Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tensions rising in rural Montana town that is part-time home to 'alt-right' movement founder

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A rural ski-resort community in Montana has stepped into the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Whitefish, Mont., home to 6,400 residents, also is the part-time home of Richard Spencer, founder of the "alt-right" movement, which seeks a whites-only state, Katie Mettler reports for The Washington Post. The activist's parents, Sherry and Rand Spencer, are part-time Whitefish residents and Sherry owns a commercial building there.

Sherry "says she was targeted by activists, who, using the threat of massive protests as leverage, tried to bully her and her tenants into selling her commercial building and distancing herself from her son," Mettler writes. "Those same activists tell a different story—that what transpired was the work of a tightknit community trying to defend itself."

Richard's parents, who say they don't share their son's racial opinions, penned an op-ed piece in the local Daily Inter Lake, in which they wrote: “Our tenants are innocent victims and their businesses are threatened with boycotts for something over which they have no control. There is no justification for their sustaining collateral damage. We, too, are victims, having no role in any of the events that have unfolded recently.” Rand said in an email to the Daily Inter Lake that Sherry "has decided to sell the building in response to the threats," Lynette Hintze reports for the newspaper.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has described Richard Spencer "as an 'academic racist,' is highly educated and has worked for years to promote the creation of a minority-free 'ethno-state' and pride in white identity," Mettler writes. Spencer’s alt-right movement has claimed President-elect Donald Trump as its champion and Spencer "inspired a Nazi-like 'Hail Trump!' salute at a D.C. conference hosted by his National Policy Institute."

The incident in Whitefish drew the attention of neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, which published a post Friday with a headline "Jews Targeting Richard Spencer’s Mother for Harassment and Extortion," Mettler writes. The post, which told people to “TAKE ACTION!," called "the Jewish people a 'vicious, evil race of hate-filled psychopaths'" and "shared the names of the Whitefish activists, who are all women, and their photos, which were accompanied by sexist commentary and digitally altered with overlays of the Star of David. The post included the women’s phone numbers, Twitter handles and email addresses, plus the names and contact information for their husbands." While the post said not to advocate or provoke violence, some women said they received death threats.

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