The Current

Residents of Montana town rally against 'alt-right' targeting Jewish community

The so-called alt-right leader Richard Spencer has railed against Jews and said the U.S. belongs to white men. Now Neo-Nazi groups are calling for white supremacists to march through his hometown of Whitefish, Mont. — a site of protest as residents react.
Richard Spencer's rise to power as a white nationalist and figurehead of the 'alt-right' movement has put him and his family under a microscope. (David J. Phillip, File/AP)

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The small town of Whitefish, Mont., has now become the latest target of white nationalists, sparking protests from members of the community of 6,000 people.

Whitefish is the part-time home of Richard Spencer, a white nationalist and figurehead of the "alt-right" movement. Recently, his mother Sherry said she's being targeted because of her son's beliefs.

In response, the founder of the neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer, urged his followers to "take action" against Jewish residents and their supporters in Whitefish. Their names and addresses were published on a white supremacist website and they became the targets of a concerted campaign of online hate.

Co-director of the Montana Human Rights Network Rachel Carroll Rivas says her organization stands against hateful ideology like Richard Spencer and encourages the local council to take a position against him, including Spencer's mother Sherry.

She tells The Current's guest host Piya Chattopadhyay that Richard Spencer's mother did denounce her son's hateful ideology but says "unfortunately at the same time, she also made false accusations of being targeted by the community."

I think that there is some uncomfortableness in the local community that Sherry Spencer has profited off the people of the town.- Rachel Carroll Rivas, Montana Human Rights Network

Sherry Spencer said in a statement that she's being harassed to sell a building that she owns in a townhouse facility in Whitefish, Mont.

"I think that there is some uncomfortableness in the local community that Sherry Spencer has profited off the people of the town who have taken a unified stance against her. And she's profited off of them while supporting her son's white supremacy," Caroll Rivas responds.

It was after Sherry Spencer's statement came out that online targeting of Jewish people in the community started happening.

Protesters opposed to speaker Richard Spencer, who leads a white nationalist organization, rally on the Texas A&M University campus, Dec. 6, 2016. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Caroll-Rivas says it was Andrew Anglin of the website The Daily Stormer who targeted members of the Jewish community using photos, names and businesses with Jude and the yellow star over pictures of their faces.

"The threats, and intimidation, and harassment of those individuals and their businesses came flooding in," she said, but adds the support from the local community and worldwide has been heartening.

She tells Chattopadhyay that she does not regret asking Richard Spencer's mother to take a stand against her son's ideology.

"I think it's always important to continue forward and to do the hard work and I really applaud the people locally who've been on the front lines of saying, 'hey hatred is not okay in our local community.'"

Listen to the full segment including  Montana's  history of white supremacist activity.

This segment was produced by The Current's Karin Marley and Naheed Mustafa.