On Jan. 22, about 70 people gathered at J.D. Morrell’s coffee shop in downtown Kalispell to plan a community response to recent invitations by April Gaede, a prominent member of the racist group National Vanguard, for members of that group to move to the Flathead Valley.
This summer Gaede moved to the Flathead with her twin teenage daughters, Lamb and Lynx, who form the white power band Prussian Blue.
In attendance were Travis McAdam of the Montana Human Rights Network, Montana Human Rights Commission member Allen Secher, Montana State Auditor John Morrison, and Rebecca Kushner-Metteer, who, along with her neighbors, brought the Gaede’s arrival to the valley’s attention this summer. A British film crew, shooting a documentary about Prussian Blue that will air in Britain this spring, filmed the event.
After McAdam provided a history of racist groups in Montana, the crowd broke into five groups to brainstorm strategies for responding to the threat of a racist migration to the Flathead. When the groups reconvened, a few points of consensus emerged.
One was that the “No Hate Here” message, which was printed on flyers and distributed in the Gaede’s neighborhood this summer, needed reworking.
Although the intended message, according Kushner-Metteer, was, “In our home, we do not hate,” she acknowledged it could be interpreted as telling the Gaedes to leave.
One man asked, “What fills the vacuum if we’re saying ‘No Hate Here?’”
At this point, he asserted, the valley needs to deliver a message that diversity is accepted here.
To that end, an idea for a contest among Flathead Valley high-school students to create a poster to be hung in homes and businesses promoting the valley’s embrace of diversity generated the most buzz.
The group plans to begin work on such a contest in the coming weeks.
As the meeting drew to a close, Miriam Carson, who recently bought J.D. Morrell’s, thanked the crowd, saying that since migrating to the United States from Cuba, she has experienced racism herself.
“This is the best to me,” she said of the meeting, inviting everyone to continue gathering at her shop.