Human Rights Network statement on armed militias at anti-racist protests in Montana
Montana Human Rights Network
The Montana Human Rights Network is seriously concerned about the increased risk for violence by armed paramilitary militia activists who are showing up at otherwise peaceful protests in Montana and other rural communities, especially across the West.
The nation, including Montana, is having a serious and challenging conversation about institutional racism, but paramilitaries are not the answer to police violence, because they are not accountable to elected officials and community members.
The Montana Human Rights Network has documented threats, intimidation, and harassment by militia activists at racial justice protests around the state. Paramilitary militia activists are manipulating and controlling people’s right to assembly and speak using the threat of violence with firearms. These paramilitary militia activists were not asked by law enforcement or racial justice protesters to provide an armed presence.
These militia mobs are using these events as training and recruitment opportunities. In these situations, the threat of violence they are creating is real. If one person gets offended, and they have their finger on the trigger -- or a car backfires nearby -- dangerous situations could erupt quickly.
“Inclusive democracy doesn’t happen at the barrel of a gun,” said Rachel Carroll Rivas, co-director at the Network. “Our local and state leaders need to publicly reject the presence of armed paramilitaries at peaceful anti-racist protests held in their communities.”
The Network has been monitoring hate activity in the state for over two decades. Tracking of hate activity is part of the Network’s efforts to better understand what is happening on the ground in Montana and offer a response and alternative that focuses on our common humanity and human rights.
The public can report militia activity and other discriminatory activity at www.mhrn.org/reportingform.