Kalispell for a film screening hosted by ACT for America — one of the very groups that Love Not Hate wishes to counter. ACT for America was founded in 2007 to, in its own words, “promote national security and defeat terrorism.” In practice, this means lobbying for anti-Sharia legislation, fighting immigration and refugee resettlement, and spreading the idea that Islam is a hateful ideology — not necessarily a religion, or subject to protection under the Constitution.