The Independent’s cover story this week tells a bittersweet tale from the lake community of Marion, which sits just a few clicks west of Kalispell. Blink and you’ll miss it, but don’t blink twice or you might run afoul of something scarier than jumping out of a plane, especially if your skin contains melanin.
We’re not trying to say Marion is populated with violent white supremacists—it’s actually a pretty mellow little town. But, in the remote corners of the Flathead Valley—or downtown Kalispell on certain parade days—that element definitely exists and makes itself known. The proof is in the very vanilla pudding and what bubbled up from a little disagreement in Marion on July 12.
According to Flathead County Sheriff Mike Meehan, the whole mess began with a confrontation at the Hwy. 2 Bitterroot Quick Stop between some Southeast Asian morel pickers and locals Edward Hubbs, 26, and Dan Devine, 25. Afterwards, police reports allege the pair grabbed a posse and went to the migrants’ campground where they harassed site after site with various weapons, looking to unleash some white-hot rage on the gents they quarreled with earlier. Prosecutors later charged both men with felony malicious intimidation, a hate crime.
Immediately after the arrests, blog traffic raised the very real question of whether racial bias would allow the two—later three—suspected assailants off. Sure as morels after a fire, Hubbs’ lawyer, Lane Bennett, promised an independent investigation on the claim that the migrants picked the fight. According to witnesses from the campground that’s not the case—but who knows, right? *cough*
The attorney’s argument prompted more traffic, this time on the white power blogs, which criticized the hate crime charge. A poster claiming to be April Gaede, mother of the famous Flathead white supremacist teen pop duo Prussian Blue, started threads on several hate forums July 18 saying, “This is great, everyone I talked to today was on the side of the whites!!!!” (Gaede did not respond to the Indy’s requests to verify her identity on the board.) A few forum members responded that it’s actually not so cool that two young white men were being “set up” by the pro-immigrant cabal. Wait… that’s what this is about?
“You can pretty much script how the white supremacist movement is going to react,” says Travis McAdam of the Montana Human Rights Network. “We often see them trying to weasel their way into the immigration debate. For them it’s a ready-made issue.”
For residents of Marion and the greater Flathead politically left of white supremacy, the reaction has been one of embarrassment. Perhaps worse, they say, the attack chased off the migrants, giving certain yokels exactly what they wanted: white control of the morel burn sites.