Southwest Montana’s newspapers, editorial columns, blogs and nightly news feeds buzzed for weeks over a death threat tossed at an environmentalist during a Darby travel planning meeting back in January. And while Darby law enforcement promised a follow-up investigation into the threats, nothing has happened.
“We’re concerned,” says Travis McAdam, research director for the Montana Human Rights Network. “The ‘put a bullet in her head’ comment is the most aggressively threatening remark we’ve heard of recently. And I’m not sure what, if any, follow-up has happened.”
Disorderly conduct, under Montana State Law (MCA-45-9-101) occurs if a person “knowingly disturbs the peace” by either “using threatening, profane, or abusive language,” or if they disturb or disrupt “any lawful assembly or public meeting.”
Many wonder why a man who identified himself as William Blocker after making the threat to a woman expressing concerns—in front of some 200 witnesses at a Forest Service travel planning meeting—hasn’t been charged.
To date, neither acting Darby city attorney Jeffrey B. Hays, nor Darby City Police officers Larry Rose and Shawn Woods have responded to repeated phone calls from the Independent requesting comment on the incident.
Nan Christianson, public affairs officer for the Bitterroot National Forest, who spoke with Darby law enforcement officials after their investigation, says she understood they had interviewed witnesses and decided not to charge Blocker. Until Darby officials give an explanation, some observers are left wondering whether such intimidation will be allowed and go unpunished at future meetings.
“It looks to us like the early days back in Kalispell in 2000,” McAdam laments, referring to an infamous time in which anti-government groups like Project 7, along with anti-conservationist KGEZ radio owner John Stokes, and an aggressive group of anti-“green Nazi” activists reigned over Flathead area Forest Service planning meetings.
When threats and intimidation are allowed, “the democratic process itself breaks down,” McAdams says. “All of the sudden people are scared to engage in the process.”