Hundreds Gather in Bozeman, MT to Protest Hate
A broad coalition of religious denominations, veteran organizations, Montana State University student groups, and members of Bozeman’s LGBTQ community rallied to send the message to a Kansas-based hate group that their message of hate is not only unwelcome, but outnumbered.
An estimated attendance of 800 people was reported by organizer Jamie Greer of Greater Gallatin Valley for Equality. The majority of people congregated at an ACLU-sponsored Rally For Inclusion, removed from the protest site. The remainder gathered at Bozeman High School, where the three members of the Westboro Baptist Church hate group were picketing.
This is not the first time Bozeman has rallied against hate. According to Beth Shalom Rabbi Ed Stafman, a group of Neo-Nazis organized a rally in Bozeman five years ago, and were met with approximately 1,000 protesters.
Speaking at the rally, First Baptist Church and Bridger Community Ministries pastor Jay Smith assured the crowd that few Baptists and few Christians identify with the WBC. “I'm not that kind of Baptist. I believe that faith, hope and love will save the world,” Smith said.
Unitarian Rev. Nina Grey added, “We're standing on the side of LGBT, immigrants and whatever comes up that needs to be stood up for,” Grey said.
Many Faiths Rally Against Anti-Semitic Signage; FBI joins investigation
In Algoma, WI, wooden signs with anti-Semitic verbiage were found planted in the lawn of a Jewish resident. Additional signs were also found in other parts of town, with threatening messages such as “Kill the Jews” and “Jews Get Out.”
Elana Kahn-Oren of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation says that just because the signs were planted on private property, it is still a wake up call for all of Algoma. She pointed out that no matter what group is targeted, the community has a responsibility to stand up and defend its citizens against hate.
Sixty church communities have signed an open letter in protest of the crime in Algora, three hours north of Milwaukee. “As representatives of a variety of faith traditions, we stand together in affirming the dignity of every human as the Divine spark in each of us. We recognize the value of our differences in creating a strong and inclusive community. We call on all of our fellow Wisconsinites to stand with us in condemning the evil of hatred,” they wrote.
Underscoring the seriousness of the crime, the FBI has joined the Algoma police to investigate the incident as a hate crime. The Anti-Defamation League has also offered a $1,500 award for information leading to the persons responsible.
Duo Admits Guilt In 2008 Hate Arson
The FBI has indicted two people charged with violating the civil rights of a black family in Independence, MO. Victoria A. Cheek-Herrera and Logan J. Smith have pled guilty to one count of conspiring to threaten and intimidate the family because of their race and one count of a civil rights violation for committing a racially-motivated arson.
In June 2008, Cheek-Herrera Smith inscribed swastikas and “white power” on the driveway of the couple’s home, before torching the residence with a Molotov cocktail.
The case was investigated by the FBI, and is being tried by the U.S. Department of Justice. If convicted, Cheek-Herrera and Smith face up to 10 years for indictments of conspiracy against rights and interference with housing rights.
“Today’s guilty plea exemplifies the FBI’s continued long term commitment to aggressively pursue justice for those who are victims of racially motivated crimes,” said Brian A. Truchon, Special Agent in Charge of the Kansas City Division of the FBI.